Will Path of Life open this year?
We get asked almost every day. We understand it is important to keep our friends and families updated as to our plans, however limited they may be.
At this time, we fully plan to open and operate our summer program on schedule, starting with a day camp beginning June 29.
As we have begun to communicate about our plans to open, we have gotten our share of negative response, perhaps in good faith, but misunderstanding nonetheless.
They argue that if theme parks and music festivals will be forced to stay closed, camps have no right to open either. I would respectfully disagree.
These types of events or attractions bring in thousands of people from a wide geographic area to a potentially very crowded arena with intense mingling. None of that is true of most summer camps. In our case, we are looking at a few dozen children in small isolated groups distributed over many acres of land for the bulk of the day.
We are not in denial, this is not wishful thinking, we understand the gravity of the crisis and the value of the lives it has taken.
Obviously with 8 weeks remaining until opening day, anything can change. There could be another outbreak, the restrictions could be extended farther, or our pre-registration numbers could be so low that we are forced to close rather than operate at a loss we cannot afford.
However, we remain confident that camp will be able to open and operate with the following facts or plans in mind:
#1- The CDC has declared "reopening community settings where children are cared for, including...locally attended summer camps, to allow the workforce to return to work" the first priority.
In short, if camps can't open by July, we are all in major trouble.
#2- We may be posting this a couple days early, because while we do not yet have information from NYS, Connecticut announced yesterday that camps will be able to reopen on June 29. Gov Cuomo has repeatedly expressed a desire to reopen industry in cooperation with neighboring states, and I would be very much surprised to see NY declare a later date, certainly not statewide.
#3- we have always operated under a permit from the NY department of health. If they don't give us the go-ahead, there is no way we can move forward. They have already contacted us and given us our permit application, and little further information. We do expect guidance, rules, and limits to be delivered in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, there are some measures we will be taking whether mandated by the state or not. Most of the following relate specifically to day camps, which we expect to be more problematic than the overnight programs:
#4- Group size. We typically limit group sizes to 15-20 children as they rotate throughout the daily activities. We plan to reduce the group sizes to 8-10. While we have typically been quite flexible with group mingling and swapping team members for whatever 7-year old's whim deems it necessary, we plan to keep these groups isolated. This may require closing of communal spaces. Along with this will come a necessary reduction in our attendance capacity.
#5-Shared materials- Camp typically involves a lot of hands-on experiences, and while we want to preserve as much as we can, we will be taking steps to eliminate sharing of items like craft supplies, game materials, pool toys, riding helmets, and food-serving utensils.
We will be requiring campers to purchase, clearly label, and bring their own riding helmets for camp.
We are building storage cubes (cubbies) for campers to identify and store their belongings for the day to prevent mixing and loss of personal items.
#6 Much better regulated pickup times. In the past, we have closed day camps at 3PM and used extended care activities to care for the children of working parents, who would typically pick their children up on their way home from work at very irregular times. This has been a trade-off of convenience and chaos. This year, we will be having two designated pickup times- 3-3:30 PM and from 5-5:30 PM. While we will be giving up some amount of flexibility and freedom to pick up your children at your convenience, we believe it will be necessary to avoid crowded group settings and "taking delivery" of your children will be much more simple and quick than ever before.
#7- Daily health screening. As always, we will require any campers to stay home for at least 24 hours after all symptoms of illness cease. We will be using contactless infrared thermometers to check daily for elevated temperatures.
#8- Outdoor experiences- We have always been focused on providing as much outdoor excitement as possible. Horseback riding, go karts, swimming, hiking, outdoor games, in fresh summertime air and sunshine are without doubt the best way to minimize risk of infection and spread.
#9- Parental cooperation- This is the one element we cannot control. We learned very quickly from our first drive-thru BBQ in April, that no matter how well intentioned our friends may be, and how well we may organize or plan, we desperately need families and friends to slow down, wait for instruction, and cooperate with instructions given. As soon as the dam breaks, it's all over.
Obviously there will be more information to come, but this is a basic framework of what we expect to deliver this summer.
We greatly appreciate the support of our friends. These are difficult times for our ministry, the needs are great, but our God is greater.
2 Corinthians 4- Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed... So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.