Camp Wekeela Updates
Update: May 2022
Reflections on 2021:
2 years in a row – Wekeela maintained a safe and effective environment against COVID-19. Learn about our testing, masking, and vaccination procedures below. Thank you to our amazing staff, campers, and parents for taking the pandemic seriously and ensuring the health and safety of our community as a whole.
Our biggest challenge this summer was operating 2 sessions, requiring our protocol for masking and distancing to take place two separate times. Although we operated in a semi-bubble (only doing off-site activities that were isolated), the campers and staff took the protocols seriously and our health center team administered hundreds of Covid-19 tests to ensure our non-vaccinated campers & staff were tested regularly. It helped that the majority of our 12+ campers were vaccinated and 97% of our staff were vaccinated against COVID-19. We also partnered with Hannaford’s Pharmacy to offer non-vaccinated campers and staff the COVID-19 vaccine.
All in all, we had another safe and effective summer at Wekeela and will continue to do so for years to come.
How we did it (2020):
Camp Wekeela 2020 ran for five weeks. Staff members arrived two weeks ahead of the campers for extensive training and quarantine, while campers were asked to quarantine at home during this time – this is really important to the success of a healthy camp experience.
Upon staff arrival through departure, no one came in or out of camp, other than for food deliveries, and essential business. Any deliveries were handled from a separate area of camp and under serious safety guidelines. We maximized the use of our large campus as if we lived on an island, with only our Wekeela family members coming in contact with each other. We had a team of administrators working hard on programming so that we enjoyed both new and old traditions using safety measures to protect each one of our family members.
We went to great lengths to protect our campers and staff, with many adjustments in order to mitigate risk. We learned all about COVID-19 as we sheltered in place. Much of our Wekeela family was healthy and under the age of 25, which put us at a very low risk, and which is why we decided to open. We also knew that while the world opened up all around us, children would be at malls, pools, friends’ houses, the beach, and would be at a far greater exposure than they would be at camp. We honestly feel that camp is one of the safest communities for all of us. If we did not truly believe this, we would not have opened. As we often say, we are in the business of taking care of children, and safety is our number one priority.
Every summer we are responsible for caring for your children and we are committed to providing safe and loving care for all of our children and staff. We followed CDC procedures and guidelines that we received specifically for overnight camps in Maine. Understand that Wekeela is by no means a medical facility, but we had additional health professionals working with us this past summer and medical facilities in nearby Lewiston/Auburn, ME.
After many months of meetings with our colleagues, medical professionals, our own leadership, and personal reflection, we believed opening was the best thing for our campers. We have always tried to mitigate risk and follow safety precautions long before this virus came along. This is what camp directors do.
We know that many of our friends in camping, both in Maine and around the country, had already made the difficult choice not to open this past summer. This is a very personal decision for each camp and director, and our hearts went out to them, their campers, and their families as they grieved the loss of camp. There is no right or wrong in the decisions we have all had to make.
Some of our decisions in Spring 2020 were based on these factors:
- Oxford County, Maine has been very safe since the beginning of the pandemic.
- We have an extremely low population for risk.
- We hired double the amount of health professionals.
- We purchased ample amounts of PPE and cleaning supplies
- We committed to our strategy of quarantining and best practices – which include following CDC and ACA guidelines.
- After four months of being home and being on screens, the mix of sunshine, the outdoors, friendships and fun are what we all needed.
- As the world opened up rapidly, risks of getting sick at malls, pools, beaches, etc are far greater than being at camp.
- Some semblance of good news and something for us all to look forward to was the best thing we could do for our families.
This was not an easy decision for us. It had been months of emotions and soul searching, but as we have continually said, we are not only camp directors in the best of times, we are camp directors always.
Even though we had modifications in order to keep your child safe, our summer camp is still based on the foundations of family and friendship. We emphasize kindness and respect and fun and love. The Wekeela we all love was the Wekeela of 2020.
We had a spectacular summer inside the safety of our bubble.
Our COVID-19 Response Plan is only available for registered families.
Plans for 2021:
As more information regarding the COVID-19 state and local policies is available, as well as updates to CDC guidelines, Camp Wekeela maintains that operating in a safe and healthy environment for summer 2021 is the most important thing for the well-being of our camp community. Wekeela will operate under the same protocols we had in 2020 and we will update our COVID-19 Response plan accordingly.
Comments from grateful parents on our opening camp for 2020
Many of our current families would be delighted to speak with you to share their experiences.
(names have been omitted for privacy)
I first want to commend you for the fantastic job you guys did this year at camp, especially during these very challenging and crazy times. K is still gushing about camp and continues to do so…The friends she has met will last forever, as you know. I wanted to thank you and Lori from the bottom of my heart for giving her that gift. I’m forever grateful. ❤️
Hi Ephram & Lori, I don’t think lucky is a fair descriptor for what you gave our daughters this summer. When it comes to managing through this pandemic, knowledge, effort, and leadership are what create better outcomes – they certainly don’t happen on their own and you provided them all. So again, thank you!
Big picture, congrats on what you accomplished for so many people, campers and your staff. I’m hoping you are hearing that from tons of people, but my guess is that not enough of them are expressing that…you guys took a massive risk…the easy way out would’ve been to cancel camp…no one could have blamed you since nearly every other camp did just that…but you persevered and did it in a smart, practical (and I’m sure costly) way…Your planning and execution paid off for everyone else…You both should be commended for all of that… Smaller picture…that’s my world…my kids had an unbelievable experience…which would’ve been nice any summer, but especially essential this past summer with the rest of the world shut down…my kids are still raving about the summer they had…they loved their counselors and the food and the Wekeela hour and everything else…they love to rate things 1-10 and S gave everything a 10…i never asked the other 2…because I knew they were good with everything… even Color War! They already can’t wait to go back for the full 7 weeks…there’s talk of being a counselor one day…my mom, specifically asked me to tell you from her, how much she appreciated what you went through to give all these kids a great summer…anyway, in conclusion, thank you for the bottom of my heart for how you took care of my kids and me this past summer…
Our kids had so much fun this summer and we are so grateful to you and the entire Wekeela community for making it happen. I will be singing praises to our friends! Very happy to make the commitment for 2021. We are 100%, all in, can’t wait to go back, loved Wekeela, no looking back at the original camp we had planned for them before Covid. We were lucky to have overnight camp “free agents” for this situation!
Just a quick note from our family to yours.
We are so so thankful for the summer you gave our kids. It was risky and you pulled it off.
Both my kids would stay at Wekeela year-round if you let them. Thank you for making it so great. See you next summer!
I just wanted to take the time to thank both of you for your efforts in making camp happen this summer. You took a calculated risk that paid off and should be commended for it. A and I were ecstatic that our girls were able to have a normal summer with their friends. While it is always good to get our children out of the house and away from social media for a few weeks, it was especially important this summer after they spent so much time cooped up at home having limited in person interactions with friends and family. For five weeks, Wekeela campers got to be kids again. The fact that Camp Wekeela did not have one Covid case despite all the horror stories being reported from other camps is a testament to the organization and diligence you put into keeping the campers and staff safe. You did it the right way and should be held up as an example of how camps and schools should be run during these challenging times. We always felt our kids were safer at Camp Wekeela than they would be at home.
Now that camp is over, I wanted to reach out and thank you again and congratulate you on a successful summer session under the most trying of circumstances. Your dedication to the camp and the children is truly amazing and it goes to show that with extraordinary love and determination, camp is possible even under circumstances that I hope we will never experience again. Thanks again and the kids had a great time. Let the countdown to 2021 begin . . . .
Just a quick note to say thank you SOOO much for taking such amazing care of S this summer. I loved that despite our horrendous COVID circumstances, I got to meet S’s counselors even for a quick minute – they seemed amazing and I am SO grateful that he got to have such an amazing growth experience this summer. Having talked to my kids over the past 24 hours I have gleaned a lot more context for how everything went down at Camp Wekeela. I am so grateful.
Caflun Family – It was truly no small feat what you and your staff were able to accomplish – just look at some of the troubles that so many other day and overnight camps have experienced this year – and you should each be so proud of the experience that you were able to provide the kids, particularly this summer. I know that other parents feel the same way. Thank you again!