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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.