Summer 2023 Recap
This 2023 summer camp season was another successful one at Kenesserie Camp. 431 unique campers attended camp for 464 camper weeks. Our full staff complement employed 32 local youth & young adults and 3 adults. We ran our traditional camp programs while introducing new activities including slingshots at our target range. One camper wrote a note to camp that said “This was my first year at Kenesserie Camp. I LOVED IT! My favourite part was everything, especially meeting new friends. I can’t wait to go back.” It is feedback like this that motivates us to do whatever is necessary to get kids to camp.
We overcame a significant and costly obstacle to run our 2023 summer camp programs.
The Unexpected Surprise
2023 was another unusual year for Kenesserie Camp. On June 15, 2023, merely two weeks before our 32-member staff team was to attend training in anticipation of the summer season, the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit informed us that we could not use any of our land or buildings within the 3:1 long-term stable slope line for shoreline erosion. The impact of this direction from the Health Unit meant that effective immediately Kenesserie had to cease use of Cabins 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, & 12, the Dining Hall & Kitchen, Staff Lounge, Vesper Point and Campfire. This decision severely compromised Kenesserie’s planned summer camp season and with over 400 campers already registered, required an entire rethink of the summer program.
The decision to direct Kenesserie to cease using land and buildings beyond the 3:1 long term stable slope line was made using the authority given to public health units by Ontario Regulation 503/17: Recreational Camps, and specifically concerned section 14 (c) which requires that camp operators “ensure that the camp is free from any condition that may endanger the health or safety of the campers or camp staff members of the camp.” The health unit's opinion was that any use of this zone would endanger the health and safety of our camp community.
The timing of this left us with very little time to figure out a solution but as you know we still managed to have a fantastic camping season. Here’s how we did it:
Where we are today
The Kenesserie Camp Board is currently assessing options for continued summer camp operations in 2024 and considering all options to move forward. The way we operated this year for cooking and eating is not something we are willing to replicate for 2024, and that has opened up new infrastructure opportunities that will greatly enhance the camper experience. Our goal is to have a solution for summer 2024 finalised at our October Board of Directors meeting and communicate our future plans to all stakeholders in early November.
What's Next? Look for an announcement in the coming weeks about our fundraising drive to cover these expenses. If you would like to make a donation right now, you can do that here: DONATE NOW.
I want to thank you for your support of Kenesserie Camp. Your interest and support of our programs has been an important part of our success and it is very much appreciated. If you have any questions or would like to have a representative from Kenesserie Camp come and share more about camp with your congregation or group, please reach out to Dan Richards at email@example.com or call 519.674.2497.
The Ontario Ministry has lifted all protocols for overnight camps with respect to COVID-19 and our direction is that recreational camps will operate as per the current legislation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. After a thorough review, including consideration that children do not have to be vaccinated to attend school, the Kenesserie Camp Board of Directors has decided to remove the requirement that all campers be vaccinated to attend our camp in 2022. We will continue to collect vaccination status during the registration process to aid in planning and we will continue to proceed with several protocols being put in place for this summer, e.g., screening, increased sanitizing and procedures if a camper develops COVID while at camp. Although restrictions have been lifted by the Ministry, campers are still welcome to wear a mask at camp if they wish. Campers should bring several masks to camp and additional masks will be made available for campers.
The health and safety of our campers, staff and volunteers are very important and for that reason all staff, volunteers and campers attending Kenesserie Camp in 2022 must be fully vaccinated.
Last night at Kenesserie Camp’s Board of Directors meeting the decision was made that we will not run our traditional camp programs this summer. This was a difficult decision because more than anything we want to have your kids back at camp. I know this may not be what you want to hear. Please know that this decision was the most difficult decision I have been a part of in my thirty plus years of summer camp and was not one that I or the board members made without great thought and consideration.
I know many of you may have felt a sense of excitement and anticipation after Premier Ford’s Sunday announcement that the Ontario government will allow camps to open this summer. Government approval to open is just one factor in our decision-making process. For us the question has never been simply are we allowed to open, it’s been can we open safely for our campers, our staff and our community. The health and safety of our campers and staff is the most important factor. The additional level of risk that we would be asking our summer staff to shoulder was another key factor in our discussion. While the announcement was made on Sunday, the detailed guidance for the safe operation of camps has yet to be released, and we do not know when that will happen. The announcement offered no clarity on the guidelines that camps will be required to follow in order to operate camp this summer. The amount of time to properly prepare for a safe camp experience was the final factor that we considered. Our conversation included our belief that kids need camp and our desire to see camp filled with happy campers again. We want camp to happen, but not at all costs and not with an unacceptable level of risk. We are heartbroken about this but we will start working now for a fantastic summer in 2022.
All is not lost for this summer though, as we are working out the details of Family Camping at Kenesserie in July & August. This will involve cabin rentals with some camp activities for families to experience in their cohort. This will be dependent on the provincial reopening guidelines. Watch for more details in the coming weeks about Family Camping at Kenesserie, leadership training opportunities for our older campers and other ways we will be connecting with our Kenesserie family.
I want to finish by saying THANK YOU. You, our camper families, have been nothing short of spectacular with your support and encouragement during these last 14 months. We would not be able to make it through this without you - you folks are awesome!
With gratitude and love,
Overnight summer camps across Ontario are still waiting for the green light 🚦 from the provincial government to open for campers this summer. The Ontario Camps Association (OCA) held an Online Campfire on April 12th that featured Dr. Ronald Cohn, SickKids CEO, interviews with campers and a roundtable discussion with some Association volunteers that are spearheading the work of getting camps allowed to open safely.
We need your help to remind our provincial government that families want and children need camps to open this summer. Go to www.planforcamp.ca to find out how you can help. There is a quick history of the hard work that the OCA has been doing to plan for the safe reopening of camps and some suggestions of what you can do to remind the MPPs that this is an important issue for many people.
Thank you for your help.
Does today's announcement impact our plans for the summer?
We were well aware that a 3rd wave of the pandemic was coming. All models pointed to this. The rapid rise of the Variants of Concern was also predicted by many health experts. The Ontario Camps Association (OCA), of which Kenesserie Camp is an accredited member, had been communicating to it's membership that April was going to be a difficult month.
We are still planning for camp and hopeful that in 12 weeks we will be in the middle of our staff training camp getting excited to host campers for the first time in 2 years. We are currently reviewing every aspect of our camp programs, policies and procedures to ensure the safety of all campers and staff this summer and to reduce the risk of COVID-19 at camp as much as possible.
Please reach out if you have any questions, concerns or want to talk about the upcoming summer. 519.674.2497 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of What We Know