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We have lots of friends who run camps across the country. Many did not run last summer – only 18% of overnight camps operated. Even those that did have not opened yet (some do not start until June 27!).

As a result, I am often hearing similar questions: “what are the campers like this summer?”

This is a truly interesting question. We have had 17 months of pandemic. How does that affect our campers and staff?

As you may know, Susie Ma’am calls me the “camp geek”, so I spent time over the weekend thinking about this question. We had just completed two weeks of camp in 2021, so what did I notice? This blog shares a few insights that we hope will help as we all return to school, extracurriculars and normal life.

Last summer was obviously disruptive. The pandemic was spreading and no one knew what to think. We all wondered what life would look like. We worried about loved ones.

Fortunately, we were able to run camp last summer, but it required lots of modifications and accommodations. Personally, I gained more grey hair, lost some other hair and spent most of the summer worried about an outbreak.

This summer brings much better news. The pandemic is receding. Vaccinations and the fact that we have learned how to navigate the world better are helping us return to normal. Counselors can leave property on their night’s off, we almost never need to wear masks (unless in the Health Center or similar place) and we have more flexibility with scheduling activities.

Here is the headline for summer of 2021: “everything is more this summer”. The high points are higher than normal. The challenges are somewhat more frequent.

Please let me explain with an analogy.

Our campers and counselors are all like concert pianists who love to play and perform great music but have not been allowed to practice for a year and half. Now, they can perform again (hooray), but they have lost some of their technique (oops).

Being with other people in close communities is something that brings joy to all of us, but especially children. They love interacting with groups of friends and their cabinmates. But the past year has taken many kiddos out of normal schools. Even those who attended school had their extracurricular activities severely curtailed.

Being at camp is like suddenly having the greatest birthday gift – tons of friends and fun!

But social interaction requires so many subtle skills – the ability to read body language, to listening attentively, to hear intonation, to take turns, to form group norms. For the last 16 -17 months, all of us have had fewer social interactions, so our skills are not as sharp. As a result, a shy person might be shier, an assertive person more assertive, an anxious child is more anxious, and the frustrated child will show more frustration.

Our joyous moments are more joyous, but we also need to spend more time working on our subtle interactions.

This makes perfect sense to me, but I had to observe it personally to realize it.

When your wonderful child(ren) return to class and band practice and sports and everything else after camp, do not be surprised to see them working on these skills. Our hope is that their time at camp will be like a vaccination, helping them recover from isolation the same way our nation is recovering from the pandemic. [Note: I hope it is not the type of vaccine that makes you feel worse before feeling better!]

The good news is that with time they will soon return to equilibrium and I believe camp helps that happen. After all, they are all Champions!

Time at camp this year might be more beneficial than a “normal” summer. This thought inspires us to do everything we can to serve our campers.

Steve Sir