LONDON, ONT. -- Ainsley Fife was excited to be going to her first STEM Camp this summer, but earlier this week her mom received notification that the camp had been cancelled, and in it’s place there was a choice of two options. First, donate the money to the STEM Camp mission, or second, convert the enrolment fee to virtual sessions.

“I thought it was ridiculous,” says Megan Fife. “Because I’m like, so many of us are already out money as it is given the situation and now you want me to donate my hard-earned money.”

Elizabeth Gordon-Edmonds signed up her four children for STEM Camp back in January, at a cost of $2,000.

“I want to spend my money with businesses or organizations that are going to respect us.” she says.

Gordon-Edmonds, a spa owner, has had no income since the pandemic began, and is disappointed in the change to the refund policy.

“I don’t feel like this shows any level of respect or consideration for anybody that has tried to support them.”

STEM Camp founder Kevin Cougler said in a letter to parents the company does not have reserves to handle refunds, nor the capacity to roll over enrolments to next summer.

“We don’t know if we have enough dollars to survive the next two to three weeks, therefore we can’t refund half-a-million dollars.”

Cougler says money that came in between January and March was spent preparing for summer camps in 60 locations across the country.

“We spend at least a quarter-of-a-million dollars in supplies every year, we have at least $50,000 to $100,000 that we use to get word out into the schools.”

Cougler says the company is offering the Virtual Camps as a type of compensation for the money that was already sent, but according to Fife, that won’t work.

“I understand that they are offering it virtually, but it’s not what we signed up for. We signed up for a camp where my daughter would attend and interact with peers and science experiments and whatnot would be performed.”

To add to the frustration, those who decide to take part in the virtual course would be responsible for purchasing the necessary supplies for the camp.

It has led many on a Facebook page created for families in this situation to seek remuneration through their credit card companies.

While Cougler says he hasn’t been contacted by a credit card company yet, if it were to happen it would be the final nail in the coffin for the not-for-profit business.

“If there is a large percentage that you know, pursue means that would force us to, force us into bankruptcy, then that’s what would happen.”