Dear Camper Families,

We are grateful for your patience as we've spent the past three months studying the pandemic and turning camp upside down and inside out in an attempt to mitigate the multitude of obstacles to opening camp safely this summer.

It pains me to share with you that we’ve made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel the remainder of our Summer 2020 season.

We know you and your camper are already grieving the loss of so many experiences, and deeply regret to be adding camp to that list; we grieve alongside you.

As we’ve shared in each of our previous emails, the safety of our campers and staff is paramount in all we do in our camping ministries. A close second to camper safety is maintaining and honoring your trust in us. We know – because we’ve been told – that if we say it’s safe, people will believe us. And because we’ve been trusted by our camper families since 1925, we’re not going to base our decisions on what is expedient, but on that which will keep us in relationship with your family for the next 100 years. The decision we made earlier today about our ability to open safely was almost too close to call, and we’ve chosen to err on the side of safety – of maintaining your trust.

Factors Influencing Our Decision

We know the big question you’ll want answered is “Why?” We’re glad to answer that, but you should know at the outset that there’s no one reason we decided we couldn’t open camp safely. Rather, it was the cumulative effect of a variety of challenges, each of which, given time, could be addressed successfully, but which, in combination, presented a puzzle of potentially unsafe factors that could not be resolved in time. Some of the most significant factors are:

  • Evolving and late-breaking information, mandates, and best practices made it challenging to set up our summer team for success. The State of Georgia, the CDC, and the American Camp Association were finally able to get on the same page with their recommendations and mandates about how to run camp safely, but not until the past couple of weeks. The result was a delay in the development and communication of our mitigation plan and staff structure.
  • Between concerns of some of our summer team, and of their parents, about working in a pandemic, and protocols such as being quarantined on-site at Glisson for the entire summer without a day away, we lost a significant number of staff (over 10%) since June 1.
  • We knew we would need additional staff for support, for disinfection and procedures, and to buffer staff to whom the permission we’d previously granted to attend significant family life events would mean a break in their summer quarantine, requiring a delayed return to work to meet state guidelines for retesting. The inability to fill the positions vacated in the past two weeks means the loss of that crucial buffer needed to operate safely.

  • Our best efforts to develop operational theory ran into reality. For three months we’ve been reading, learning, listening, and seeking expertise and understanding to know how best to run camp safely in a pandemic. Our best laid plans began to bump up against reality only in the past few weeks as we began to lean fully into opening camp, implementing the plan.
  • The promised widespread availability of testing proved true – kind of. A variety of different types, reliability rates, and timelines for results make meeting our required testing policy for staff difficult. Multiple asymptomatic members of our summer team tested positive this past week, and over half our staff are still having to wait on test results, preventing our having certainty of fully adequate staffing and training.
  • And the promised widespread availability of rapid testing never materialized, and what is available hasn’t overcome a 60% reliability rate, leaving us without a key tool to control the entry of the virus into the camp bubble.
  • While we were excited when the idea of distancing by “cohort” at camp was advocated and approved, the reality of program activity scheduling and the resultant limited availability for some options created downstream problems for our efforts to ensure that mitigating the virus didn’t also mitigate the camp experience as well.
  • With the rising incidence of confirmed cases (below), the possibility of a camper developing symptoms at camp and our having to send an entire living group of twelve campers home in adherence to our policy, became increasingly real.

  • The number of COVID-19 cases has reversed the earlier decline in Georgia, and threatens to climb again. While we determined that we would give less weight to this factor since it has not been a significant consideration in our state’s reopening, an increased number of cases in the areas where our campers live is an environmental consideration that indicates increased overall risk.
  • Neighboring states all around us in the southeast are experiencing reopening spikes.
  • Because we draw campers from counties across north Georgia and beyond, this mixing of campers creates an increased risk of spread, according to the CDC’s best practices for camp operations. Avoiding contributing to spread is a responsibility we take seriously, especially in light of recent increases.

As I said before, no one of these factors precipitated our decision. We are more than prepared to run camp safely – in a normal summer. But this summer is far from normal. I’ve never worked on a team more capable of solving problems and more determined and flexible in their approach to ensuring that camp will open safely. I’m grateful for their battling this pandemic all the way up to today to resolve these issues, and hope you know their great dismay at not being able to open camp this summer.

The Loss Of Camp

We’re dismayed because camp is unparalleled in its ability to build confidence, to form faith, to practice leadership, to learn about oneself, and to build lifelong friendships. We’ll miss the tie dye, the shrieks from “refreshing” creek hike water, the sharing around the campfire, the hikes with friends, and voices lifted together in song in the chapel. Each summer for almost 30 years now I’ve been haunted by the fond memories of laughter and excited voices and singing echoing in places around camp in the week after it closes. This summer I imagine I’ll be haunted by the missed opportunity of changed lives...

Our staff are grieving the loss of camp, and we know you are too. For some of you, this was to have been your first camp experience. Many of you have been coming to camp for six, eight, ten years. For you rising seniors, this was your last chance to come to camp. Please know that we’re in this together, one camp family, your family a part of the greater story of camp. The loss of camp is painful now, but one day soon, maybe at a retreat, maybe next summer, we’ll gather together again to enjoy the creek, s’mores, deep friendships, and the presence of God so real you hear God’s voice calling...

What's Next

As we promised, your deposit and camp fees are fully refundable. For our bookkeeping purposes, please Complete This Online Form so that we can initiate your refund. You’ll notice the option to request a full refund, to reserve your spot at camp for Summer 2021, and to donate part or all of your fee to the “Stand in the Gap” Relief Fund , which will mitigate the pandemic-related funding losses camp will incur this year.

On behalf of the staff and board of directors, allow me to express our gratitude for the opportunity to serve your family. It is an honor and privilege we don’t take for granted, and that we hope you will extend to us again next year.

My friend, I think of you daily…

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