I’m writing this on what would have been our very first day of summer camp. Typically, our staff would have spent the past couple of weeks opening our site, brushing up on their qualifications, bonding as a team, and generally getting ready for the big day. Today, two school buses packed with teenagers would have rolled into our parking lot, and we would have spent the day unpacking, playing games, and eating spaghetti for dinner. Our evening would have been filled with capture-the-flag and campfire.
But this year, for all of us, is looking quite different.
We don’t have any of the typical programming taking place, but we’re still quite busy, so if you have a moment, please read on to learn how we’re supporting our community in these tough times.
When the pandemic first hit, many of our staff, LIT/JC’s and moms began calling me and our Leadership Director panicked. They didn’t know where to access credible information, they were scared to leave their apartments, and when they did, it was challenging to find supplies. That’s where Phase One of our COVID-19 relief program came into play.
In Phase One, we reached out to summer 2019 staff, LIT/JC’s and moms from our Mothers and Children’s programs to see if they required food, sanitary products and other necessities. The response was overwhelming. In total, 40 families indicated a great need, so we created meal plans and put in an order of food with our supplier. Three of our senior staff spent time sorting, organizing and packing, and volunteers delivered boxes of a one months supply of food, games, crafts and other essentials to families in need.
By mid April, government support became available, and those families were connected to other charities better suited to help with food and essential supplies. That meant we once again pivoted our programming to meet the now more pressing need of addressing the mental health of our community.
We’ve spent countless hours texting and phoning staff, LIT/JC’s, alumni and moms who are simply overwhelmed with anxiety and battling depression in today’s climate. Many of our staff and campers are struggling because they don’t have consistent parenting at home, leaving them to fend for themselves. Their routines have been disrupted, many are sleeping through the day, eating poorly, neglecting physical activity and developing a whole host of other unhealthy habits. That’s why we’re now in Phase Two, which is all about supporting our community in maintaining their mental health with positive practices during these scary times.
Phase Two includes:
- Weekly “tea time” with our moms. They’re encouraged to pour themselves a cup of tea, and join our Assistant Director for a time of community, connection and sharing resources. One-on-one connections with Moms have also been established with weekly phone calls from senior staff members.
- LIT/JC’s and staff participate in daily challenges to win camp swag. Each day, they’re eligible to receive points for things like eating three healthy meals, participating in 30 minutes of physical activity, reading a book, doing something creative, completing school work, and being awake between the hours of 10am-8pm. All participants are paired with one of our senior staff to provide daily check-ins and help with motivation and support. Here is a short video highlighting one week’s “Polar Bear” Challenge.
- Partnering with our sister camp, Camp Big Canoe, to offer a high school credit to our LIT/JC’s and staff.
- Individual and group school tutoring for staff and LIT/JC’s (this is continuing into the summer for those taking summer school).
- Online first aid training
- Reaching out on a 1:1 basis to the most vulnerable members of our community – those whose anxiety has boiled over to trigger additional mental health issues, who are in challenging relationships, or just need some 1:1 support. We’re also working closely with social workers and other community leaders to ensure consistent care for those in need.
We also have three staff living on site to ensure the property is maintained. They’re spending the summer doing small repairs and painting so that next summer, our facilities will be better than ever!
I’m so grateful for your support, I know that 2020 isn’t working out how any of us had planned, but we’re doing our very best to support our community and keep those around us safe. All of which was only possible because friends like you. So thank you, it’s times like this that we really start to count our blessings. For me, you, and our other generous donors are among those blessings.
Wishing you health, safety and happiness.
Yours in camping,
Dana and the Scugog Team