At “Camp Quarantine,” there is a lot of joy. That’s why so many kids and families are tuning in to Mary Rice Hopkins’ (79) new show. Each episode, which premieres daily at 5:15 p.m., includes songs, puppets, Bible stories, and a lot of encouragement.
A speech communications major at Point Loma, Hopkins has been performing children’s music for more than 40 years. She started singing to children at Forest Home Christian Conference Centers and PLNU’s Early Childhood Learning Center when she was a college student. She went on to produce albums with Sparrow, Maranatha Music, and other Christian music labels and to tour nationally.
In addition, for 11 years, Hopkins hosted her own TV show with her friend, Darcie Maze, which aired on Trinity Broadcasting Network. The show, “Puppets with a Heart,” helped children understand big feelings in warm, gentle, and relatable ways. Now, Hopkins and Maze have brought two of their characters, Ohno and Greengo, back for Camp Quarantine, which airs on YouTube, Instagram (@maryricehopkins), and Facebook.
During each show, Hopkins plays her guitar and interacts with Ohno and Greengo. The episodes incorporate Bible stories and verses, and the songs carry faith-based messages. She likes to use songs and parables to help children process their feelings, find joy, and embrace positive messages.
“Kids are hearing a lot of fear right now,” she said. “We want them to find hope and healing. We want them to be hopeful and not fearful – to experience faith over fear.”
The show is sweet but not saccharine – the puppets share when they are struggling with things like forgiveness, and Hopkins gently encourages them with Scripture and songs. She aims for her messages to be appealing to families that do not have a Christian background as well as those who do – similar to the way many Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs create their content. In fact, Hopkins has created a lot of VBS music and curriculum herself.
One of Hopkins’ favorite parts of “Camp Quarantine” is giving shout-outs to her viewers, especially those with specials needs. She loves doing this as a way to encourage kids and connect with them.
It could have been easy for Hopkins to be self-focused during the coronavirus pandemic. Six years ago, she almost didn’t survive a bout of H1N1 that led to her being hospitalized with double pneumonia. Now considered “high risk,” she could have been content to simply stay home and stay focused on keeping herself healthy. While she has been faithful to the stay-at-home orders in California (Hopkins lives near Los Angeles), she has chosen to focus on how she can help others while doing so. Using technology and her gifts, she has been able to help thousands of children and families. As throughout her career, Hopkins isn’t focused on the fame aspect of what she is doing.
“The main thing is that we’re giving families something to do that is timely and joyous,” she said. “We’re ‘hiding the medicine’ and helping them deal with these challenging circumstances.”