Camp Sequoia’s successful program in 2020 was very much a collaborative effort. We are first and foremost thankful that our campers were able to come to camp, grow at camp, and return home safe and healthy. Our kids were amazing in understanding and following established guidelines and procedures designed to keep our community safe. Our staff made huge personal sacrifices to maintain our community bubble, even during their time off. Our nursing team was vigilant, proactive, and attentive throughout the summer.
NONE of our campers or staff even needed a visit to the local urgent care or hospital for any cold or flu symptoms. Our nurses, who did daily temperature checks, never recorded a temperature in any member of our community that flagged a concern.
Camp Sequoia followed a three-pronged approach to opening up COVID free, starting well before anyone arrived on site and culminating with Camp Sequoia’s COVID free opening day.
Two Weeks Before Arrival: Camp Sequoia staff quarantined for two weeks before camper arrival together. We tested all members of our camper community and our nurses kept a daily health log for each staff member the same two weeks before camper arrival.
Prior to Campers Arriving on Site: Camp Sequoia tested all staff and all campers prior to kids arriving on site. This test did exclude asymptomatic individuals from joining our community — which was the point really. Vault Health was our vendor and this saliva-based test, developed at Rutgers genomics lab, could be done at home and didn’t involve invasive nasal swaps. The test had less than a 48-hour turnaround time for results.
On-Site Arrival: On-site arrival was staggered and communal transportation was reduced and operated at 50% normal passenger capacity. These transportation adjustments further reduced risks.
The answer to this is both simple and complicated all at once. First, again the bulk of the credit goes to our families, our kids and our staff for recognizing the importance of our guidelines and following directions consistently throughout the summer. We couldn’t be prouder of the kids who put genuine effort into making Sequoia 2020 a place to thrive.
We eliminated any off-site excursions with kids that would impact our ability to keep our community bubble in place (but kids DID get out of camp — see below). We were vigilant about cleaning, intentional about equipment and shared spaces, and followed common sense guidelines with respect to personal hygiene, dining, and interaction between different age groups of kids — all while not placing onerous and unwieldy restrictions on campers.
Camp Sequoia made several important programming changes this year. We substituted weekly trips off-site to venues that typically have high-density populations (such as water parks, theme parks, and the like) with creative local excursions that still provided our kids a meaningful adventure were also consistent with best practices and CDC recommendations. For example, Camp Sequoia did blueberry picking and then happy kids came back to camp to do baking of pies and cakes — which was a huge hit.
On-site, Sequoia campers added therapeutic horseback riding, go-karts around the lake and we even brought in celebrities (such as the locally famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil) and magicians who could engage with our kids in outdoor spaces and maintain appropriate social distances, while still giving our kids some special event options within the midst of a COVID world.
Our campers loved the ability to go the archery range, play Gaga, fish, swim in the pool, fly drones in STEM, explore the wilderness and connect with their bunkmates. They understood why tables were spaced a bit further apart in the dining hall, and why we did Ice Cream Sunday night outside in the open air.
While certainly, it was an unusual thing the first few days as some of the routines were different for our returning campers, many appreciated the ability to get to know the guys in their bunk, to have very personalized instruction in D&D and STEM, and to be able to do the things that build memories and friendships at camp. Camper feedback reflected an appreciation of s’ mores at division level (rather than the whole camp) bonfires, the ability to play cards or read in personal hammocks strung in a circle during rest hour with their bunkmates, or buckling in and donning a helmet for a go-kart ride around the camp. Toward the end of camp, many expressed the desire to stay, since the opportunity to be a kid and engage in real life with peers was something that had been missed in spring 2020.
Dr. Lew, Bill, certified school counselor, MSW Kristen as well as Director Lux all spent time with bunks, divisions, and small groups listening and helping to build a bridge between the known environs of camp with familiar routines and structures, to sometimes unknown school settings. Our kids did well in what was a difficult transition both to camp and from camp, understanding that the COVID free community that we built was something special that allowed them flexibility, freedom, and opportunities that were less available in their greater communities at home. Our end of season individualized summative reports offered feedback to parents, schools, and professionals to reinforce transition strategies as developed and modeled at Camp Sequoia.
Camp Sequoia continues to connect with our campers via bunk, division, and whole camp virtual activities until such time as we are able to resume our weekend adventures AND bring our amazing community together for summer 2020.
For questions or details about our approach, methods, and successes in 2020, please feel free to reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your son to be part of a community that has demonstrated the ability to keep kids safe and healthy while empowering them to become the best version of themselves, we’d love to hear from you.