Since the news of our camp-celation a couple of weeks ago, there’s been a lot of sadness to process. The anticipation of being together for our summer weeks is what drives everything we do. Without that, we wondered, who would we be?
While our team quickly got to work on researching every possible type of virtual programming we could offer to our campers this year, the reality of how it would play out was unknown. We would soon find out through our bunk reunions, the first of our plans to shift into the virtual format.
We set up 87 individual Zoom links, one for each bunk across our 10 programs. We made sure we’d have at least one volunteer from the bunk and a clinician on each call. Then we invited the campers and held our breaths.
We wondered if they would show up. We wondered if they were burnt out on technology and Zoom calls from their months of distance learning. We worried they were mad at us for canceling camp. We wondered if they missed us as much as we missed them.
We counted down the days and then it was time.
All day yesterday, hour by hour, campers and volunteers joined their bunks and instantly picked up right where they left off. They joked, they sang, they caught up on life, they shared milestones, and they told their stories.
On one call I popped into, a camper showed us the art he’d been working on and explained how it reminded him of his sister who was a talented artist before she died. Then he showed us one of her pieces as well. And just like that, we were back in it. We were “us” again. A family of friends, where trust runs deep and bonds are strong, even in a virtual world.
“Just want to thank you for the zoom calls today. My son, Ben, was in Bunk 6 and when he got off the call he was literally glowing. I haven’t seen a smile like that on his face for I-don’t-know-how-long. He was so thrilled to reconnect with the bunk, especially the counselors (amazing, awesome counselors) and the kids. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
All day long, volunteers sent us their bunk screenshots and tales of joy from the hour they spent online with their campers. Bit by bit, these stories filled up the empty space in my heart where camp was supposed to live this summer.
It was a good day. And as we roll out our new plans and reimagined programs over the weeks and months ahead, the strength of this community will ensure there are many more good days to come.