We are just over a month away from summer camp 2021, and I’m over-the-moon excited that we will be having kids back to camp this year! Currently, all our new two-week sessions are full, but we do still have room in our regular one-week sessions. We are filling up a bit slower than in the past as some parents are still on the fence of whether to send their kids to camp due to COVID-19. However, I think that as the word spreads about our precautions and as we continue to get a handle on the virus as a nation, we will see an uptick in registration in May.
I encourage you to reach out to families, churches, schools and community centers in your areas to spread the word that camp will be open this summer. Also, for any families with concerns about COVID-19, please have them go to our website, floridaelks.org/camp, to get information on what we’re doing to protect our campers.
As physical precautions, we are requiring masks to be worn indoors in certain situations but not in their own cabin and not outside. We are also improving the filtration of our HVAC systems in all camper cabins, and we have implemented state-of-the-art housekeeping cleaning and sanitization protocols. One of our biggest advantages is that our dining hall, the pavilion, is a screened shelter, not an enclosed building. Between that amount of fresh air and the six giant 12-foot diameter ceiling fans, we have one of the safest areas possible for dining.
From a programming perspective, we are reducing the overall numbers of kids who would be inside at one time, and we will limit high-intensity indoor games and focus on games that are not physically taxing. Most notably, we will be having our camp dance party outside or in the open-air pavilion this year instead of in the Grafton Center gym. We are also limiting, or modifying, all our games that would typically require close contact, whether indoors or out. Check-in and checkout will also look different this year as most of this will be done via a drive-thru style. We will not have adults in the cabins or in any enclosed buildings during this process.
These are all the beginning measures that we are taking. We will continue to research best practices and make adjustments to ensure that this summer is safe for the kids. Again, keep up to date on all COVID-19 policies via our website. I truly believe that we will be in the top one percent of camps as far as safety goes.
In addition to the other changes we’ve implemented this year, we’re adding one more big one for summer camp. For the first time, we will have a professional fireworks display for the campers here during the week of July 4! Every year we have a unique party for the Fourth, but it was always missing the grand finale. Well, this year, we’ve got it locked down, and I have a feeling all our neighbors, and even Umatilla as a whole, will get one heck of a show right along with our campers. So, if you’ve got kids who were hesitant to go to camp on the Fourth of July, you can tell them not to worry; it’ll be a blast!
For those who are just a bit too young to attend camp in person, remember that we will be hosting a virtual camp for 8-year-olds this summer. They can sign up online just like everyone else. We’ll have morning and evening flag ceremonies, lots of games, walks through the nature trail — the otter is back this year! — and nightly debriefs just like our 9-13-year-olds who will be here in person. This will be a fantastic opportunity to get kids prepared to stay at camp when they turn 9. We’ll introduce them to all the fun and camp traditions so they’ll be ahead of the rest when they are actually at camp the next year. Check it out online if you have any questions.
Finally, be sure to attend the state convention at the Rosen Centre in Orlando, Florida, May 27-30. We will have updates on all things youth camp, and the Florida Elks Youth Camp Board of Directors will be making a final decision on the implementation of our mentorship program that is scheduled to begin after camp this year. Currently, we are planning to employ eight of our very best counselors to work with 40 of our 13-year-old campers from August 2021 to May 2022. This will provide an opportunity for those kids who will not be able to attend future summer camps, due to being too old, to still have a camp connection and to learn what it takes to work at the camp when they turn 16. This program will provide virtual meetings every month with a group of other campers where they’ll play games, tell stories and stay engaged with camp tradition. It will also provide one-on-one sessions with our staff to provide motivation and an attentive ear. The highlight for these 40 kids will be three weekends where they will be able to come back to camp in person to enjoy the actual camp experience and to learn valuable leadership skills from our top staff. Be sure to come to the state convention to learn more!
As always, thank you for everything you do as Elks. You are what allow us to help kids!
Summer Camp 2021
Week 1 June 20-26
Week 2 June 27-July 3
Week 3 July 4-10
Week 4 July 11-17
Week 5 July 18-24
Week 6 July 25-31
Week 7 * Aug. 1-7
* Military Week: Dependents of veterans and/or active military attend for free!