Camp News & Blog

2020 Final Campfire

It has rained every day at our house since we put the announcement out to cancel Summer 2020. I wish I could make this stuff up. It was raining at camp on Thursday, too. It seems like Mother Nature wants to console our feelings with her waters and, to some point, mask our tears.

As I said in the video, we need to grieve this loss. We need to be sad and talk about it when we are ready. I’m sad for the first time campers and their families – this is certainly not the experience we wanted for you all. We are all sad for the kids who love their summers at Weequahic more than anything else. I’m sad for the staff who have planned, many for 10 months, to get to camp. I’m even sad for our local ice cream spots, Scoops and Jerichos, and our friends at the Villa Como who serve some of the best pizza on the east coast!

I received this note yesterday from one of our alums:

I thought about how I would feel reading your cancellation note, if I had spent the past 10 months eagerly awaiting my return to the best place on earth, as I did when I was a camper. Since my amazing CIT and final summer, whenever June rolls around I often find myself thinking about what those kids must be feeling as they make the journey to camp, and I remember that amazing feeling of nervous excitement and energy as that famous sign on Woods Road grew closer and closer in sight. I know and trust that 2021 will be the greatest Weequahic summer to date, and that you, Kate and the whole team will work so hard over the coming year to make sure that becomes a reality. Till then I hope you guys can survive with no opening day, no Friday night campfires, no Tribals, no taps at HQB, no gaga, no canteen, no Color War, no turning and facing the lake.

Yes, Ben, we will survive. In fact, we are going to learn to thrive through this situation. Life is not about avoiding the storms. Life is about dancing in the rain.

Dancing Between Mountain Tops

Well, it’s raining right now. And that’s ok. Life is not a constant string of successes. In fact, we’ve seen it’s not that great for people to only succeed. Growth can only come from facing new challenges and overcoming them.

Kate reminded me of something a little while ago. We all talk about getting to the top of the mountain. It’s a great anaology – we look up to these majestic peaks, some dappled in snow. We are striving and working to get to the top.

Have you ever been on the top of a mountain? I have and let me tell you – there’s a great view and nothing but dirt and rocks. Nothing grows on the top of a mountain. And, it’s normally not big enough for lots of friends.

The richest place for growth is down in the valley. We have slid down the last wonderful mountain we’ve climbed and found ourselves in the darkest valley yet. Two things will help learn our way out of this valley: our friends and our values.

How will we stay connected while separated by miles and miles? Well, we thought we’d hold some bunk zoom calls, a few more digital campfires, a letter writing campaign, and fun online tutorials from our amazing Weequahic staff. I’m sure a few of the guys and the girls will find each other on Fortnite. I implore you all to be kind and welcoming to all of the Weequahic family online. It’s easy to be mean or cut people off. However, we are all worthy of love and attention. Let the values we talk about so often at camp shine through when interacting with your friends.

Gratitude, Attitude and Courage

Speaking of our values, I want to touch on each one:

For what will you be grateful for at the end of this very strange and suddenly wide-open summer. I’ve been asking myself that question for several days in the hopes of pulling my spirits up. I hadn’t planned to have a ‘summer off’ until I retired from camping, many, many years in the future. And, while I’ll be heading up to camp often, I won’t be there all summer.

So, no matter the circumstances, I want my future self to be grateful to have made the most of it.

What’s the best way to accomplish that goal? To intentionally pick the right attitude. For me, that’s to see this summer as an opportunity. It’s the not the opportunity I had planned for. It’s not the one that Cammie, Sue, Dana, Scrappy, Kate, John and I have been working towards since last August. And, it’s the opportunity that we have. We can either treat as such or waste the time away feeling frustrated and sorry for ourselves.

This is going to hurt for a little while longer. It’ll on those special days: June 18th when all the staff were to be at camp. June 27th when our Tribal and Super Six kids were supposed to arrive. Visiting Day when I get to see so many friends be so happy to see their children. July 20th when we were set to welcome our Olympic kiddos. And August 8th when we would start to say our good byes.

But, if it doesn’t hurt, that would mean it doesn’t matter that much. We all know it does. And, we all know this: the summer must go on. We must do all we can to make the most of it.

And what will that take? Courage. Courage is the handle for which every value is used. You can’t be grateful without showing courage to choose. We can pick a great attitude in the face of a challenging situation without courage. You can’t build new friendships, learn new skills, approach an uncertain time effectively without courage.

As we know, courage is like a muscle – the more you us exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Weequahic family, it’s time to work out!

Going Forward

I want to end with some words one of our CITs shared with me yesterday.

It has been nearly six years since you came to my house and sold me on the wonders of camp. It was your presence that led me to Camp Weequahic and that may have been the best spill of luck I could ever receive. Camp has grown me into the person I am today, and I am extremely grateful for that.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about all of my experiences and what I will take from Weequahic. While it is hard to do, I see this pandemic as a time for me to take the values and relations I have developed at camp into the world. Without a doubt, I have noticed a more positive attitude and more courage in response to the challenges that we are all facing together.

As we move forward together, let’s remember a few things.

First, face these next several months with Gratitude, an intentionally chosen Attitude, and ever-growing Courage. Be kind to one another (and yourself.)

While we are blowing out the candle of Summer 2020, we are also lighting a spark for Summer 2021. Let’s work together to fan that spark into a flame the whole world will see!

Skate park at Camp Weequahic

Influencing the Future

Last week, I talked with you about questions. Two of those questions – ‘Where am I going?’ and ‘Do I have what it takes?’ concern the future. You are taking stock of how things are right now and doing your best to envision a future ahead.

The hard part about the future is that we can’t predict it. Who would have predicted our online campfires, physical distancing, and fear caused by this outbreak? When we think about the future, because we are positive people, we normally think about improvements to the life around us.

And, why wouldn’t we? As a human society, terrible poverty has fallen dramatically. The advances in science and medicine has been astounding. People are thinking more and more about helping those around them as well as the earth itself.

We can’t predict the future. But, we can influence it.

Hope Isn’t Enough

If you want to become the best singer in your school, you would envision that future first. How it would make you feel. Being up on stage having finished an amazing piece and hearing the crowd roar their approval. As you think about that wonderful future, you hope you’ll get there.

If you want to become the best baseball player in your league, you’d imagine diving catches, sharp base hits, stolen bases, and cheers from the stands. When you think about that wonderful future, you hope you’ll get there.

But hope is not enough. If you want to get from wherever you are to where you want to go, you’ve got to make some changes. And change can really hard. It normally means giving something up or changing your focus or modifying your behavior.

What’s Important?

One of my favorite teachers spent some time with me one day after a practice. I was upset – things were not going as I wanted them. He asked me where I wanted to take my golf career. To college, I answered.

“Great,” he said, “that’s a wonderful goal.” And then he started asking me how I spent my time.

How many hours a day are you sleeping? Studying? Reading outside of school? Spending time with your family? Practicing? Playing video games? (Yes, there were video games all the way back when I was a kid, too.)

He wrote all of my answers down. I was always honest with this coach – I knew he had my best in his mind and would support me no matter what.

“Ok, here’s how many hours a week you’d sleep. Here’s how many hours of studying…” and on down the list. It turns out, I was spending as many hours playing video games as I was practicing golf. (And both were more than I was studying….)

“Cole,” he said, “I’ve always found that tracking how I spend my time and my money is the best way to see what’s most important to me. Do you think spending as much time playing video games as practicing your short game will help you become a college golfer? Do you think sleeping in every weekend will help you draw closer to your family or your faith?”

He smiled, told me to make another 50 short putts and head home. I got the message and changed my behavior: more time reading, more time practicing, and about 10% as much video games.

Handling Disappointment

That story in my life ended as I wanted it. I changed enough behaviors and beliefs in order to play golf in college. I gave up a lot, too, but the relationships and memories I gained were more than worth the trade.

But what happens when we can’t influence the future to our liking? What happens when things out of our control go wrong, go against what’s most important right here and now for you?

Well, everybody handles disappointment and grief differently. Some people get to work. Others get sad. A few get mad. Most of us, though, go through a whole range of emotions. And, you know what? That’s completely ok.

We are supposed to. Believe it or not, it’s actually good for you to feel those things and even better to, when you are ready, talk about them with someone you love and loves you back. These emotions won’t be minimized or excused away. They need to be confronted, talked about and processed. Like all things in life, the only way out of those feelings is going through them.

This Too Shall Pass

When I think about disappointment and loss, I often think of King Solomon’s ring. If you aren’t familiar, King Solomon was thought to be the wisest king of Israel. Legend has it that one of his rings had a saying that was true no matter the situation: this too shall pass.

Let me break down that sentence a bit: This – whatever is happening right now – will change into something else. We can cheat in cards and in video games but there is no cheating time. ‘Too’ – everything changes. The more you fight the change, the harder it will be on you. A better way is to be like water and flow with it, carving your own channels over time. ‘Shall’ – not maybe, not possibly, ‘shall’ – it will. ‘Pass’ – move on, pass by, change.

This sentence is really useful when things are going great. It’ll keep you humble. It’ll remind you that things change and you’ve got to change with it. Do you think Weequahic had to change much as we grew from 120 kids to 750 in 8 summers? Oh, yes, we have to change every year.

It’s also an important sentence to remember when times are scary or dark or troublesome. Those times will pass. We don’t know when, but they will. There is hope in that message.  

Our Decision Making Process

Speaking of changes, let me address the very large elephant in the room. Many of our friends in Wayne County cancelled their summer sessions today. I know the decision was terribly hard for them. While we respect their decision, we have not yet made one about Summer 2020.

As I said in my email earlier today, safety is our most important concern. And this concern involves our campers social and emotional health as well as their physical health. Being cooped up for so many weeks is hard on our kids. Camp, I believe, could be a wonderful respite for them.

We read the same headlines that you do. They are certainly concerning. We’ve been reading studies. We know that while a very small portion of children have been affected, there is a much lower risk for them. Could sleeping in a bunk increase the possibility of spreading a virus. Yes. AND, if we can test everyone before they arrive, keep our staff at Weequahic for two weeks prior to camp, and keep everyone at camp the whole time, we may be able to mitigate that risk.

We’ve been talking with our camp doctors a bunch – I think they are actually tired of hearing from me. There have been multiple conversations with many others in the field. We’ve been on testing calls, research calls, and more.

We are still waiting for guidance from the American Camp Association. Some of that has come out today. The rest will be out over the weekend. We are waiting to hear from the State of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. I’ve heard news from them will be coming out ‘in days.’

When and How We’ll Decide

Kate and I feel obligated to do everything we can to provide our campers and staff a safe summer. We’ll continue to dig and learn and think creatively. If, after reading through the guidelines, we feel we can’t make Weequahic great and as safe as possible this summer, we’ll let you know. If we feel we can, we’ll do that too, in a very detailed manner.

We want camp for our kids and our families and our staff. We just need a little more time to see if we can make it all work. Thanks for being patient, flexible and hopeful with along the way.

Camp Weequahic sleep away camp in Pennsylvania

Dear Weequahic Families,

Hello all. I hope this note finds your family well. As promised, I wanted to give you a monthly update on our thoughts about the coming summer. As the situation continues to unfold and change daily, we still do not have any definite answers about Summer 2020. 

can tell you our year-round team has never had a busier April. We have been interviewing and hiring, planning and preparing, reading and listening. We continue to work alongside the CDC, American Camp Association, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and our friends in the Wayne County Camp Alliance to gather information, update our safety protocols and plan for a safe summer.

Decision Timeline & Suppliers

We hear recommendations will be put forth by the CDC, ACA and our local state agencies as early as this week. We have also heard this information could arrive in late May. The only common theme has been this: everyone wants camp to happen this summer, safely. We feel the same way!

We will continue to be patient, hopeful and flexible. We have spoken with CampTrucking, PackMyRx, and Amerasport and have found they are assuming the same posture. While we are happy to receive your forms now, we can also prepare everything should we receive them by mid-June.

I hope you will join us in being patient, hopeful, and flexible as we move through May. Definite plans for this summer should come into focus over the next four to five weeks. We hope to be able to offer a concrete plan – taking every possibility into account – no later than the first week of June.

Keep the GAC Going

In the meantime, we hope you will join us for some online fun at our Weequahic Families Facebook page, connect with camp friends across the world and continue to help our campers practice the values for which you chose Weequahic: showing gratitude, choosing our attitude, and building our courage.

Of course, please do not hesitate to call if you have questions. I would be happy to speak anytime. Now, more than ever, I cannot wait for camp!

Cole
Cole Kelly, Director
cole@weequahic.com • 570-798-2716