Christmas Update from Camp Chestermere

Good afternoon everyone and Merry Christmas,

This is a bit of a long update but I wanted to give an update from Camp Chestermere. Not quite a year in review but sort of.

It is an obvious understatement, but 2020 has been a unique year for all of us filled with unique challenges and unique successes. A couple of weeks ago I stood in front of my laptop thinking, "How does one lead an organization when the organization cannot do the thing it is literally designed to do?" So much of what we do is customer service focused - camps, hosting schools, community groups, companies, holding events and all of the other ways in which our site gets used. As I reflect back, I am overwhelmed by what we were able to accomplish. As I write this I am sitting in front of our current graphic for Keep Camp Alive and we have raised over $93 000 since May. We pivoted in so many ways this year. From hosting online camps through our iCampC program, to selling groceries through our Pratts Food Box Program, to hosting social distance Day Camps, inventing new guest services activities, and running programs like Candy Cane My Yard and the Christmas Baking Program. Through all of this I learned the answer to my own question asked earlier about leadership. The way you lead an organization when it can't do what it is designed to do is remember that what we are designed to love kids and be a blessing to the community and even a pandemic can't stop that. You lead by having an incredibly dedicated team around you and relying on the help of volunteers all the while holding onto your values of Building Relationships, Creating Experiences and Developing People. One of the biggest challenges this year was not being able to run overnight camps. Overnight camps are a huge part of who we are and so to not be able to do that was really hard. It has been financially hard to see our way through the pandemic and so we are so thankful for the number of people and organizations who have donated, for the grants we have received and for the government assistance we have been able to obtain. The biggest struggle though has been the constant need to pivot and shift. While we have been successful in doing so, we do miss doing things the way we used to. I would like to end this Christmas message on some highlights for the year. Highlights include:

  • Being able to run Day Camp and have over 1000 people go through our site this summer and not have one case of COVID-19. While we followed all of the AHS guidelines, when you were here during the day, camp was camp. Kids rode bikes, played on the beach, shot arrows, power tubed, played games, did devotions and just enjoyed being at camp. It was great having children back onsite and the staff did a phenomenal job of keeping it fun while keeping everyone safe. Thank you for the positive feedback and support that we received from so many families.

  • Hosting user groups in the fall, at a limited capacity, but following all health restrictions and remaining COVID-19 free

  • The way the community supported the ways we pivoted by supporting our Pratts Food Boxes, our Online Camp C, the new guest services opportunities we created, and just in all the practical ways the community stepped in to help

  • The donation of the snow blower from the Chestermere Rotary Club (was a lifesaver this week)

  • Christmas Baking Program

  • In the final week we baked 3372 individual items.

  • We have made over 6000 items through this program

  • Doing the deliveries and seeing the joy on people's faces has been awesome

  • Candy Cane My Yard

  • We delivered over 10 000 candy canes to over 100 houses in Chestermere. 22 volunteers including 4 of our board members came out to help. Seeing the kids run out to find the candy canes after they were hidden. Having people interact with Santa, in a safe way of course, but it was awesome. It was just awesome to get out and interact with the community again.

  • Over 2000 volunteer hours put in over the summer alone

  • Volunteers coming and helping with the Christmas Baking Program and with Candy Cane My Yard

  • Volunteers came and helped in the spring to get us ready for Day Camp and we had volunteers help us in the fall with cleaning up leaves

The restrictions on Overnight Camp have been lifted and so we are confident that overnight camp will return in some way in 2021 which is much welcomed news. We are planning on keeping the Christmas Baking Program and Candy Cane my Yard for 2021 and we want to continue to find ways to be a blessing to the community as we see ourselves through this pandemic. Our prayer is that you do have a blessed Christmas this year, even though it will look different. As Mary took time with her new born and "pondered all of these things in her heart," I pray that you will be able to take time with your family to reflect on 2020 and inquire of the Father what lessons he may have for you from this past year. Blessings