Like scores of Maine youth camp organizations, leaders of Camp Bishopswood in Hope weighed the coronavirus pandemic’s potential impact this summer and chose to suspend its season. But the coed camp, part of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, was far from idle. With a crew of fewer than 20 staff members living, working, and embedded onsite, Bishopswood’s operations were undoubtedly different. The camp’s spirit, however, was as robust as ever.
Summer has a vastly different look, across Maine and the nation. But for some youngsters, the chance to socialize, play, and learn with peers – amidst the pandemic – became a reality. Camp life may be modified, but at Camp Ketcha, executive director Tom Doherty says the decisions to open their doors is giving youngsters and their families an enormous boost.
In any other June, camp directors like Norman Thombs, Executive Director of Camp Mechuwana in Winthrop, would be immersed in staff training and final preparations in anticipation of youngsters’ arrival. But, as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, only about two dozen camps across Maine will open this summer – in July for shortened sessions and an abundance of Covid-19 protective modifications. The majority, like Mechuwana, have suspended their 2020 seasons.
Maine’s summer camp professionals are thinking positively about welcoming 2020 campers in person come June. Yet the continuing unknowns concerning COVID-19 have prompted many camps to focus on sharing the primary values of camp – relationships, activities, and fun – right now. Among those camps is Pine Tree Camp, whose camper population of children and adults with disabilities just might need connection more than ever.
(First in a series of how camps are engaging their campers in a time of unknowns) Summer camp is months off. Face-to-face contact is limited. And children are home, away from the daily school connections with friends, teachers, and mentors. The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have made life very, very different for us all. Enter Matt Cornish, director of Camp Beech Cliff on Mount Desert Island, and his morning Facebook Live video gathering. With fun and with warmth, Cornish has signed on at 9:30 a.m. all week. Between 30 and 40 kids and adults have tuned in live for 20 minutes of camp songs, fun, and Cornish’s gentle reminder of the camp’s goals encouraging kindness, acceptance, and the commitment...
The Junior Maine Guide Program: Reaching into Public Schools, Sharing and Teaching Outdoor Living Skills
Every morning, the 19 students in Eric Robinson’s 7th grade homeroom at Nokomis Middle School, in Newport, begin the day learning about living in, exploring, and appreciating their natural world. Yes, Robinson spends a bit of the 25-minute homeroom period on morning announcements, but since September he has dedicated the remaining 20 minutes to teaching the Junior Maine Woodsman curriculum. That curriculum is part of the Junior Maine Guides program, established in 1937 by an act of the Maine legislature. Today the program is a partnership between the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Summer Camps, a nonprofit membership organization providing a broad range of support to about 130 Maine youth camps. And since its establishment more...
Leadership consultant Sue Heilbronner knows the positive impact of summer camp. As a six-year-old, Heilbronner began attending overnight camp in Maine. She spent many summers at Denmark’s Camp Walden, a traditional residential girls’ camp on Sand Pond founded in 1916. “Camp saved my life,” Heilbronner told a gathering of nearly 100 Maine camp professionals in Portland this week. “It gave me permission to become a person.”
Jack Erler, whose legal career supporting Maine youth camps spans more than 50 years, says he is certain: there may be no more valuable experience for children than summer camp. Erler is certainly qualified to make such a statement. He began practicing law in Portland in 1969 and has spent decades representing both camps and their supporting organizations. And while Erler recently passed the baton to fellow Curtis, Thaxter lawyer Rebecca Klotzle (he is now “of counsel” at the firm) his work is far from done.
Throughout its more than 120-year history, Sebago’s Camp O-AT-KA has brought boys from around the world together for a traditional residential camp experience. Like scores of Maine camps, Camp O-AT-KA focuses on simple living in Maine’s outdoors, teaching and honing skills, and helping campers to develop friendships, benefit from role models, and follow camp traditions designed to guide boys on their journey to adulthood.
Summer youth camps across Maine are still. Buildings are closed, boats and docks are out of the water, and the exuberant sounds of children learning and playing have given way to the quiet of late fall. But while campers and counselors are immersed in their lives at school and work and home, camp directors are as busy as ever as they approach the end of the year and look ahead to the 2020 season. Summer may have ended, but for camp leadership, “off-season” may be something of a misnomer.