Our Summer Story

In the life of a seasonal business, March represents the beginning of our busy season: all the plans are in place for summer, early bird registration is closing, March Break Camp is coming up quickly, and staff hiring is nearing completion. Once March Break runs, the pre-summer season zips by in a blur of camp tours, staff hiring and training, and end-of-the-year field trips.

As we all know, this year was different.

On Thursday March 11, the day the global pandemic was declared, we were wrapping up our first week of March Break Camp. The province announced two weeks of school closures following the break. By Monday March 15, we had cancelled the remainder of the week’s camp. It is temporary, we thought. Plans for April Break Camp were still in full swing. How wrong we were!

March, April and May passed in a different type of blur: Will camp be able to run this summer? Do we offer virtual camp? If we run camp with severe restrictions, will it even feel like camp? Still anticipating a possible return to normal life, we planned for summer as usual. As the weeks went on, we adjusted our camp sessions and our summer protocols. We joined think-tanks of summer camp professionals from all over North America, all struggling to answer the same questions. In the age of COVID-19, what happens to camp?

Working from home, anxiously checking case numbers daily, and waiting for news from the government, we planned for a thousand different scenarios. Finally, on May 19th, we learned that camps could open in Stage 2. But of course, we had no idea when Stage 2 would occur and what restrictions would be in place. We reached out to our staff and told them our plans, giving them the option to back out if they or their families were not comfortable working. We tentatively hired more staff, warning them that we could only run if Stage 2 was announced. As the first wave of public health units entered Stage 2, we became cautiously optimistic.

And finally, on June 15 – the very day we were supposed to start our summer season – the provincial government announced that our area would enter Stage 2 that Friday. We would start camp on Monday, June 22 – just seven days later!

Our Leadership Team pulled off miracles that week: hiring the last staff we needed, adjusting staff development to be safe and distant, ensuring everything was set up for campers to join us. On Monday, June 22 we finally welcomed our first campers of the season. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Thirteen weeks of camp later, we can look back and reflect on the summer. And while there were definitely parts of the experience that made life more difficult – screening campers each day, not being able to welcome parents on-site for pick up, not being able to offer physical comfort to anyone not in our assigned bubbles – the camp magic was most definitely still present. It was a drop of normalcy after four months of isolation and fear. And to our surprise, there were many aspects of modified camp that were even better than regular camp. Strict session dates allowed our campers and staff to form deeper, more meaningful relationships. The lack of bussing allowed us to chat with each family twice a day. To our amazement, the spreading out of groups minimized lost and found to amounts we didn’t know were even possible!

When we remember the summer of 2020, we won’t remember the stress and uncertainty leading up to our start date. We’ll remember how campers, staff and families rallied together to create a safe and fun atmosphere in the middle of a global pandemic. We’ll remember how when it started to rain, we were overcome with pride as epic dance parties broke out across camp, our staff and campers never letting the weather dampen their spirits. We’ll remember how our incredible staff changed everything they’ve ever known about camp, and still made AVDC a place full of connections, laughter and love.'

And so, as we look forward to Summer 2021, our perspective is different than last year. We know that we’ll be able to run camp no matter what. We don’t know what specific restrictions will be in place – but we do know we only need four-and-a-half business days to make anything happen! We’ll be in touch in the next week or so regarding our plans for registration.

We are so thankful to our wonderful camp families, staff and campers for placing their trust in us this summer. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to spend our summer with you. Here’s to many more summers of fun, laughter and friendship – and hopefully a hug or two!

All our love & virtual AVDC handshakes,

Ariel & Gandalf

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