May 22, 2020
Dear Camp Stone Community,
We cannot remember a time in our professional career when it was so challenging to deliver necessary but deeply disappointing news.
Despite our tireless efforts, we will not be able to run Camp Stone this summer in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania. This news is difficult to read and even more difficult to discuss with your children. We believe that all the information below, with all of the detail and specificity, will help you and your children understand the decision, understand the next steps in our journey, and ultimately be proud to be a part of this extraordinary family.
As we mentioned in our last letter, in order to make a decision about camp we were awaiting information in three spheres:
Sphere 1 – Medical Guidance
As we have stated in all of our communications, the health and safety of our campers and staff members remains paramount. Consequently, we were unwilling to make a decision until we obtained medical guidance from both the American Camp Association (ACA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both organizations released their guidelines in the last 7 days. We reviewed them and shared them with our team of physicians to evaluate, and we met with the entire group last night. The consensus was that the guidelines were too restrictive to run a program for our entire population at Camp Stone this summer.
A Huge Thank You To Our Medical Team
We want to thank the following 5 individuals: Dr. Shelly Senders, Dr. Phil Toltzis, Dr. Steve Goldman, Dr. David Bar-Shain, and Dr. Barry Diner. The 5 of them have decades of experience as camp doctors, and truly understand all the variables specific to the facility and culture at Camp Stone that go into such a critically important discussion.
Sphere 2 – Travel
One of the questions that has been on everyone’s mind has been travel. We have an extremely geographically diverse community. How will everyone travel to camp? There is no good answer to this question. We have campers and staff members joining us from over 25 cities in the U.S. and over 30 cities worldwide. Between travel restrictions and a lack of travel options, there is no way to bring our entire community to camp this summer.
Sphere 3 – Pennsylvania
I have been in constant communication with the Warren County Commissioner’s Office, the Warren County Director of Public Safety, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and our State Representative’s Office. The individuals I have spoken to are our partners. They are deeply committed to our success and absolutely love Camp Stone. We have their full support. However, Warren County remains in the “Yellow” phase under Governor Tom Wolf’s reopening plan. The “Yellow” phase allows Camp Stone to technically be open, but it does not allow us to have a large group of people on site. Our County officials do not have any information on when, if at all this summer, the Governor’s office will move Warren County into the “Green” phase. There is also no clear indication what the “Green” phase will allow in terms of total capacity.
Camp Stone is a non-profit and has a Board of Trustees. The board met last night and unanimously agreed that not opening camp this summer was the best decision for Camp Stone.
DISCUSSING THIS DECISION AS A FAMILY
Our team of mental health professionals at Camp Stone has put together the attached materials to use as a guide to framing the conversation. The materials are excellent. Please review them when you have the opportunity.
The Plan for Summer 2020
A) KAYTANA – DALED (3rd Grade – 9th Grade):
Though ambitious and challenging, we are committed to bringing camp to you this summer in whatever ways we can.
Our Tzevet (staff) is already in the process of building a virtual platform to allow our community to connect through meaningful programming this summer. The experience we are putting together will take place during a portion of the month of July. It will include Peulot (activities), Chugim (electives), Shiurim (learning), Kabbalat Shabbat, Slow Shira, Havdalah, and reconnecting with friends and counselors.
The Tochnit (educational program) is brand new. We are building it to fit thematically with these unprecedented times. It will be something that campers, staff members, AND PARENTS, can be a part of together.
More details about this program, including the exact dates in July, will follow shortly.
B) MACHAL (10th Grade):
The most upsetting part of cancelling camp is having to cancel the Machal program. Therefore, we are still trying to determine a way to run Machal. If travel becomes available and governmental restrictions ease in Warren County, we will consider running a two-week Machal program in July parallel to the virtual experience for the balance of the camper population. We will continue working closely with our medical team to develop the proper protocols to successfully operate such a program. We will be in touch with the Machal families to determine the viability of this.
PARENT PHONE CALLS
I have already spoken to all the Kaytana parents as well as all the families from the United Kingdom and France, and 30 other assorted families that cancelled prior to today’s letter. I have had wonderful conversations with all of them and it has only strengthened my resolve to continue calling each and every family. I love speaking to parents and families and it is an extremely satisfying feeling to know that so many people out there love camp so much and are doing everything they can for their children. It will take me a few months to work through the entire list, and I look forward to speaking with all of you during that time.
As we have promised all along, there will be a 100% refund for those that request it. The only caveat is that I must speak to each family prior to cancellation 🙂 Therefore, if you need a refund right away, please email me (email@example.com) and I will prioritize calling you.
OPPORTUNITY TO HELP CAMP STONE
Not opening this summer will have a major financial impact on camp. We need all the help that we can get. Therefore, if you are able to donate any portion of your child’s tuition back to Camp Stone, please consider doing so. Every dollar donated back to us is being matched 1:1 by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Together we will persevere and open next summer.
REGISTRATION – SUMMER 2021
We are opening registration for summer 2021 on September 1, 2020. This is a month prior to when we normally open registration. Priority is being given to all campers currently enrolled. We are guaranteeing spots for each and every camper that signs up during the first 30 day period. Following that, we will open registration to the general public on October 1, 2020.
TOWN HALL MEETINGS
We will be conducting two town hall style meetings next week. Both will be the same format – Q & A Sessions: “Ask the Director.” They are open to all parents. Please join us and ask us any questions you have about this summer or next summer. Zoom links for both town hall meetings will be sent separately.
Words of Encouragement
The decision to cancel camp is heartbreaking. Camp strengthens our souls, and connects us to the Jewish past, present and future in indelible ways. A summer without our unique approach to experiential Jewish education will leave a void in all of our campers’ lives.
One of the most painful parts of this is the gap in the leadership development process. There are children out there that shine brighter than any star in the night sky when they are at camp. We watch as those kids grow and when they are finally in Eidah Daled run a “Plugah” (fire pit) on the Machane Chutz. Watching them care for the younger campers and start to show those first signs of leadership is magical. It’s heartwarming because we know they are the future, and it’s empowering because we know that our beloved Tzevet trained them, passing the torch from one generation to the next. Not having camp this summer means a gap in leadership development. It means that those campers and those tzevet members cannot do what they have been waiting all year long to do – give back. Give back to this incredible institution that raised them. We have an army of staff members that so desperately wanted to give this summer and now they cannot – at least not in the traditional sense.
This pandemic has rocked the world. Camp Stone not opening is but a tiny spark in the global picture of the impact this virus has had. But know this – an event such as this will only strengthen us as a community. Our geographical diversity – stretching literally across the globe, and one of the key reasons that at this time we cannot unite in Sugar Grove this summer, has also been the source of support, joy, and inspiration to thousands of people for over fifty years. Almost daily, since we have been the directors of this camp, people email us, call us, and text us about connecting to someone from Camp Stone. We are everywhere and we are a powerful force.
Our time spent in camp together every summer is irreplaceable, but our spirit, our determination, and our love for each other will endure no matter what. We are closing this chapter in the process of what Summer 2020 will look like, but we are turning the page and starting a new chapter, and the possibilities are endless. This next chapter of our journey will test our unbelievably committed and driven staff, and they will succeed. They will rise to the occasion, and we as a team will bring joy to so many campers this summer.
Our mission statement opens with the following phrase: “Our mission is to transform every camper and staff member that enters the gates of Camp Stone through the construction of an experiential, fully immersive, values driven community.” This year the gates of Camp Stone will have to be a metaphor, but the mission will not change.
We love all of you more than you know, and we are inspired to share this new journey together.
Yakov & Estee