This summer was unique indeed. The global health pandemic has completely shaken our world in disastrous ways. Everything seems to have been affected by it in one way or another. Unfortunately, the majority of what the media has reported has been on the terrible havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked across our world. This led me to question if any good news has come out of this pandemic…
This week I sat down with Camp Highland Summer Camp Director, Patrick (PatSam) Murphy. I wanted to find out how Camp Highland, and summer camp specifically, had been affected by the pandemic. Here’s what I found out.
The first thing we discussed was centered around logistics. Running a summer camp is challenging enough on its own, but when you throw in social distancing, mask-wearing, COVID testing, CDC guidelines, and all kinds of new challenges that come with this uncharted territory, that makes for one heck of a summer! As overwhelming and demanding as all this may sound, there were also many unexpected positive outcomes. COVID forced us to completely rethink the way we structured summer camp. We never would have guessed that what came of it would be a better experience all around for parents, campers, and staff.
Each week as families arrived for their first day of camp, they were directed to drive straight to their child’s cabin. In years past, they would have sat in the normal long, and sometimes slow, line of cars waiting to drop off their child’s luggage. This change allowed them to meet their child’s counselor, set up their bunk, and then park without having to wait. Similarly, the changes we were forced to make to the way we do meals at camp proved to also provide a better overall experience than the way they had been done before. Instead of the entire camp waiting in long lines to get food, each cabins was released one at a time. This meant that each group of campers got to spend more intentional time together before they were called for food. We knew early on that group sessions, especially worship time, was also not going to look quite like it always had. But once again, God used what could have been a difficult situation to do immeasurably more than we could have imagined. By meeting in smaller age groups, we found that it meant less production in more intimate settings of worship and discussion. Even offsite excursions had to be reimagined and relocated to stay at Camp. At the end of each week, after campers returned home, the staff was required to remain at camp over the weekends. This meant no trips into town for Chick-fil-A and Walmart, and no more activities offsite. Shockingly, this went off without a hitch! The staff was actually able to get much more rest in-between weeks and they bonded on a deeper level than seen in past summers.
Overall, the tone of appreciation and thankfulness ran wild this summer. It seemed as though everyone was simply grateful to get out of the house for a change, see friends, or get a break from those they may have seen too much of this year. Many of the campers who have been coming to camp since they were old enough (known as “lifers”), agreed that this was the best summer they’ve ever experienced! We couldn’t have predicted this at the beginning of the summer, but COVID really exposed people’s deepest need for things not of this world. Now that’s some good news and a great reminder of what makes Camp Highland so incredible!