January 21, 2021
Being camp directors in the age of Covid has twists and turns we’d never imagine. Last summer we were interviewed by ABC, NBC, and National Geographic. The Dallas Morning News published an op-ed piece we wrote. Last week, we got a call from The Wall Street Journal.
According to American Camp Association (ACA) records, last summer Camp Champions served the most campers of any camp in the US without a positive COVID case. This got the attention of Nancy Keates, the WSJ reporter.
Before you get excited, we only show up in one paragraph. But we were delighted to be a part of the article. It illustrated some excellent points.
Camps with good plans were able to run safe and healthy summers.
The article illustrates the preparations and logistics of a good program at camps across the country. Many were COVID-free and most (with some notable exceptions) were outbreak free, having just one or two cases originating prior to camp. The ACA was a huge help in providing guidance that helped camps run well.
It takes a lot of research to write an article.
We have a new appreciation for reporters and the amount of research it takes for an article. Steve Sir talked with Nancy for over an hour. She interviewed one of our camp families as well. We think she spent a week on the story and interviewed over 15 people for the relatively short article.
Nationally, camps who had largely Covid free summers are having record enrollment this summer.
Nancy notes a trend that many of the camps that ran successfully last summer are seeing high early registration for 2021. We have been shocked to have waiting lists earlier than we have ever seen. But we were not aware that camps in the Northeast are seeing the same thing.
The most important part about camp was omitted from the article.
The article focused heavily on the “how” and not the “why” of camp. Certainly the logistics of running camp in the middle of a pandemic are unusual and interesting, but we think the most important part of the story is why camps chose to take on this challenge in the first place.
The emotional and mental health impacts on children have never been higher. In our 28 summers as camp directors, we’ve never seen anything like it.
Children need routine and socialization. Each day, they are doing the important work of developing their social and emotional skills. They are creating their internal “maps” of the world. They are stretching their social-emotional “muscles”, becoming resilient and confident. The pandemic has interrupted their lives in unprecedented ways. Yes, COVID is far less likely to lead to extreme illness in children, but it has an out-sized impact on them socially and emotionally.
Camp was an ideal remedy. Camp was all about joy! Facilities and counselor training are important, but we sometimes forget that the power of camp is in the heart and mind of each child, in the connection with a new friend or a counselor-hero.
Camp gives children what they need to thrive.
Parents told us their children needed what camp gives. Not only were they worried about the isolation, but also in the increase in screen time. Once we determined (after talking with epidemiologists, pediatricians and public health experts) that camp could be done healthily, we wanted to serve these families. So we looked at every aspect of running camp. We are not going to lie. It was hard. But it was the most rewarding summer we have ever had.
Of course, many parents decided that it was not right for their family last summer. We respected (and still respect) whatever a family decides is right for them. None of us has traveled this pandemic road before.
We’re getting ready for summer 2021.
We still do not know what this summer will look like. Will vaccinations be widely available? What testing options will be available? Will regulations change? We do not know yet, but we do know this - we will be diligent and devoted in our efforts to be partners with our families. We will commit ourselves to creating as safe and healthy an environment as we can so that we can provide joy, friendship and resilience to our campers.
They will be tech-free and happy.
And so will we.
Steve Sir and Susie Ma’am