Memories of Camp Si-La-Meo
This summer was an extraordinary one. Staff and youth stepped up to the plate in amazing ways. Unlike previous years, cleaning became 50% of the counselor’s jobs.
Each summer, I tell staff that no one expects them to be perfect, but this year, I told them straight away that we don’t have time to not be perfect—the virus doesn’t wait. From day one we had to strive for perfection, and we made it the whole summer without one positive case. It was amazing and inspiring to see them really lean in to this new normal.
– Sassy, Camp Si-La-Meo Manager
In the beginning, camp counselors were all extremely nervous and uncomfortable to come in, but they were on board to learn. The start-up training gave them confidence, comfort, and trust.
We never hid the fact that this year was hard. Ensuring that staff had the opportunity to connect with one another each week was very important to us. Staff held each other accountable, restricting their personal lives for the sake of each other and everyone at camp.
While intermixing of campers and counselors is encouraged to teach kids socialization and provide freedom of choice, we could not do that this year due to COVID-19. We were uncertain of how kids would react to the new cohort structure, but we quickly saw a bright side: extra bonding time which led to deeper relationships.
In the cohort structure, staff were able get more camper input about daily activities, which is something the kids enjoyed and appreciated. One camper who is introverted always finds it hard to switch counselors and meet new people at camp—each year, he needs a little extra attention. But this year with limited mixing, he really thrived. We noticed that most five-year-old kids preferred this structure and found it was easier to remember names and make friends.
Kids left with new lifelong best friends, which is so important right now, during a time in which you can’t meet new people and contact with others is limited. There were parents asking us to put them in touch with other families so that they could arrange playdates after camp ended.
Our summer programs, Summer Adventure included, found the balance between keeping kids safe by following mandates while simultaneously keeping things fun. This is something we had a harder time establishing early on during our Emergency Programs in April and May. There is so much fun we can still make happen, even during COVID. This summer, many kids still got to get on a boat by themselves for the first time.
Camp quality and youth experience was a pleasant surprise in trying times—kids were picking us over other programs and really wanted to come to camp. There was not a single complaint about any counselors this year, which was a reflection of what the kids were experiencing.
As Sassy wrote to her staff after camp was officially over and packed up:
“One day we will tell our friends, or grandkids, or strangers that we worked at a summer camp through the 2020 COVID crisis. We will tell them that we wore face masks, even when they were drenched from rain or sweat; that we cleaned and sanitized more than we thought was reasonable or even possible….We will also tell them that we sang songs and danced in the rain; that we watched kids laugh and cry and try and grow and make friends…that we brought normalcy to a world in chaos, and joy to the anger and frustration of the unknown.”
Special Thanks to Conoco Phillips for Helping to Make this Summer Possible.