I hope this message finds you safe and well. It has been quite a struggle for all of us over this last year and a half, but it looks like we are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. In this article, I’d like to catch you up on summer camp 2021, our new Extended Leadership Program that we are currently conducting for our oldest campers, and our outlook for rental groups and Elk tours through next summer. Despite the hardships of the past year, these are exciting times for your youth camp!
In my last article, summer camp 2021 was in full swing and going well despite the additional stress provided by COVID-19. I’m proud to say that we were able to complete six full one-week sessions and three two-week sessions for this past summer. We had planned for a seventh one-week session to round the summer out, but at that time, COVID was really ramping up again, and we were no longer comfortable with the risk presented to our campers.
This was particularly heartbreaking, as many kids who were scheduled for week seven were those who had missed or were sent home from previous weeks due to COVID. However, to compensate for this, we are ensuring that any child who was signed up for week 7 will 100% be guaranteed a spot at summer camp in 2022. Even if they were 13 this summer, we will provide an exception and allow them to attend a two-week session next summer. Considering the obstacles presented, though, I would still count summer camp 2021 as a great success.
Beyond summer camp, I’m excited to tell you that our newest adventure, our Extended Leadership Program, is in full swing and going well! For those of you unfamiliar with this new aspect of camp, let me explain. For this program, we reached out to our best and brightest staff from the past year and asked them to work with campers after summer camp. In the past, we’ve not had contact with our campers once they go home. With this program, however, four groups of 10 campers will meet once a month via Zoom with two of our counselors.
They’ll play games, tell stories and debrief their shared experiences. Then, on two separate occasions each month, each camper will meet with a counselor one on one via Zoom to discuss anything else that is on their mind — grades, struggles at school, new activities they want to try, ways to give back to the community and more! To top it all off, all 40 kids and eight staff members will meet at the camp every three months for a weekend of fun and leadership training.
Our goal with this program is to engage our oldest campers from the time they leave camp, at age 13, until they are of age to return to work at camp, age 16. We want to continue our mission of molding the current generation of kids into adults who we would be proud to have as American citizens during some of the hardest times for our kids — while they are in school. If you’d like to know how the program is going, please be sure to attend the Florida State Elks Association midyear convention in Gainesville, Florida, in November. Otherwise, I’ll catch you up at the February quarterly at the youth camp in 2022.
As far as the on-site activities of the camp go, we are still very light on outside rental groups due to COVID. The most notable of our groups that had to cancel again this year were the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Florida camp, our own Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services family camp, and our long-standing partner, the Florida Children’s Burn Foundation, “Camp Tequesta” or “Burn Camp.” Each of these groups deals with children who are immunocompromised and at serious risk, and I feel that they have 100% made the right choice to ensure the safety of the kids by holding off returning to camp. It will simply be that much sweeter having them all back in the fall of 2022!
Speaking of coming to camp, I think most of you are already familiar with our bus tour program. This program is currently available and open. If you’re not familiar with it, let me give you the basics. Any Florida lodge can rent a tour bus and bring your members, potential members, family and friends to Umatilla to take a tour of the youth camp. The requirements are simple. Contact Jen Scott, our event services manager, at email@example.com to schedule a date. Contract and pay for the bus. Bring 40 or more people, including your Membership and Harry-Anna Trust Fund chairs, to take the tour. Get a full tour of the camp from either me; Krys Ragland, our assistant director; or Elliott Gilbert, our program director. Get a free lunch. And finally, get reimbursed up to $2,000 for the cost of the bus. So, it’s 100% free to you and your lodge!
Watching videos and hearing people talk about camp is great, but nothing can compare with seeing the place in person. We even have plans available for those of you who are farther away. Again, just email Jen for details. It’s an incredible opportunity for fellowship and to see how your hard-earned donations to the Harry-Anna Trust Fund are spent.
Finally, be on the lookout for information about New Year’s Eve this year at the camp. Check floridaelks.org for more information.
Thank you for all you do, and stay safe!