To Camp or Not to Camp?

At time of writing we have lived through eight months of posing similar questions. Should we or shouldn’t we? If you’re like me, we approach each day with a risk/ benefit analysis of the day’s activities, because in this pandemic, the risk is very real. On the surface, camp may seem an expendable frill, an enrichment activity, wonderful and amazing, but not necessary for the healthy growth and development of our children. That may very well be true. So it may not be worth the risk. On the other hand, a child is only ever seven, or ten, or thirteen years old once. Each age of childhood has a unique window of development that is open for a short time to influences that may be transformational. That one moment may lead a child into a lifelong love of outdoor activity that will keep them healthy for a lifetime; that one moment may provide healthy relationships with peers or mentors that may serve as models for future lifelong relationships; that one moment may plant the seed of a deeper foundational knowing of God’s love and acceptance. These are not small moments in the trajectory of a child’s life, and the window may only be open for a brief time for that transformational influence. So it may be worth the risk.

We struggled through the spring months, debating whether to proceed with camp, or put it on hold for a safer season. By the beginning of June, the decision was made. Let’s put all of our energy and resources into making camp as safe as possible, and reevaluate the decision on a weekly basis. State guidelines were closely followed. Protocols were written, space was expanded for safe eating and sleeping, hand-washing stations were erected, twice as many staff were hired and trained to serve the number of children we could accommodate. All of our protocols continued to be reviewed and revised as we lived them. A huge part of the safety of this summer’s camp season was due to the camper families and staff that were committed to arriving at camp with as little exposure to the virus as possible. That required changing behaviors, deferring activities, and making sacrifices.

Camp happened! It was wonderful and amazing, and we know of no COVID-19 illness that occurred as a result. We relied on the changeless recipe of God present in each other and in the richness of God’s creation that is Bethany Birches. And those transformational moments? When we let go, and let God shine through, we know that they happen.

~ Beth Ann Maier, retired pediatrician, Health and Safety coordinator, Bethany Birches

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