COVID camp closures

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Camp Squeah of Hope, B.C. has cancelled its 2020 camping season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a May 15 statement, camp director Rob Tiessen wrote, “In order to best ensure the health of our campers and staff, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our 2020 summer camp session. This applies to all day and overnight camp programs, including Family Camp.”

With provincial regulations in place for the foreseeable future regarding physical distancing and group-size restrictions, staff and board decided they could not provide a suitable camping experience. 

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of the shared camp experience,” Tiessen further explained. “We value the nurture, care and development this experience offers a child, and will mourn its loss this summer. We believe, however, that this decision is in the best interest of our community of staff and campers for 2020.”

Instead, this summer Squeah staff will shift their attention to other things, such as onsite work projects. “Almost like leaving a field fallow for a year without planting, some of our full-time staff have worked tirelessly through many summers in a row and will benefit from a slower-paced summer season,” said a statement on the camp’s website. 

Camp Squeah fully plans to resume its camping season for summer 2021.

Similar stories are mostly playing out across the country.

Camp Valaqua: Alberta

“It is with a heavy heart that we recognize the need to cancel our summer camp program for 2020,” a statement on Valaqua’s website states. “[W]e are deeply saddened that we will not be able to share this summer with you and your children.”

The decision was made after the provincial medical officer of health announced in late April that gathering restrictions will remain in place through the summer months. “We quickly realized that to support this we will not be able to run a traditional summer program,” the website indicates, adding, “We have closed the registration process for summer 2020.  Camp Valaqua is offering full refunds for all fees paid.”

Shekinah Retreat Centre, Youth Farm Bible Camp, Camp Elim: Saskatchewan

  • “After long discussions, consultations and prayer, Shekinah Retreat Centre has decided to cancel summer camp for 2020,” according to an announcement in Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s weekly e-newsletter. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel we are unable to deliver our summer camp program in a way that adequately protects our staff, volunteers, parents, grandparents and campers. . . . Please continue to keep Shekinah in your prayers during these very difficult times.”
  • As of press time, Youth Farm Bible Camp was waiting to make “a decision about how summer camp proceeds . . . when we have more information available,” according to a notice on its website. “We may run smaller camps, we may have no camp, or we may have our regular summer camp program.” This information will become available once the camp makes a decision in consultation with the province’s public-health authority. “We will be running a junior staff program this summer—either online or at the camp.”
  • Camp Elim, located south of Swift Current, has decided to cancel all of its 2020 summer programming. It is exploring the possibility of offering some digital camp programming on social media.

Camps with Meaning: Manitoba

“Sadly, we’ve had to make the decision to cancel overnight camps for this summer,” the MC Manitoba e-newsletter states. “We are still looking at various day-camp options, but most of those decisions will be based on health guidelines that are not in focus yet. 

“It’s worth noting that a lack of camper and rental revenue is putting the camp finances in a difficult position. Please pray for disappointed campers, staff and the parents who were hoping for a break. Please pray for the ongoing financial health of our camping ministry.”

Willowgrove, Silver Lake, Hidden Acres: Ontario

  • Willowgrove, which offers summer camps, outdoor education and seasonal events from its Willowgrove Day Camp and Outdoor Education Centre in Stouffville and Fraser Lake Camp in Bancroft, has moved online, offering Camp@Home camping experiences. For more information, visit campathome.ca.
  • “With a heavy heart,” Silver Lake Mennonite Camp at Sauble Beach “is confirming the cancellation of all summer 2020 overnight camp programs,” according to a letter from camp leaders. “Refunds will be processed over the month of July . . . .” The camp is still considering alternate options for it campers in leadership training program and its Discovery Day Camp. “With your support, we will be able to continue operating in the seasons to come despite the setbacks of COVID-19. Next year we will be celebrating Silver Lake’s 60th anniversary, and we are hopeful to see what God will do beyond this milestone.”
  • In a letter from Chris Oldham, Hidden Acres’ executive director, he says, “It is with heavy hearts that we write to inform you that our summer camps as we had planned them for 2020 are cancelled.” He says that plans are in the works to “help keep you engaged with Hidden Acres this summer, including online programs for June, July and August. . . . We are currently exploring whether the cancellation of overnight camps this summer applies to our rentals and camping groups. During this time of closure, we have experienced tremendous generosity from many of you, and we are so grateful for it,” he says. “We have been blessed by the words of hope and encouragement we have received and the ongoing financial support to help us with the day-to-day operations.”

Camps across the country are cancelling their summer programs. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/CampSqueah)

B.C. children will not be able to attend Camp Squeah this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

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