Well, after two full weeks of camp we are delighted, even ecstatic, to officially declare that Summer 2021 feels like a normal summer again! It wasn’t easy getting there, and for some kids it will still be a process to get to where they were two summers ago, but it’s now clear that the positivity of the staff and campers has propelled us towards our regular BEST SUMMER EVER! As they say, it takes a village and our little village is back to being as strong as ever.
The Freshkids, who usually require 1-3 days to adapt, took twice as long to feel comfortable but when they did they absolutely soared beyond what we could have imagined. In a year when we expected our unit of 115 Freshkids to decrease to 40 kids after the two week mark, we were shocked to find out that 81 out of 115 freshkids chose to stay for a month! For some of these kids, Covid has been 10% of their lifetime experience, yet it just took them just about 12 days to embrace outdoor play, healthy socialization, new relationships, and an appreciation for nature away from technology. For those Freshkids that have returned home, we will be curious to know if your child seems a little different, maybe a bit rewired back to where they were 16 months ago?
For the rest of the camp, it is clear our staff have truly stepped up and worked with the kids who were having challenges and that their work is paying off. Today we checked in on a boy who had been homesick all summer and a girl who had been feeling really sad for a while, both Juniors, and both reported feeling truly happy to be at camp and excited for the upcoming weeks for the first time. In fact, one of them forgot they had even been unhappy despite crying for days just last week! When we say “give it time” this is what we mean. The two week mark is really a turnaround point for so many kids.
It also helps that we’re moving back to a self-selected schedule. Manitou has a very unique approach to scheduling and many of the kids that were struggling do better with individual choice for activities. Cabin programming was fine for a week to be exposed to activities they may not have ever considered doing, but at this point we they feel a need to get back to the type of daily schedule that they look forward to here at Manitou, one that provides freedom, variety, and boosts their independence and self-esteem. Of course, we continue to encourage all the campers to challenge themselves and try new things even when they begin to pick their own activities. In fact, some Senior girls came to us last week saying they loved the first week of cabin activities because they never knew they would like “yoga, music and hockey” and now they are picking those activities this week!
Communities take on personalities and influence their members. If a cabin has two homesick campers then the other eight kids have a far better chance of being homesick. Now that the kids that were struggling are starting to turn it around and the kids that were doing well are now begging to stay all summer, that positivity spreads and that negative funk, anxiety and worry gets translated into deeper friendship, new experiences, and positive relationships with staff.
The weather: lets not discount that in the first 12 days of camp it poured rain for four entire days, all day!! It also rained for another three days as well. Having more sun in recent days allows us to do more activities and since most activities are outside this year the rain does affect us more than ever. Although when it does rain, mud sliding is on ☺ !
The covid protocols: We are now into a camp wide bubble and we as of today are allowed to function in wider cohorts and even as one camp! We can now be outside with no masks and inside with masks (if close to another cabin group ). Theatre plays can now be performed inside with masks (this was just declared today by public health). The play last night made everyone feel like we were back in our special home and even the seniors cheered on the Freshkids as they performed brilliantly in Willy Wonka.
Finally, to be honest, the Director Team has much more time to address any typical issues around camp. Now that camp is finally moving along as normal, the Unit Heads, Directors and other leaders have the ability to work with those campers that need and deserve that extra attention.
Don’t get us wrong, we are not naïve and know that this summer will be one of continual challenges for all of us, but they will continue to become less common as the weeks progress. We are ready and willing to work as hard every day for your children. At our staff meeting last night the energy was the best we have seen in years. Everyone is just so happy to be here and that in and of itself is one type of infection that will spread to your kids all summer along. With everyone finally settling in, many staff and campers alike have come to us to say, more or less, that they did not realize that the light at the end of the tunnel would actually shine so quickly or be so bright.