Elizabeth’s Top 5 of Summer 2021

Editor’s note: Every summer Camp Director Elizabeth Shreckhise blogs about her top five favorite things about camp that summer. This is Elizabeth’s 2021 edition in no specific order – they’re all her faves!

In an extraordinary summer, during a world health crisis that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years, I find it difficult to limit myself to a mere top 5 things that were amazing and wonderful about the summer. So when you read this, just know that I stand in awe of everyone and everything about camp this summer!

1. OPEN & COVID free!

First off, WE WERE OPEN!!!! We were open for 10 weeks from the first day of Staff Training and Mother-Daughter Weekend to the vibrant array of Mini Camp, Term Camp, and Leaders-In-Training to the last Barge that carried home the last participants in Family Camp!

WE WERE OPEN!!! That is a feat in itself. But we did so, entirely COVID-free!

I had my eye on the prize ALL YEAR prior to camp opening. I just had this “feeling,” if you will, that we could truly operate camp almost as normal and not have any cases of COVID. I just “knew” we could.

Now to be fair, this “feeling” was coupled with massive amounts of research and required implementing pre-camp testing, ongoing testing, and all kinds of best practices for outdoor settings. We took absolutely seriously the health, sanitization, and medical procedures to realize this vision of mine.

Yet despite the incredible hard work it took, and buy-in from ALL stakeholders — parents, campers, counselors, other staff, etc. — it was all worth it and we ended the summer without a single case of COVID in camp.

I’m actually going to celebrate this more fully in a blog post next week to provide you with even more details of this prideful feat, so stay tuned by following the blog.

2. A Summer that Felt Almost 100% Normal

There was a little bit of concern out there that, “Why bother? With so much COVID-related stuff, there’s no way camp can be or even feel, normal.”

I get that. Until we actually were there and doing it, it was difficult to convey that with a few minor adjustments we could, in fact, make camp as normal as possible given the extraordinary circumstances.

But we could. And we did! Being a glorious outdoor summer camp anyway, made it all the easier. 🙂

After the first week of each Term with meals and Assembly all outdoors (and Mini Camp being in age group “pods” the full week), a final set of all-camp negative test results allowed us to move into a normal camp experience — with meals in our open-air Dining Hall and unmasked, age groups interacting, no distancing, and masks not needed.

We drew from all our normal traditions, hosted regular Evening Activities, Assemblies, Dance and Drama Shows, held our four daily activities as normal, and so on.

We kept our weekly staff testing to the bitter end, and our staff were amazing at being covid-careful on time off (see below), which all allowed us to continuing functioning in the most normal way possible.

3. Superior Medical and Support Staff (are we seeing a theme here?)

Our Medical Staff, Support Staff, and Volunteers — they were rock stars!

The Camp Medical Staff did the lion’s share of work because of all the COVID testing they had to add in to regular camp health procedures and Infirmary management. I am so truly grateful!

I have special shout-outs to Dr. Lauren Miller and Dr. Anne Cather, to whom I will forever be in gratitude for their pre-camp consultations and strategic advisement. With their knowledge, experience, insight, and direction, the ongoing COVID testing was an organized, straightforward, professional operation of the highest order! I will forever be grateful for their support, help, and time.

Our support staff was also truly amazing and jumped in and helped wherever needed, at any time needed. They wore so many hats that they were as steady as a rock for us this summer and again, I am so thankful.

We also had a handful of last-minute volunteers, from alums who offered assistance on Opening Day, to those who gave up a whole week at home to come help out. I am so humbled and grateful for the help and assistance that they provided.

4. Amazing Counseling Staff

Our counselors stuck it out in a summer that presented more challenges than normal, and they did it with a smile.

In a year when kids needed camp more than ever, ‘Ghany Counselors made the campers’ experiences truly positive, meaningful, and worthwhile by creating an unforgettable experience with memories that will last forever. On top of that, they were super respectful of our COVID-careful time off rules, and were willing to get COVID tested every single week in order for us to keep camp operating in the way we wanted it to operate.

My gratitude cannot be expressed enough in words — my heart overflows!

5. Administrative Team

This summer had its challenges — mostly putting out little metaphorical fires behind-the-scenes. The Admin Team had to pick up and deal with!

Everything that has to happen behind-the-scenes at camp during our operational season is already a feat of expertise, magic, and grace! Adding in a whole new multifaceted layer of COVID considerations and everything that follows on from that was a LOT on everyone. And we all made it through!

From being short-staffed in the Kitchen and on The Green Team due to nationwide labor shortages, Operations Manager Cooper Dawson had to take on the challenge of consolidating operations, putting in extra hours, and juggling a variety of different pieces. And with the addition of the wonderful Wolfoods, a brand new-to-us food service, Cooper had to jump in and ensure that their methods and style meshed with ours in a seamless way. (We look forward to working with them again going forward!)

Bonnie Dawson, my dear mother who otherwise is supposed to be in retirement at camp, thankfully stepped in to the role of Head of Housekeeping, a new one for her. This was not an easy one with its many exacting details for cleanliness, scheduling, organization, and supplies across a huge campus and for hundreds of people. Thanks, mom! 🙂

Program Director Casey Tucker and Leadership Program Coordinator Cami Bresee dealt with an array of challenges, from being short-staffed (like the rest of the country, camps being no exception!) to other challenges.

Mini Camp Director Beth-Anne (BA) Clark Thomas superbly navigated operating a COVID-safe Mini Camp in semi-isolated pods for the first time ever!

Office Manager Louise Dawson handled all the parent communication and so much more.

Thank you everyone!

And now on to our 100th summer which will hopefully happen with the world well beyond COVID. We hope you’ll be there! Registration opens up October 1st — bookmark this page to join us!

— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls