Dad, what did you do in the Pandemic?

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What did you do in the Pandemic?

My grandfather was too young to have fought in the First World War and my father too young to have joined the efforts of the Second one- though he did serve during the Korean Conflict. I remember, as a young boy, asking them what they did during these times of great conflict and feeling somehow let down that they didn’t make heroic efforts in battle. As I grew, I came to realize that even if they were not on the front lines, they served, nonetheless.

This thought came back to me when I recently heard a radio program encouraging people to start to ask this question of themselves-perhaps preparing for the inevitable questions from children and grandchildren. I’ve seen our staff who are teachers meet challenges they never imagined as they keep their students engaged and learning. I have seen my wife, Julie, an RN and public health nurse, help clients navigate the maze of guidelines and practices that help keep the most at-risk people in our community safe. I’ve seen friends who are doctors go on TV and social media and implore people to take preventative measures.

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I am not sure what I can tell my children and grandchildren what I did- but I can tell you what I (and everyone at Camp) is doing.

• We are working to preserve an experience that gets kids outside and connects them with others and themselves at a time they need it most.

• We are working to keep informed on the best practices to get kids to Camp safely and stay safe while they are here.

• We are innovating programs to meet changing guidelines and regulations.

• We are making plans (multiple ones!) on how to feed, engage, and support campers and staff.

• We are striving to find ways to continue to support our community.

We may not see the fruits of our labor for some time as we wait for the return of Camp season, and I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that sometimes it all seems so distant and far off. But then I look at a picture of a smiling camper or get a message from a parent on how their child is counting the days ‘til they can return and am energized to keep moving forward.

Cap Cavins, who served as Camp Mishawaka director from 1941 to 1975, recounted in one of his letters, that on the day after he purchased Camp, he boarded the train in Minneapolis to return to his home in Lake Forest, IL. The porter came through the car and announced that Pearl Harbor has just been bombed and the United States had just declared war. It was December 7th, 1941. Cap wrote that he thought he had just made a big mistake- who would have the willingness or resources to send a child to Camp amidst a global conflict? He was proven wrong, as parents of children recognized that the greatest thing they could do for their children was to provide a childhood and an experience that fostered independence, resilience, and a sense of community at a time when they needed it most.

I don’t imagine I will hold my grandchildren’s attention very long when they ask me, around the campfire, what I did during the pandemic. I didn’t discover a vaccine, care for a gravely ill patient, or perform other heroic acts. What I hope is that I can tell them just what I did do, and what our parents, campers, and staff did to keep this Camp’s fire burning, for now and for future generations.

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