Camp Kawanhee cancels summer programming for first time in 100 years

first_imgWELD – Like most people at Camp Kawanhee, Mark Standen first set foot on the Webb Lake-side property at the young age of six. At the time, Standen was a camper- learning how to swim, going on long hikes with his campmates, and strengthening the independence that Kawanhee strives to instill in all of their campers.Now, at 68, Standen and his wife Liz work as the Executive Directors of Kawanhee – overseeing the very programs that Standen grew up participating in.Three months ago, the Standens and the 75 or so staff members they oversee were preparing to celebrate Kawanhee’s 100th birthday. But as the realities of COVID-19 settled in, the camp was forced to close for the first time in history. Not even the devastation of the Great Depression or World War II had shut the camp down.“It was a very difficult decision,” Liz Standen said. “It’s a risk for the campers of losing their connections.”Kawanhee serves boys from age seven to 18, at which point many become counselors. Roughly 90 percent of their staff members attended the camp as boys, Liz said. Many people have been going to Camp Kawanhee every summer for 50 years or more. But the risk outweighed the many benefits of camp life, Liz said. For one thing there was the health of the campers and staff, which is their top priority, she said. But the couple also had to take into consideration the risk to the small town of Weld, who hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19 yet.Roughly 180 campers come from all over the world to spend their summers at Kawanhee. While many of their activities are outdoors and weren’t a concern for the Standens, the sleeping and eating arrangements were a different story. They plan to open next summer, Liz said, and will wait to see what that might look like as COVID-19 further unfolds.In the meantime, Kawanhee staff members have been volunteering their time to put together a virtual representation of summer camp. Every Sunday, campers and staff gather online for a virtual campfire. Staff members take turn lighting fires in whatever outdoor space they are in, and campers share stories, music, trivia…whatever the camp staff comes up with.“We’re very proud of the willingness of staff to contribute, especially since they are not getting paid,” Liz said.The staff has even put together a weekly newsletter- a compilation of camper-submitted articles and stories. The response has been hugely positive, Liz said, and gives everybody a way to stay connected despite not being together in person.“It’s been difficult. We’re so accustomed to being surrounded by the joy of the campers. We really miss that,” Liz said.last_img read more