April 5, 2020
Dear CODA Member,
I pray this letter finds all our families virus free and safe during this time. Like many of you, we have been working on the unimaginable task of coming up with the “what now” decisions as the reality of not having camp this summer seems more of a possibility. Writing this letter is no easier than the ones we’ve drafted to send out to our parents regarding the situation this summer.
One of the advantages of CODA is I get to hear from a lot of fellow camp professionals from all over the country. Sometimes, that can be disheartening. While most camps are in a very smart “wait and see” mode before they make a decision on their summer, the general consensus across the country is that camp as we know it will probably not be happening this summer. The unthinkable possibility not having camp seems closer to a reality with each passing day.
I am in no way suggesting what you should do with your businesses. Whether to hold camp, what you should do if you need to offer refunds, and all the other agonizing decisions are ones that must be made on an individual basis with the best information you have at that time. What I am saying is we need to use the (excess) time we now have to keep camp relevant and in the minds of our families and staff. By now, the camp parents and counselors probably need it more than their campers do!
During this time of “shelter at home” orders from our government officials (yes, Alabama is on a stay at home order, but we live at camp so technically, I am still at home and no one is in the office this morning anyway), it’s important to keep camp relevant. You can use technology to stay in contact with your families and staff. If you’re not sure how to host a zoom party or FaceTime with a group of friends, go ask an expert. One of your counselors would probably be more than eager to help you set up different platforms (under one of camp administrators guidance) to be able to share virtual camp with your families. Campers around the country love to have to have a different “guest host” each week. Take turns having different counselors be that host so the campers and their families can still connect with the ones they built relationships with over the last few years. There are all sorts of ways to make this happen. Be creative! We are masters at what we do, and it’s what we do better than anyone else!
I reached out to Bob Ditter and Dr. Chris Thurber (they both have great info on social media and through ACA) for input and here are some of their tips on how camps can remind parents and counselors that camp is not about the horses, boats or ropes course. It’s all about building relationships, connecting community and nurturing creativity.
As crazy as it may sound, I’ve never been prouder of the camping industry than right now. Even when we all are practicing ‘social distancing’, our CODA camp members have grown closer together like never before. Camp communities have been hosting zoom meetings to discuss ideas, sharing on social media. I get calls daily from directors around the country wanting to share what’s happening in their communities and what they’re doing to help support each other. Camps are making sure everything they send out to parents is in conjunction with all the other camps in their area so we have a united front. If you haven’t started reaching out to neighboring directors and owners, please do so for your own sanity. As I’ve said before, our greatest strength is our members and the problem-solving ability we use every summer.
So right now, as we go back to watching, waiting and praying for a miracle to save our summer, keep your head up and in the game. This is not a time to panic AND it is a time to get busy working plans A,B,C & D on how you can run your virtual camp to stay connected with your families and each other. Think of it as rainy-day activities and were stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.”
Take care and God Bless. We are all in this together. AND we can all get through this…..What we are living through is for now, not forever! We’re camp directors…. WE GOT THIS!!
thank you, Larry Johnson