Dear Manitou Families, Staff and Friends:
Thank you for all your wonderful messages of support during these unprecedented times. Normally at this juncture we would have been focused on site preparation, leadership training, program development and review of camper application, medical and information forms. Instead, each day is filled with obtaining advice from numerous physicians, infectious disease experts, and other colleagues whom we hold in high esteem.
Your heartfelt words console us at a time where we feel bereft at the thought of no camp this summer. All of you have shown incredible empathy and compassion with your replies. We wish to quote a few parents from our Manitou family who echo many of the beautiful words we have been so fortunate to receive:
“We are the fortunate ones. Our kids know that their parents are the lucky ones … our kids know that we are lucky to have jobs, where many are struggling to keep even one in the family working. They also know that we are the ones that simply by good fortune, have a home with lots of space, and a yard to isolate in, and plenty of food in our kitchen. We tell our kids daily and it is not lost on them how many blessings we have. Our hearts go out to those who are struggling to get through the days and weeks safely, and our gratitude goes out to those who are on the front lines.“
“We have always realized how fortunate we are to be a part of your camp family. We also feel for those who are suffering worldwide. Our kids are still allowed to feel sad for what they are losing… We want them to continue to be able to put things into the proper perspective with compassion and open minds always.“
“We adults know how much our kids need camp, how desperately they need to have no technology, how they need to bond with and be with their friends, how badly they need to hug their friends and feel like kids again. But we also know how complicated it is to contemplate how it might actually happen. It is all so extremely challenging. “
We have travelled along every road to find a new avenue to take us to camp, but every time we try to create a new pathway, we always end up at a dead end. The time has come to stop rationalizing and face the facts as hard as that may be. There are simply too many known and unknown risks to safely go forward.
Whether it be our infectious disease experts, physicians, Public Health, or our local medical officer of health, we are told repeatedly that camps are an amplifier to a degree that makes them a significant vector for passing on the virus.
You chose Manitou because you trust us, and we feel we must keep the commitment we have made to you to ensure our Manitou family will be safe. We have always based our health and safety protocols on the highest standards, and we will continue to do so.
Unfortunately as a result of the orders of the Provincial Government due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are forced to cancel all summer camp bookings for this upcoming season.
Manitou has always been a camp that takes great pride in our commitment to building resilience and taking healthy risks. We have also always said that it is our mandate to treat every camper and staff as if they are our own children. We simply must ask the question, “Can we keep our staff and campers safe?” and as tough as it is to admit it, it is clear: camp is an unhealthy risk at this time. If anything changes, we of course will let you know, but at this time we feel this is highly unlikely. Please know we are always open to re-evaluating new sessions if we feel the risks can be appropriately minimized while being able to comply, execute and enforce the public health guidelines at the time.
Please understand that the financial impact to us is considerable. Yet we must remove ourselves from the equation and make these decisions assuming we have no financial interest; to do otherwise would not allow us to proceed objectively.
What happens with your deposit or payment to date?
We must make sure that you are not negatively impacted from the cancellation of camp and will be providing you with an update in June with options for your deposit. We know some of you are experiencing financial challenges right now, so if you require your deposit back prior to June, it is our absolute pleasure to return it to you. If this is necessary, please e-mail Jen (email@example.com) to begin this process.
How do we move forward with our feelings?
We spend all year planning for the summer, just as your kids spend all year counting down the days. A Manitou summer defines who we are. Knowing what your children will lose this summer is heartbreaking.
The sadness we are feeling is immense and without precedent. That same sadness with your children needs to be embraced in a way that somehow recognizes the opportunities and privilege that your children have had together as part of our Manitou family and will have again in the future. Listen to your children: their pain is real. Over time, and when appropriate, try to turn this emotional distress into an important teachable moment and discussion about resilience.
We know for parents it is just as difficult. Your time self-isolating may be among the toughest days you have ever had to endure and you have a right to be just as disappointed over this news.
It’s now time as one united community to express our sorrow, while bringing our Manitou Family together with messages of hope and gratitude at the same time. Our memories that have kept us going all year long will have to carry over to next summer. To allow this to happen, we have to work even harder in doing what we do best: taking good care of each other and giving back to those less fortunate.
On Thursday May 14th at 7:00 pm, we will be holding our second Virtual Fireside to unite as one strong community during this difficult time. We will welcome guest Joe Rich, our camp friend and noted social worker, to give us all some tips on how to deal with this new reality. You will also hear from some Manitou campers and staff with messages of support. Your children need to experience joy, laughter, and rebuild their confidence, recognize their feelings, and learn how to move on in as healthy a way as possible. We must remember that with adversity comes opportunity.
We hope to hear from you, chat, and help explain or answer any questions. Our true voices of support now come with not just our hearts, but our ongoing commitment to talking in real time to you and your children. We will continue to partner with you to help your kids grow with a foundation of love, respect, and empathy. We will continue to move forward in the Manitou way, with transparency, positivity, and gratitude.
Mark, Jeff and the entire 2020 director team
P.S We strongly encourage you to CLICK HERE to read our “Frequently Asked Questions”, which offers additional clarity and outlines our decisions in greater detail regarding the upcoming summer.
Dear Manitou Families,
We hope that you and your families are healthy at home and coping well with the current climate. We are now able to provide an update for summer 2020. It’s crazy to think that just six weeks ago, we were all in the office, discussing World Games teams, planning exciting new programs, and finalizing our staff for Manitou Summer 2020. Excitement was building, spring was in the air, and the camp season felt right around the corner.
So much can change in just over a few months.
We are now thrown into this new paradigm together and must make the best decisions possible to ensure that we, your children and our loved ones are healthy.
How can we even express how we are feeling? Like you, we are confused, overwhelmed, and anxious. So why write to you now? Because our commitment has always been to be transparent with our families. We respect you, and we want you to trust us. We need to face the uncertainty together.
As a result of the Ontario Government’s shutdown of all non-essential businesses, all summer camps have been closed since mid-March and the question is when and if the Government will reopen camp, and under what conditions? Adding to the complexity is the fact that we have already been set back many weeks to open the on-site camp premises. We hope circumstances change and it becomes feasible to operate camp in some form this summer, and that public health and the Ontario Government can help guide us in this regard. But ultimately it is our camp leadership team that must be confident we are able to operate Manitou at the high standards that you expect. Ensuring your children, the staff, the maintenance/kitchen crew, the director team, and your families are all safe as a result.
Like all camp directors, we are staying as informed as possible, communicating with experts in medicine, infectious disease, and public health. Our primary goal is to do anything we can to make camp happen this summer, in one form or another and we must look to our governing bodies and infectious disease experts, physicians and the science to make the most educated decisions possible.
It goes without saying; if there ever was a time for the need for camp, it is now. You may have heard already about a wide range of decisions from the summer camp world. Some camps, mostly non-profits, have already cancelled their summer sessions entirely, closing up until summer 2021. Most camps have accepted the fact that the best case is having the camp sessions pushed backward. So many factors affect each camp uniquely; directors simply must make the decision that serves their campers, staff and families best.
As always, our goal is to ensure that campers and staff are as safe as possible. The tricky part now is that with COVID-19, we have been thrown a new risk that nobody can truly measure.
What are some of the factors that determine if camp will open this summer?
The first consideration is what actions and decisions Ontario Public Health makes over the coming weeks:
- Ontario Public Health would need to give Ontario summer camps approval to open.
- Should camp be allowed to open, we expect extensive guidelines to be in place that help to mitigate the risk. It is possible that these guidelines make opening camp impossible from a health and safety perspective, including interfering with our ability to operate as you and we would expect.
- In the event that we encounter cases of COVID-19 at camp, we would need assurances from public health that any confirmed or suspected cases at camp would not be required to quarantine in place. That is, public health would permit us to send any confirmed or suspected cases home to quarantine. Without this assurance, our camp would be at risk of having to close mid-session, to which the ramifications for our campers and staff are unacceptable.
- Finally, we await guidance to understand what requirements public health would have on campers at the end of session. Whether these would include requirements to quarantine after camp and would this be acceptable to our campers and families?
Once camp is permitted to open, there will be a lag time, a process that typically takes six weeks to prepare the site, do the necessary opening, maintenance and construction to ensure camp is operable and safe.
Just as importantly, there are countless considerations our team needs to consider in opening camp this summer. These considerations include, but are not limited to:
- Do we have the appropriate staffing mix to maintain the operation of all our activities? In making this decision, we consider that 20% of our staffing mix comes from outside Canada and we are unsure if they will be able to be at camp.
- If we are not able to maintain all of our activities, can we maintain enough activities to ensure the essence of the Manitou experience remains intact?
- Can we secure nurses and doctors to fill our medical team needs? Can we source the necessary PPE for our medical team? And can the Parry Sound health system handle the increased capacity that camp brings?
- Can our kitchen team modify their processes in sourcing and preparing food safely for the whole camp?
- Will we require testing and be able to source the necessary testing kits, and we must be satisfied in the accuracy and response time of testing kits by the summer?
- We will need to limit entry and exit from the camp for both campers and staff. How can we maintain these restrictions, with buy-in from all parties, while honouring staff days off and ensuring this does not affect our staffs’ performance?
Right now, we are working tirelessly on answering all of these questions, should Ontario Public Health make decisions that are favourable for holding some form of camp this summer. Answering these questions comes with some uncertainties and takes time. So the one thing we can say with complete certainty is this: we are utterly heartbroken that camp can not start on a timely basis this summer.
So what now?
As of now, all we can say is camp will not be starting on time. No Forms or Payments are due until further notice. Sessions will be have to be pushed back a few weeks as a best case scenario in order to allow us to camp get camp ready for use. With an extra week in the summer we do have the option to end camp on September 2nd instead of August 13th.
We know that you are all eager to have some certainty for the upcoming summer. We expect that by May 15th, you will have our full position on what summer 2020 will look like. We are still hopeful for camp to happen, and that is why we are waiting a few more weeks to work through the details.
You have our unwavering commitment that whatever happens this summer, we will continue to support you and your children, the staff, and the entire Manitou community. Our virtual camp sessions will continue, and together we will remind ourselves that camp is more than just a place that kids go for the summer. It’s a community that stands by each other, connecting even when our physical presence together may not be possible. We also want to continue to emphasize that regardless of what we or public health decide, anyone who feels uncomfortable in sending their child to camp will be given their full deposit or payments back.
Finally let’s keep on thanking and supporting those on the front lines, both in our medical community, and those working in essential services. These people are the true heroes.
We would love to hear from you by email with your thoughts about the summer. We may not be able to respond to everyone, but we do cherish your feedback and feel it can assist us with our decision making. Most importantly, hearing from you will put a smile on our faces as we navigate this journey together!
Stay healthy and we will continue to communicate as the spring unfolds.
Mark, Jeff, Jen, Melissa and Alec