To Camp, Not to Camp, or Virtual Camp. What is right for your Summer Camp

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I know. At the end of the camp season last year you thought, “There’s no way this can affect next year’s camp season, right?” Well, Michael Corleone would like some words with you. Believe me, I know. The question left before you now, where do you go from here?  Seems to me you have 3 options:

  • In-Person Camp
  • Virtual Camp
  • No Camp
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Let’s get this out of the way first


I am going to proceed under the following assumptions:

  1. You are reading this because you want to run camp in some capacity and you are cautiously exploring if it’s feasible to do effectively and safely; that is, you are not looking for reasons to close, but rather reasons to run camp.
  2. You would prefer to run an in-person camp as opposed to a virtual camp.  Your desire to run a virtual camp is a desire to at least run SOMETHING.

2020 is Hindsight


Some of your thought processes ought to be guided by what you did last year. Were you able to run successfully (whatever that means in your context)? Can you replicate those processes and results? If so, with a season of experience under your belt you should be armed to tackle whatever* this next season brings. Take the lessons learned, especially at the tail end of the season, and walk fearlessly towards running camp. Quick caveat: If you haven’t been running programs since summer, you’d be well served to reach out to your local health district and make sure you are aware of the latest guidelines and recommendations.


You’ve got to ask yourself


If you were closed last year or you are contemplating trying something new this year, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know what’s required to make our plan effective and safe? What makes me confident in this belief?
  • Do I have what’s required? If not, do I have the ability to get it?
  • By promoting my plan, what promises am I making to our families (both explicitly and implicitly)? Can I consistently (upwards of 80% of the time) deliver on those promises?
  • Is my plan likely to be something my families want? How do I know? Donor team? Staff?
  • Is my plan fiscally responsible and realistic (expecting everyone who came to camp in 2019 to do a virtual camp is not realistic)?
  • What is the opportunity cost of not doing any form of camp in 2021?
  • Do a SWOT analysis of each option. Wait, that’s not a question…Would you mind doing a SWOT analysis of each option?



Answering these questions honestly and critically will go a long way towards helping you make the best call for your camp and your team. After wrestling with these, your best option should be much clearer, and once you have that RUN TOWARDS IT. Commit all of your resources towards executing it, and don’t waste time and energy continuing to waffle between the 3 options. I believe in the power of camp and find camp people to be some of the most resilient and resourceful walking this good earth, so it’s not without reason that I leave you with the words of Admiral Jim Stockdale, “I never lost faith in the end of the story.” There are difficult days ahead, but there are better days as well.

See you on the other side!

* This is not a challenge, 2021. Just the normal, “whatever”. Not the “whatever” version 2020.  No one needs that.

Written by: Jeremy B

Despite a lack of any discernible talents or personality, Jeremy was a Day Camp Director for over 16 years in the PNW, where he was born and raised. He lucked into marrying the woman of his dreams and has two wonderful children who, thankfully, take after their mother. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the harp with his spin-metal band Doomloop, long walks on the beach (alone), and a little respect. He also writes words sometimes.

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