Whether you’ve already registered for camp by rolling over your 2020 registration, or are eager to register for camp when Early Bird Registration opens on October 1st, or are waiting altogether because you just don’t know what you want right now, I still want everyone to get a heads up on our planning for next summer.
And, if you don’t know already, we can’t wait for next summer! Talk about a separation making a reunion all that much sweeter. We are so excited for our 99th summer at Camp Alleghany for Girls!* We are going to have the summer of a lifetime next year, and we hope you’re a part of it!
Not only are we excited for camp next summer, we are determined to have camp next summer. To give you a peek into how my brain thinks about it — WE WILL HAVE CAMP NEXT SUMMER! 🙂
I am determined to make camp happen and driven in every way possible to make it strictly safe on every front possible. By being connected to the American Camp Association, and to colleagues in the field, I have so many resources, best practices, lessons learned, ideas, and plans.
It makes me giddy just thinking about it!
Camps are Proactive
We ARE planning to be open next summer, and we certainly hope that the state of West Virginia will work with us on more manageable and reasonable restrictions and protocols than were required this summer — restrictions that made camp unworkable, resulting in our alternative Family Retreats “campground” program instead.
I never thought of myself as doing much “politicking,” but…I did lobby on a personal level (just lil’ ol Elizabeth Shreckhise) for our camp and our industry and I brought a lot of good ideas to the table. So you can bet that I’ll be in communication with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s office again regarding camp openings, procedures, workable protocols, and the need for the industry. (Don’t worry, I’m not planning to run for governor myself anytime — ha ha — just to advocate for outdoor education and camps!) 🙂
As for this past summer, I had developed a safety and screening plan that I had submitted to the governor. With more of a lead time now, I hope to implement that plan next summer.
This plan included testing everyone prior to coming to camp, a second round of testing while at camp, and keeping everyone physically in camp (like the “NBA bubble”).
‘Ghany Girls Adapt When Needed!
So what would that be?
We’re exploring options for the Dining Hall to be altered to meet covid restrictions. If we have to serve cafeteria style next summer until we can go back to normal, we’ll do it! That’s a small price to pay to all be together and having camp!
If we have to have a few staggered shifts of meals to limit people in one space, okay, we’ll do that!
Or, how about this — a whole summer of Lunch Under the Apple Tree (LUTAT)…or BUTAT and DUTAT, too! At home we’re eating lunch outside every day that we can for as long as we can this fall. As long as weather permits, we’ll do it at camp, too!
Life in our tents, or Units (age cohorts) could act as a temporary holding ground for the first few days of camp. This would mean structuring camp life around smaller pods until a second round of testing shows everyone is covid-free. Once we meet that milestone, we could then then operate as normal. This is my hope.
By next summer this might not even be a question — we just want to be totally proactive about approaches and solutions in case it is.
We’re also optimistic that all the work being done on tests will lead to much more accessible and reliable rapid testing well before camp’s opening day. But even if the world hasn’t gotten there, there are companies specifically servicing camps with on site pop-up testing. We will do that if it’s needed. Or, there’s a nearby clinic that offers the rapid test, so we’re establishing contact with them to make sure we’ve got a lot of irons in the fire.
So what if there are further restrictions on numbers of people in one gathering?
To be strategic in evaluating every possible approach, we’re drafting a backup programming model in which campers and staff stay in those smaller “pods” beyond the first few days — actually throughout their time at camp.
We don’t prefer to go this route, but as they say, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” If we can provide quality and meaningful camp programming in a temporarily adjusted way that still allows girls to get together and be outdoors and experience the magic of ‘Ghany — well if it has to be in smaller pods, then okay!
As advocates for summer camp in general, and not only our own summer camp, we’re staying abreast of the latest research on the virus and how it is spread (and ways is it NOT spread). The American Camp Association continues to be an invaluable resource in this regard, providing key updates to members. And colleagues of mine in the industry continue to provide ideas, insight, and approaches for us to discuss, think about, share with our core staff, and pass on to you.
Not only do we have 98 summers of running camp, but we also have the experience of this past summer running our modified campground model called Family Retreats.
Prior to Family Retreats we enhanced our longtime existing communicable disease policies/procedures/protocols to include COVID and what our plan of action would be should someone feel ill with COVID at camp. This was communicated to our staff and was an essential part of operating this past summer.
We learned a lot during our three weeks of Family Retreats this summer, and will take lessons learned from that experience (we had no COVID cases and none were reported up to two weeks and longer after camp) and we will implement them next summer with the larger group.
There were SO many camps that did run successful programs this summer! Though the media hasn’t highlighted them enough, the link in the previous sentence will take you to a blog I wrote that mentions success stories and provides links to them. We have listened to them. We’ve taken notes. We are exploring the lessons they learned — what went well, what didn’t, what they would do differently — and using their insight and experience to guide our own practices. That’s what’s great about this industry — we truly do help each other to thrive!
Give Us Our Camps!
As I’ve written before, the worldwide pandemic of 1917-18 taught doctors that the outdoors, sunshine, and fresh air (even at night) are instrumental to lessening the contagion, while hastening recovery.
This doesn’t even get into all the ambient benefits of the outdoors in general for people of all ages, and for kids in particular.
If…let’s hope it’s not this way but IF…lockdowns continue, next summer kids and families will simply be bursting out for time with trees, water, grasses, sky, breezes, animal sounds, play, movement, sunshine, starlight, and every other natural wonder you can imagine.
It’s a long time until then and that length of time, ironically, makes us buoyant, and optimistic, that we’ll be past the acute phase even if we still must take added precautions.
I can’t lay out every single thing between now and Opening Day at camp because plenty of unknowns are in play. What I can say is that we are so on this!
From the experience of this past summer to our relationships with camp industry leaders to the ACA to our own ‘Ghany GIrls spirit — there is going to be no rock unturned, no idea unexplored.
So I think it’s safe to say that one way or another, that 99th summer on the banks of the Greenbrier River will be one of the sweetest summers of all!
See you then!
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls
*If you want to learn more about the merits of sleepaway summer camp, download my FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Experience Early. It’s a great resource to share with friends, or if you are a first-time camp family and you wonder what sleepaway camp would be like for your child.