In the blink of an eye, one of the most challenging summers I have experienced during my tenure at camp has come to an end. That being said, it was also most certainly one of the most rewarding!
During this most unique and challenging summer, there were various trials and tribulations that we faced head-on with grit, resilience and tenacity. We knew that in order to have a successful, healthy summer, we had to tackle new ways to program groups, hire & train staff, create efficient & safe bus routes, prepare food, and most importantly, keep your children safe through vigorous health and safety protocols.
We had an AMAZING STAFF this summer, but filling every possible position was difficult. So many “would be” counselors decided that after 15 months of isolation, they preferred to relax this summer with friends rather than taking on a job. Totally understandable! Some “would be” counselors who felt that they had missed out on career internships the summer before felt that they had no choice but to find one this summer to bolster their resumes, so we lost that pool of applicants as well. Little do they know that working at camp is the best internship of all!
In addition to working around COVID, this summer, we faced 3 separate brutal heatwaves without the convenience of being able to retreat to the friendly confines of our indoor air conditioned facilities. I recently attended a professional development day with my Long Island colleagues from other camps and one director described his staff as “warriors battling intense heat, rain, mental health and exhaustion.”
The stars of our show, as always, were the campers! This summer we had a higher percentage of new campers at camp than ever before. We were also thrilled to welcome our returning campers, many of whom we did not see for two years! Wow, did they get big! You could tell from the start that many campers (new and old) were extremely anxious being thrust into this nurturing but highly stimulating environment. After all, many were home all year in remote learning education models with limited social interactions. So, as you might expect, socialization skills were rusty, group dynamics were overwhelming for many, and separation from parents/caretakers, especially for our younger campers, was difficult to say the least. But as each day passed, you began to feel and see those meaningful friendships forming, campers exhaling with ease, and the genuine sounds of children happily at play.
So what are my takeaways from summer 2021:
- We all survived (and thrived!) and we are all stronger for it!
- Many protocols and changes we implemented will remain in place because they made camp safer, more efficient or more fun!
- Camp continues to be a safe space for campers to be nurtured, loved and accepted.
- Unlikely heroes stepped up big time and filled the staff gaps.
- We continue to face the unknown, but one thing we do know is that we have a team here that will go the distance to find the solutions that will keep our camp community healthy, safe and joyful.
Shibley Nation…..WE DID IT !!! We made a positive impact on the lives of our children and gave them a summer they will never forget. We thank you all (staff, parents, colleagues, friends, etc.) from the bottom of our hearts for your support and appreciation of all we did in 2021!