Welcome to another exciting summer season here at the Florida Elks Youth Camp. We are currently three weeks into Summer Camp 2023, with each day as engaging as the last. Our campers have filled the air with their laughter and enthusiasm, making it a lively environment as we help them grow, learn and make new friends.
Regarding registration, we are delighted to report that we are averaging 316 campers per week. This is an impressive 95% of our total capacity of 336 campers per week. Although weeks 4 through 7 are slightly under this trend, we see continual improvement week after week, and we are optimistic about meeting our target.
The unfortunate influenza A outbreak last year that led to the shutdown in week 4 was a lesson we took to heart. We’ve implemented rigorous health precautions this year to ensure the well-being of our campers. Every attendee is now tested for Flu A, B, and C (COVID) upon check-in using a single, shallow swab test. Out of the entire pool of campers, we’ve had eight positive cases so far this season. Catching those cases at the very start has allowed us to prevent major outbreaks, ensuring these individuals receive necessary care and avoiding major outbreaks within the camp.
One of the highlights of our summer program is the seventh week, fondly referred to as the Military Week. This session is dedicated to honoring our armed forces by inviting the dependents of active-duty and veteran military personnel to partake in camp activities free of charge. It is a time for them to come together, share their unique experiences and foster an understanding among each other that they might not find elsewhere.
This year, we’ve taken our commitment to honoring our military a step further by once again partnering with the Florida National Guard. This season, they will be assigning 30 soldiers to active duty at the camp during Military Week. Their presence will not only offer a sense of familiarity and comfort to our campers but also inject our staff with a fresh wave of motivation, allowing us to finish the camp season on a high note.
Special flag ceremonies, leadership training sessions and numerous other activities are in store for our campers during Military Week. We have also moved our traditional fireworks display from the Fourth of July to the Wednesday of this week, aiming to provide a spectacular conclusion to a week full of meaningful interactions and growth.
While the excitement of summer camp is undeniable, it’s worth noting that we have a calendar filled with thrilling activities that extend beyond the summer. The Florida MDA will return the very week after our summer camp concludes, and from August through April, our calendar is packed with youth rental groups. It’s heartening to witness the return to our lively, “typical” state in this post-pandemic era.
We eagerly anticipate the launch of our third year of the Extended Camp Leadership Program in September. This unique initiative allows us to select 10 of our finest camp staff members to mentor a group of 60-80 campers ages 13-15. These teenagers, who’ve aged out of the standard summer camp, are guided through academic support, social growth and leadership training. Our overarching goal with ECLP is to nurture these campers into impactful leaders who can effect positive change in their communities, with the potential to return to us as future counselors-in-training at our summer camp.
Reflecting on the forthcoming weeks of camp and the exciting activities planned in the months that follow, it’s evident that we have a privilege unlike any other — the privilege to foster a sense of community, growth and joy in the lives of our young campers. As we move forward, I look forward to witnessing the countless stories that will unfold, the numerous milestones our campers will cross and the sheer joy that our endeavors bring to them. I will be sure to share all of these stories and more with you in the next article as well as at our midyear convention in November.
Until then, to all Elks reading this, thank you for everything you do. It is only due to you and your efforts that we can continue to make this impact on the kids of Florida. I am humbled every day to serve as your Youth Camp Director, and I thank you for the opportunity to mold these kids into true, American citizens. Have a wonderful Florida summer.