Summer Camps seek to find their way through pandemic
Camp Spalding is holding onsite option open
In late May, Andy Sonneland, director of Camp Spalding near Newport, said the camp would work within restrictions of the four-phase reopening in Washington. With clarification of conditions for reopening still ongoing, the camp had not decided if it would offer onsite camp or alternative programming. So they are preparing for both.
Restrictions will determine if it is safe to bring campers to camp, he said, adding that another update will be made the week of June 15 to 19 giving the summer plan, calendar of sessions, health protocols and a registration link.
"Plans may change at any time if restrictions are increased or lessened," he said. "Adaptibility is the theme for the summer."
"We will wait as long as possible to allow for the best possible outcome," he said. "If we can run onsite camps in any capacity, we will, even ramping up on a short notice if restrictions ease as the summer progresses," Andy said.
With Washington's four-phase reopening plan, he is more optimistic about onsite camps, while continuing to monitor guidelines from the American Camping Association (ACA), the Center for Disease Control and state and county restrictions.
The ACA released a guidebook on how to do overnight camps.
Camp Spalding's summer ministries are to campers, summer staff and students who do community service,
He told 42 college age summer staff members they could come for an onsite experience of Christian service, but they would not be able to be paid because of uncertainty about summer income. Of those, 25 agreed to come as volunteers, prepared to do plan A onsite or plan B with no overnight stays onsite.
Plan A depends on the state being in Phase 3 after June 22, which would allow gatherings of 50, so a high school leadership camp with more than 70 campers would be capped at no more than 50 campers and counselors.
"Numbers will be down in any case. Last year we had record attendance. We recognize some families will not be comfortable sending their children to camp. That alone will reduce numbers," he said.
Phase 4 might happen by July 15, allowing for major sporting events and concerts in the open.
"We would have a registered nurse and set up health protocols for a safe experience, working with the local health district," said Andy, who has been directing the camp operated by the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest for 30 years.
Parents will need to sign a liability waiver, he said.
The alternative ideas include campers 1) coming for onsite day visits, or 2) meeting with small groups in Spokane or online to build relationships between staff and campers.
"We are planning a summer discipleship program with volunteer staff, each assigned to interact with eight "campers," nurturing relationships and interaction on what life would be like with Christ. Each leader will have three groups based on age and gender to shepherd through the summer. Possibilities would include online craft and nature activities from camp.
In a letter to staff and campers, Andy said he believes that the camping "ministry will emerge intact on the other side of the crisis." He pledged to find "creative ways to fulfill our mission in the midst of these challenging times."
While few think traditional camp translates to an online format, Andy, in conversations with partners, senses "the Holy Spirit providing fresh inspiration and cool ideas to fulfill the heart of our mission this summer: for kids to come to grow closer to Jesus."
Staff will develop ways to meaningfully engage with campers, focusing on relationship building to connect youth to Jesus.
"We will not charge families for the program we provide, unless we can offer traditional camp," he said.
With no revenue from spring groups, no anticipated summer income—usually more than half of the annual revenue—and uncertainty about fall groups, Camp Spalding, like thousands of businesses and nonprofits, faces significant financial challenges in the months ahead. Andy said summer expenses will be down about 90 percent, reducing income needs.
While on a recent walk, Andy sensed God saying, "You will see me move this summer!"
"As the seeds of new ideas emerge, I am excited to watch them unfold. I believe elements of what God provides this summer will find fruitful application for how we do ministry in the future, even when we can fully return to regular camp," he said.
"God is walking with us through it," he said.
To move through this new time, Andy invites those committed to the camp to support it, perhaps using the CARES Act tax deduction of $300 per person or $600 per couple, even for those taking the standard deduction.
Those who registered can support Camp Spalding by contributing their payment, applying their payment as a credit for camp next summer, or receiving a full refund.
For information, call 509-731-4244, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit campspalding.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2020