Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, one thing has been clear. We all are clamoring for a sense of normal. As we look ahead to the summer of 2022, with our goal of conducting summer sessions that move us forward toward this aim and remain safe and healthy, we have made the decision to require vaccination against COVID19 for all campers and staff.
We have learned a tremendous amount in the 22 months since we suspended our 2020 season and did not operate. We have learned about the virus and the way it spreads. We have learned about the importance and effectiveness of taking a few simple steps to prevent transmission and spread. We have also learned about the importance of keeping our camp community safe and healthy for all. We believe not to take advantage of every tool available would be negligent. As a residential community of varying ages, constitutions, and conditions, we have an extra responsibility that exceeds requirements of day or short-term programs.
Other considerations include:
Our charge each summer is to keep our community healthy, minimize known risk, anticipate unseen or unknown risk, and provide an experience for each child that is enriching and safe. We believe this decision supports our values and our goals.
Does this mean that Camp will be totally “normal” and operate just as it did in 2019? That is doubtful, and we will surely be implementing protocols, procedures, and practices that further support the health of our community. The good news is that this is not our first time doing this, and we learned from 2021 that we can run Camp Mishawaka and that kids are our best partners in creating this experience.
We Did It!
To date, Midwestern humility might have prevented us from celebrating the fact that we provided a healthy, happy, and safe summer camp experience this summer for nearly 300 children and 70 staff who came from over 25 states and 4 countries. The feat is not just ours to celebrate- credit goes to all who made it possible: The families who kept their kids healthy in the days before coming to Camp, the staff who arrived early and accepted limits and protocols that helped protect our Camp bubble, and most importantly, the campers themselves who made an investment in the experience and reaped the rewards of their work. It was an effort by the entire Camp Mishawaka community!
“Thank you for all of your hard work to provide a safe, almost normal, experience for the campers. It was a much-needed break from the covid world for them.”
We always felt that if we could get everyone here in good health, we could keep it that way. Without parents and kids following pre-camp protocols and limiting high-risk activities, things could have gone very differently. Without our staff understanding the need to put the needs of kids first and set aside some of their own social needs, we could have easily had an outbreak at Camp. Without campers understanding and complying with a few simple guidelines about how and when we interact as a large group, cabin groups may have been forced to quarantine. I can’t help but feel we were lucky, but maybe fortunate is a better word. We had worked to create plans to mitigate introduction and/or spread of the virus- even expecting we would encounter positive cases. It was more than luck, for sure, but as we worked in concert with our parents and staff we were reminded, again, just how fortunate we are to do this work.
A few years ago in a planning session, we identified a guiding principle for all that we do at Camp Mishawaka: Honoring the community and nourishing the individual. This summer, that guidepost took on even greater importance and delivered even greater rewards. We don’t know as I write this (September 2021) what Camp will look like next summer. Will the protocols and procedures that served us so well this summer still be needed? We just don’t know. What we do know is that even if Camp “looks” different, for these kids (and all of us who work here) Camp can feel the same.
We celebrate our accomplishment of running a safe, healthy, and happy summer camp 2021, but more importantly, we celebrate and honor all the folks that made it possible. They share in the success, the joy and communal fortification that we all feel from a job well done. We are a kid-focused community, dedicated to protecting and preserving childhood, and it’s nice to know that is can still be done- even in the midst of a pandemic.
“Really well done! I appreciate all of your efforts to make Camp as normal as possible and your determination to make appropriate, rational decisions during a difficult time. I also appreciate that you keep the traditions of Camp alive while being sensitive to social norms, especially morning reveille and nightly taps.”
(UPDATE - Jan 20, 2022) - The Covid-19 vaccinations and booster when applicable will be required for all Campers and Staff this summer. It will go a long way towards ensuring the health of our community as well as the vaccinated camper.
No, they do not. However, if a camper is symptomatic a test must be taken and submitted, since there have been instances of breakthrough cases. It is also advised that EVEN vaccinated campers avoid high-risk activities in the 10 days prior to arrival- large events, participation in close contact sports tournaments, etc.
We don’t know yet but are in the process of finding out. Rural communities have received more of the Moderna vaccine than Pfizer, due to the cold storage requirements.
Again, we don’t know. We don’t get our license from the CDC, but from the MN Department of Health and their requirements govern our operation. Clearly the trend is positive.
Yes. Certainly, as we work towards a larger percentage of our Camp population vaccinated and have assurances that everyone is in good health (via our testing protocol) we hope to open up. But, as a community, we are only as healthy as our most at-risk member. We will continue to update as we get any news from the MN Dept of Health.
Even with the vaccine approval expanding to include 12-15 year olds, children remain a primary vector for the spread of the disease. A large percentage of our population still will not be eligible to receive the vaccine. As few as 3 cases can trigger what the state determines to be an “outbreak” in the Camp setting. Believe me, we all want to avoid this!
The Minnesota Department of Health has issued final guidance for summer camps. We have a good sense of the requirements and recommendations, and we have provided the outline below. This is subject to modifications. A complete Guidebook will be shared as soon as it is finalized.
While there is much to be encouraged by, as the vaccination rate grows, the fact remains that the virus is still very prevalent. While the rate of weekly child infections is down from its all-time high of 215,000 in January, the case rate of child infection (as of 4/22/21) is nearly 8 times the rate of last year when Camp did not open. With this in mind, we must all take extra precautions to ensure the health of our community.
Testing at Camp
A Positive Test
Camp Program and Activities
Sanitation, Hygiene, and Health Services
Below is a list of our FAQs - these answers were last updated on 3/15/21.
Our protocols are reflective of one (or both) of two tenets: the requirements of the state of MN; and/or “Best Practices” as defined by the American Camp Association in their Field Guide for Summer Camps.
These guidelines and mandates are subject to update at any time.
Yes. We are requiring proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test prior to arrival at Camp. Ideally, this sample will be taken 72 hours prior to arrival. Depending on results processing in your area, sample can be taken up to 5 days before arrival, no more.
When campers outside their cohort mix, 2 of the 3 will need to be met:
In accordance with the requirements of the state of Minnesota, masks that cover the nose and mouth are required when campers and staff, not in the same pod, are indoors or unable to distance.
Masks will not be required when:
While the final plan is yet to be determined, we do plan on using testing at Camp as part of our protocol. These will be spit tests, or shallow nasal swabs.
We hope to! We are working to finalize protocols for out of Camp excursions that keep our campers and staff healthy
We hope so! As our confidence in our bubble increases, with testing and adherence to protocols, we believe we will be able to expand our cohorts,
All traditional Camp activities can take place. There will be some changes to the way campers choose activities during the first few days of Camp as work to determine the health of our community. Choice, or agency, is a hallmark of the Camp Mishawaka program and we are determined to keep this as part of our programming.
Yes, it is true that children are less likely to suffer severe symptoms from COVID-19, however, because our focus in on the health of the community (staff and campers) we take these measures to protect us all. We are also mandated to take many of these measures as a licensed residential camp in the state of MN.
Yes. While it is wonderful that people who have had a case of COVID-19 have developed some immunity to reinfection, all campers and staff will abide by the uniform policies.
Please email us or call with any other questions. As we have said, we are constantly getting updates and responding to new developments. If we are able to answer your question, we will!
If we have learned anything in the past year it is that we are constantly learning, remaining responsive and flexible.
As we continue to work on our COVID-19 Playbook for the summer of 2021 - even amidst all the uncertainty - we are certain of several things.
The other thing that is certain is that each of us have had our own experience with COVID-19. Many of us have had it, some have likely lost loved ones or been on the front line of response. Some of us, no doubt have had limited personal exposure. What is certain though is that, on so may levels, COVID-19 has effected how our children learn, play, connect and progress on the path to becoming a well-adjusted adult.
We remain certain that a Camp Mishawaka experience can help children move through this time in their lives, not just tread water. The partnership between Mishawaka, campers and parents is vital to making sure we preserve and protect childhood-and the put the health and developmental needs of kids first.
On March 14th we will be hosting a Zoom Q and A for current and prospective Camp families to discuss our summer plans. If you would like to be included, please send us an email so we can send you the link.
As we move forward to summer we do so with great enthusiasm, humility, and an overriding sense of obligation to our campers and camp families. There is still much to be revealed - from the state of Minnesota - as to the guidelines and requirements on how we will operate this summer, but the outline is broad and deep enough to make some assumptions on what the best practices will be.
Camp, and health experts, who have developed these protocols speak in terms of layering - layering of non-pharmacological interventions (NPI), layering of health and safety protocols at camp, and layering the communication with campers, families, and staff to ensure that we are all on the same page. All our efforts will be directed and conducting a healthy camp and community. The community is only as healthy as each of our individual members.
Campers will be grouped in pods at the start of Camp. These will likely be groups of 12 to 15 kids and this group will function as a unit. Though we are waiting final guidance, current guidance reccommends 3 layers of protection - with 2 of them always met. These are: physical distancing, outside and masking. So, when outside and physical distanced, mask will not be required. When inside, when campers come together, we will rely on masks and distancing to reduce the air that we share.
We have purchased 12 event-style tents and intend on doing all our traditional activities that would normally take place indoors, outdoors under the cover of tents. There will be additional cleaning and sanitizing protocols in place, as well. From those camps that operated in 2020 we learned that they were able to all but eliminate any “regular” camp sicknesses.
We are working on our testing protocol (both pre-Camp and at Camp) and will be updating as summer draws near. There have been great advances in rapid tests. There is an effort at the national level to get camp counselors classified and “essential youth workers.” This will be a great help as we work to get as many staff as possible vaccinated.
In the week leading up to Camp we will be asking parents and campers not to engage in any high-risk activity (weddings, graduation celebrations, or other large group gatherings) and continue to follow your state’s guidelines, to ensure that everyone comes to Camp healthy. There will also likely be an element of testing, pre-arrival and upon arrival.
We all have likely had differing experiences with the COVID-19 virus. Some may have had limited exposure and, sadly, I am sure that many families have lost a family member or friend to the virus. Prior to Camp we will be surveying families on their history and experience as we look to better understand the individual needs of our campers.
I encourage you to follow the field guide for best camping practices that the American Camp Association has produced. We will use this document to create our final playbook. Also, the state MN has issued preliminary guidance for residential summer camps. You will note that some of this guidance are recommendations and others are requirements for operation.
Getting to Camp
When possible, we are recommending that parents drive their camper(s) to Camp for an in-person drop-off. We regret that we will not be able to offer the traditional welcome and Camp tour for those dropping off. Flying, when abiding by all safety protocols has been shown to be quite safe. We will meet campers at the gate of arrival at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and continue to Camp by coach. Flights with more than 10 campers we will endeavor to have a staff chaperone who accompanies the children. This avoids the necessity of kids flying as an Unaccompanied Minor ($150 each way). The cost of the chaperone’s ticket will be divided evenly between families.
There may be other modifications on our final travel plans relative to what we have done in the past. We will continue to update you as we gather those required and recommended guidelines.
As always, don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have questions or we can be of any help. Email us at or call/text my cell at 218-259-4853.
Stay safe and be well,
We have learned a lot from the camps that operated in 2020 and as we await final guidance from the state of MN, we continue to update our 2021 operational plan. Despite the good news of vaccines and other advances,it is clear that COVID-19 will be a central concern in our planning. Today, the guidelines for residential camps include masking, regular testing, social distancing and operating in pods for a period of time. These may change, but we do believe that it very likely that these measures will still be in effect when Camp starts.
Over the course of the upcoming months, we will be addressing these considerations in a monthly update. We anticipate finalizing operational plans by early May - taking advantage of as much time as we are able and taking advantage of any new treatments or interventions.
The outdoors and fresh air are proven to be one way to reduce the spread of this airborn virus, and we are excited to have lined up 12 event-style outdoor tents.
Just as we are planning for Camp, we are also planning for the journey to Camp. We will be forwarding travel information at the end of January. We are still gathering information from the airlines, the Minneapolis airport, and our travel agency on how best to ensure a healthy arrival at Camp.
More to come!
We have all heard about camp programs that operated this summer and were overrun with COVID-19, though we also know of several traditional residential camps that conducted healthy summer sessions, albeit their summers were different - pods, cohorts, masks, and a new approach to programming. As we learn from those camps that succeeded, follow what we all learn as schools return and science advances, we feel prepared to move ahead in 2021. We do so with equal measures of humility, passion, and possibility.
Things that may look different next year:
Things that will look the same:
It was my hope, mine and all of the staff, that today we would be able to announce with confidence that we would be able to proceed with summer sessions as planned, or perhaps shortened sessions. That is not the case. There is just too much uncertainty. The much-anticipated document from the American Camp Association (ACA) and CDC has been delayed, as well as final guidance from the state of Minnesota, but what we have seen (even if we are allowed to operate) would place severe restrictions on our ability to conduct Camp Mishawaka, as we all know it: Campers and staff in masks, social distancing, groups no larger than 50, travelling through the summer in pods of 20 campers and even an expected ban on singing in Camp.
It is with great sadness to announce that we have cancelled all summer sessions.
Every day, for the last eight-weeks, we have come to the office and worked to make summer happen for our campers. Every day, we started out with “we got this”- camp directors and staff are, by their nature, problem solvers. Inevitably, every day, we would also conclude that we couldn’t do this, and often that we shouldn’t do this. Guided by our top-line concerns of the Camp Mishawaka motto of Safety, Health and Happiness we realized that we were not in a position to confidently offer this to our campers and families. The guidelines we were getting would impede our ability to provide a Mishawaka experience that was familiar or rewarding to veteran campers, safe and welcoming to our new campers, or allow our staff to remain vibrant.
I have shared some more of our considerations in this short video.
To say that we are heartbroken is an understatement. We view our work with children as a vital service, and at this time, when children need a camp experience more than ever, we feel the calling more than ever. Julie and I have always asked ourselves, in assessing risk in our program, “would we let our own children do this?” In this case, our own inability to answer that question with a resounding “YES”, even as we recognize their need for normalcy, has brought us to this conclusion.
2020 Counselors-in-Training will be invited to return for this capstone experience in 2021. We will also be reaching out to them individually as I know this news will be particularly difficult for them.
Finally, let me say thank-you for the support and input we have received in the past two months. The messages of encouragement and thoughtfulness have been tremendous. We will continue to work to support our campers with contact throughout the summer, checking in with correspondence and encouragement. As the Camp song goes, “The Mishawaka spirit that our elder brothers (and sisters) knew, is the spirit that we know is here to stay.” That spirit, and our promise, live on, and we are all committed to a future that includes Camp Mishawaka. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns.
We are committed to providing kids a Camp experience that they have looked forward to, and one that they will need more than ever, given the current circumstances. With each passing day that resolve strengthens, but also, with each passing day, we learn of new projections for just how deep and wide this virus will be, and we must acknowledge the possibility that we will not be permitted operate this summer.
Presently, camps are not permitted to operate in the state of Minnesota. This restriction is in place until the end of April, at which time we expect further guidance from state officials. If camps are given the green light to operate at that time, we will review our ability to conduct a safe camp experience- one that we have promised and our campers, and you, expect and deserve.
With that in mind, we are proposing the following timeline for decision making.
With all our wishes for your health and safety,