We are so incredibly excited that our new campers arrived today!
For many of us, our summer started on May 24 for staff training. It has been an odd summer with a multitude of different challenges. For example, our entire staff has remained on property since arrival unless to pick up a prescription or run a critical errand.
But despite this strange time, we remember one vital truth: this is YOUR child’s time at camp. They have been looking forward to days of laughter, silliness, challenge and friendships for over 2 months.
I am delighted to tell you that this team is ready and willing to provide that experience. They know how camp runs in the time of COVID and have learned the tricks to squeeze the joy out of each day.
Please let me share a few additional observations.
- It takes an extra day or two for campers to get used to the heightened activity levels of camp this year. After missing school and sports, they have been exercising less on average.
- Having said that, they find their energy and stamina quickly!
- Most campers seem to appreciate camp more this summer than normal. In these days, it is rare to have a place where you can interact with friends and not constantly socially distance. We do wear the masks (by state mandate), but they enable us to actually interact with each other. Humans crave connection, both emotional and physical. Having a place where a high-five or side-hug is possible is a powerful gift, even if you are washing your hands 6-8 times a days. [Note: when I was an 8 year-old boy, I would hate to speculate how many days would need to transpire before I would have had 8 20-second hand-washing!]
- I think campers are leaving camp stronger and more capable. I certainly hope so. I am certain that their friends will need them to be leaders. Someone will need to show that wearing a mask does not deter fun or friendship.
Finally, thank you for having faith in us this summer. We do not take it for granted but hope to reward your faith with a great experience for your kiddo!
- At the beginning of last session, I wrote a blog that shared some of the history of how this summer actually happened. If you have already been reading the blogs, this will be redundant. But if this is your first visit, I share it here again.
We are so excited camp is happening If you would have asked me a few months ago, I would have said doubted it would be possible.
On March 12, Susie Ma’am and I had just left a camp conference in Atlantic City (the largest meeting of camp professionals in the world) and were in New York to see two shows on the 13th and 14th.
On the 12th, both Broadway and the NBA closed. Think about that. Two icons of American entertainment that have never shuttered closed on the same day.
The next day, virtually all of our spring retreats and outdoor education groups (from schools) cancelled.
This was a fairly challenging 24 hours.
Our minds instantly turned to summer. Would we be able to have camp? If so, what would it look like?
We were briefly distracted as Susie Ma’am had a 7-10 day case of COVID herself soon after we returned. But even as we kept an eye on her (it was never bad by the way), we thought about camp.
We dearly love what we do. We deeply believe camp makes an impact on children. It makes for crazy summers, but we cannot imagine doing anything else.
Many states have longer histories of summer camp. The first camps were all in the Northeast, so some are more than 155 years old. Texas is a little later to the game. But we were the first to approve camps for operation this summer.
It is a LONG story about how Texas became the first – and one of few - states to open camps. It is worth noting that the Texas standards are well-thought out and they closely match the best practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Camp Association and the YMCA. Our own procedures are even more rigorous. We are a little on the extreme side. For example, we added an additional testing procedure mid-summer to provide extra assurance. To our knowledge, fewer than 10 camps in the nation have one of these devices – the Sofia 2 SARS Antigen test.
So far, the summer has been healthy and full of fun and growth. We had two great weeks of orientation, two weeks with a smaller session (to try out our procedures) and we just finished 2 full sessions of three and two weeks (that is 9 weeks so far). We have learned a lot during these weeks.
Which brings us to the joy we feel as we saw all your campers arrive today. We will have more smiles and more energy than any other time this summer!
The virus has yielded some unexpected gifts as well as challenges. For example, we have the most amazing team this adventure. Normally, we have many of our favorite counselors leave us for internships or summer travel programs. When these programs cancelled, we got our superstars back.
But wait – there’s more. We also picked up superstars from other camps that have cancelled as well.
This is as strong a team as we have ever put together.
Another unexpected benefit is our new, expedited drop-off process. Not only did it mean less work for you, but (more importantly) it allowed the cabins to begin bonding even quicker. We are seeing less homesickness than in previous summers as a result.
Each division had its own meeting to talk about some of the important things we will be doing to make camp healthier, from handwashing to modified meal schedules. We explained we will be taking their temperature and checking on their health daily. We also talked about the masking rules for camp.
Masks at camp was not a topic I was not excited about a month ago. But I now know more than I did then. I have watched campers have a blast at Torchlight - loud as ever – all while masked. We do not need to mask when actively participating in outdoor activities or when distanced from other folks. We have positioned campers in their cabins to allow them to be in their beds and talk while being sufficiently separated. If they want to get closer, they just pop on the mask.
Here is another reason that we are “leaning into” masks. They will soon be a part of your child’s lives when they return to school. I see camp as a chance to learn not how to survive with masks, but how to thrive in this new world. I also appreciate the extra level of protection for our community.
But despite all of this, what has struck me the most is NOT the changes. Sure, we have been obsessing over how to execute camp using a different set of guidelines. When you have been doing anything for a while, changing it can be tricky. As a result, we have spent many days and nights thinking about “new” stuff.
But camp is about the “old” stuff. – those things that are uniquely extraordinary about camp. What is most important is what is still the same:
- The 4 Rs (respect, responsibility, reaching out and taking reasonable risks)
- Being silly
- Being loud
- Feeling the breeze on your face.
- Looking at stars.
- Talking with friends and adults without a single person looking at a phone, tablet or screen.
Also, after months of sedentary quarantine, being at camp is extra sweet.
Please know that we are keeping an extra-close eye on your precious ones. The past few months have been odd for all of us, so we are ready not only to play, but to listen and love.
We hope you enjoy the photos, blogs, camp-tweets and occasional video we put together for you. Why should the campers be the only ones having any fun?