For many reasons it was a successful summer season for Camp and Retreat Ministries (CRM) of the Oregon-Idaho Conference and Pacific Northwest Conference with 10 camp and retreat sites fully operational and offering enriching experiences for everyone from 3 to 83 years old.
Oregon-Idaho CRM Executive Director Todd Bartlett counts it a success for one other reason: no cases of COVID-19 have been reported, even with overnight camps operational all summer long. A number of risk mitigation factors were put in place to make this happen, with agreement among all of the campers and non-UMC facilitated camps as well, to the safety precautions.
“We did as much outside as we possibly could,” Bartlett said.
That meant breakfast at Suttle Lake Camp in 40 degree weather or scrambling to find extra dining space at Camp Magruder when the rain started along the Oregon coast.
It also meant campers masked whenever they were inside buildings. Cabins with bunk beds were re-arranged to accommodate physical distancing. When they were outside, campers stayed with their same cohort throughout the week and physically distanced themselves when in outdoor spaces as well. All of the camps offered health screenings – including temperature checks – each morning as well, Bartlett said.
The PNW Camps similarly had much success this season, reports CRM Executive Director Alan Rogstad. Each of the four PNW Camps offered summer camping with similar precautions to their ministry partners to the south.
“Health screening, masking indoors, outdoors-focused activities, and meals served outdoors whenever possible was the norm,” Rogstad said.
Twinlow camp in Idaho offered a normal array of overnight age-level camps and watersports programs at reduced capacity. Lazy F Camp focused on day camp programs, hosting about 40 campers each week. Camp Indianola offered outdoor adventure programs each week at a new outpost campsite developed for this purpose. Ocean Park Camp focused on family camps. Each PNW camp also hosted family camps all summer in addition to the other offerings
“The idea was to provide as many families as possible the opportunity to come to camp as a family to enjoy a safe Christ-centered alternative to vacations where travel and safety is still uncertain,” Rogstad said.
All of this might have been arduous, but Bartlett and Rogstad said Camp and Retreat Ministries they’ve received nothing but gratitude from campers and their families for the spaces they provided this summer.
Camp is always a life-changing place, but in the time of this pandemic, Rogstad said it has become a sanctuary for those for whom options are limited.
“Appreciation was expressed over and over what an important place the camps are to families as parents have struggled for safe and trustworthy places to come,” Rogstad said. “Children and adults all were thrilled to be at camp after so few options in their communities have been available.”
In some ways it was an even more enriching experience for campers, with limited capacity meaning smaller groups and deeper discussions, Bartlett said.
“To see the smiles on the faces of children and adults who were able to gather together and experience the life-changing encounter of creation, community, and faith, was worth all of the challenges faced,” Bartlett said. “We heard from campers and parents how this was the best week of camp ever. Strong friendships were created and there was a deep sense of gratitude as they met and worked through the curriculum ‘This is our Prayer.’ ”