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As camp has now officially been over for a couple of months, we have had time to reflect on our unprecedented summer experience. On the last day of camp we all shed a few tears – partly from relief that we had successfully made it through the summer without a case of COVID-19 and partly feeling sad that this really special summer had come to an end.

This is our story…. After the original shutdown in March 2020, we all started working from home, but certain that by the summertime this would all be over and camp would run as usual. As days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, we soon realized that this would not be the case and there was a real possibility that Camp would not be able to run at all.  This was a tough thing to come to terms with, as we’ve all spent the majority of our lives in camping and at Riverwood; particularly Eddy, who started the Camp in 2007.

A really sad moment was when we had to tell our Staff  via email that Camp was likely not going to happen. Although they appreciated our transparency, their disappointment was palpable. Many of our have considered Riverwood to be their home where they have grown up and made incredible relationships. No one could picture their summer without Riverwood. All the while we were so incredibly touched by our amazing camp families who reached out to us with unwavering appreciation and support!

camper and staff with maskOn June 3rd, 2020 we made the extremely difficult decision to not run camp at our summer home at Petticoat Creek.  As industry leaders, educators and parents, we were simply unable to confidently ensure that we would be able to safely and responsibly deliver the high quality program we have committed ourselves to and have promised to your children. We were devastated to deliver this news knowing how important camp is to so many children and families, particularly this summer.  COVID-19 was still relatively new to all and there were so many unknowns out there.

We have been working hard on adapting our programming to the current Summer Camp Government Guidelines so that we can safely and confidently re-open for Summer 2021.

As some of you may know, Camp Green Acres, our sister camp in Markham, was able to run its camp program in 2020. Most of our Director team, including Phil, Megan, CA and Celeste took this opportunity to learn and gain invaluable experience in running camp during a pandemic by joining their leadership team. They took this newfound knowledge and implemented new systems and safety protocols to help make Camp Riverwood better than ever!

On December 16th 2020, we took a deep breath and made the confident decision to run Camp in Summer 2021 under strict guidelines.  We took the guidelines and adapted them to our camp. Working closely with Durham Region Public Health, we had to rethink the way we did each and every thing that happens at camp – how will counsellors put sunscreen on the kids? How will drop off and pick up work? How do we make sure that bathrooms are safe? Where will everyone go when it rains? What do we do when someone doesn’t feel well? Yes, we also had a one hour discussion about tetherballs at gaga at camp!

On February 17th 2021, we officially launched the summer and things started happening very quickly. Families put their trust in us and registered their children, and staff registration started to trickle in.  We were so very grateful to our Head Staff who stepped up to leave their bubbles and decide to come to work.

head staff posingEverything became a reality when Premier Ford said “I have to say one thing…summer camps. July 3rd is usually the time they open, they’re opening up this year because of the great work that these people are doing. They’re doing a fantastic job.”  As our campers and staff would say, we got “all the feels!”  Camp was on and everyone knew it!

July 12th was the start of something truly incredible! We put on our masks and goggles, grabbed the sanitizers, turned on the music and welcomed everyone to Summer 2021 at Riverwood!

We learned so much this summer! Some things that were put into place worked so well that we will never go back! For instance, we put an outdoor triage just outside of our new Health Centre to minimize the amount of indoor interaction. No more crowding in the Health Centre! There were things we appreciated so much this summer. We loved the personal connections made with our families, chatting with and getting to know the parents and campers at drop off and pick up!

  Most importantly, we loved that we were able to put the Camp Experience back into Camp! At the onset we were concerned that some of the fun would be sacrificed in order to comply with the guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy. That concern was shared by some of our parents as well. Would camp still be fun? Thanks to our dedicated team, we slowly started adding things back that we never thought possible. It started with our new socially distanced weekly Spirit Rallies (previously known as morning assemblies)  and by the end of the summer we had safely accomplished Dress Up days, Camp Wide Beach Olympic Day, Staff Extended Night, LTP Fundraisers, RW Games, camp-wide Tie-Dye day and our new yearly Staff Slide Show and Gold Medallist Night.

  cabin photo outsideBut on that last day of Camp, when Mustang campers had asked their parents to pick them up later than usual, when 7-year olds held tightly to their counsellors – not wanting to say goodbye despite them wearing a mask, and when staff were openly crying because Camp had come to an end, we knew then and there that we had created something truly special. It wasn’t always easy. There were stressful times. But what we had accomplished became very clear when parents started reaching out over email and social media, thanking us for bringing summer back and for providing much needed normalcy to their families, using the hashtag #forevergrateful

  We want to thank everyone involved in making this summer not only happen, but amazingly memorable! From our nursing staff, to our newly created maintenance team, the counsellors, specialists, sport instructors, our Durham Region Public Health contacts, our dedicated office staff and of course, our Head Staff. We want to thank all the parents who trusted us with their children and those who offered their help throughout the process. A special thank you to those families who left their deposits and/or camp fees with us from Summer 2020. We truly appreciate your support! We are already planning for Summer 2022. We are not certain what things will look like next year, but we are confident that with our years of camp experience, including a summer successfully navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic, we can not only succeed but thrive under any circumstances that we are faced with.

  It is us that are truly humbled and #forevergrateful! We wish everyone a safe and healthy year ahead and look forward to seeing everyone in Summer 2022!


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