2020 Experiences Reveal Strengths and Tools for 2021

In April 2020 I had a vivid dream: floating in the middle of the ocean, at night, in a hurricane.  Yet, amidst my shock and confusion I somehow floated calmly amongst the gigantic waves, pondering how I got there and what I should do.  The early days and months of the COVID-19 pandemic were like an inescapable nightmare, and making the decision to postpone Vega 2020 until 2021 was nearly crushing.  Emily and I soon realized that the support, love and understanding we received from our Vega Family is what buoyed us as we floated in the tumultuous unknown, and throughout our intense deliberations and communications.

Kyle with his sons, Paxton (left) and Cameron on Father’s Day 2020, a day that normally falls in the midst of busy Staff Orientation.

While we were, and continue to be, at peace with our decision to not put our camp family at risk for the 2020 summer, we longed to welcome campers and staff through the Vega gates.  We longed for the unparalleled energy, smiles, friendships and challenges that camp brings every year.  Throughout this summer we were able to appreciate the natural beauty of Echo Lake, catch up on various maintenance projects, offer several virtual programs, and spend (far too much?) time with our two boys.

About two weeks after announcing our decision to postpone, our grieving running its course, we were cautiously optimistic as we returned to Maine.  Upon arriving on the Vega campus we were hit with a final wave of grief: the empty silence forced us to accept the loss of camp.  Then sometime in late June that sadness and caution evolved into joy and certainty that Vega, and the Vega Family, is even stronger than we realized.

We shifted our focus to 2021, which has more potential for positive emotional and social growth than ever.  We were further encouraged knowing that the vision of “creating a bubble” and quarantining at camp while following all guidelines did in fact end up being successful for well over 99% of approximately 1850 residential camps throughout the United States that made the decision to operate this summer.   Despite the fact that overnight summer camps are certainly different than schools and most other organizations, their success could offer guidance should the pandemic continue into next summer.  

We were fascinated by the two consistent observations shared by camp directors who opened this summer: that this was the healthiest summer they have ever experienced, and that staff and family compliance prior to camp was critical.  “There is no such thing as too much hand sanitizer” stood out as new signage at one nearby boys camp.  Directors attributed the lack of viral symptoms that pop up periodically for every camp community during a normal summer to several layers, such as the increase in hygiene and sanitation procedures.  They plan to continue that approach next summer, even if we are living in a COVID-free world.  So it certainly makes sense for Vega to at least plan on using the myriad of disinfecting products we had already purchased for 2020!  Perhaps the most important common denominator for success was the compliance and care that families and staff took to isolate and protect themselves in the weeks leading up opening day. This is a reminder to us all that it is still too early to let our guards down.

Kyle and Emily hold their boys tight during Paxton’s visit from boys camp in 2019.

The time we have been able to spend with our children has made it even more clear that we cannot do it alone.  They had the entire campus at their fingertips, and we still found ourselves struggling to pry them away from their devices and encourage them to do…pretty much anything else.  The power of peers is immense, especially in the right setting and with the right guidance.  

We believe overnight camp to be the most formative and healthy experience for kids that exists in our society today.  To that end, we are resolved in our preparations for next summer.  We are “counting the days” more enthusiastically than ever to safely welcome the 2021 Vega girls and staff, and wish our sons farewell on their own camp adventures. 

Camp Vega Director, Kyle Courtiss, shares his experience leading up to and during the 2020 summer, and highlights why he’s more excited than ever for Vega 2021. Pictured above is Kyle at two very different Final Sunset Circles.