–Information as of 5/1/2020–
It is with great sadness that we write to you this afternoon to let our community know that Unirondack will not be open for the summer of 2020.
In the past several months the board and executive leadership of camp have weighed this decision with every possible amount of hope and creative thinking we can muster to try and find a way to make this summer happen. But with current social distancing measures in place, the projections of when large groups may gather again, and our proximity to communities that are so deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we no longer feel there is any way that we can operate our space in ways that properly ensure the safety of our campers and staff. There are too many variables that we are unable to control and it is our belief that opening our doors this summer would bring liability and risk to our community and to the local community of Lowville that we cannot reconcile, and so it is for the safety of our organization’s future and the people around us that we make this difficult decision.
This moment is unique in the history of Unirondack. In the nearly 70 years that camp has been open, we have never missed a summer of operation and we feel the weight of this decision deeply and solemnly. We believe in the value of our mission; in our ability to create lasting change and growth for those who find their way to us. To put it simply, we’re heartbroken. For our campers, our parents, our staff, and ourselves.
As is the case every summer, this summer holds the last opportunity some of our campers have to experience camp as a summer camper. If you are one of those campers we want you to know that we are working to find ways to do something special for you. We’ll also take a moment to brag about our Unirondack staff who are already at work planning evening programs and mailable camp projects for campers who have had their summers taken away. Our amazing staff have resiliency and commitment to sharing the Unirondack spirit that is unwavering and unparalleled. So if you’re one of those staff members — thank you.
Earlier today we wrote a letter to our 2020 staff and in doing so we offered some reflection on the emotion we’re all feeling through this. Often in communities like Unirondack people say that “it’s not about the buildings, it’s about the people.” While we know this is true, there is something fantastical, awesome, unique, and spiritual about the physical spaces we create at Unirondack. As we’ve said, in the coming weeks and months we will do everything we can to bring the spirit of Unirondack to all of you, but we also want to acknowledge and make space for the feelings of loss that come with this announcement. It may be true that the Unirondack spirit lives and thrives beyond the campfire circle, the lodge, meals in Gilman, and the evening programs in Stevens. But it is with these spaces that we distill a purity of that spirit that many of us use to find inspiration, confidence, love, forgiveness, and self-assurance. So we take this time to grieve in whatever ways feel right.
But as the pain of this news begins to process we humbly challenge our community: Bring Unirondack to the world outside of camp for us this summer. How? Bring in the mail for a neighbor. Volunteer for a local political candidate who fights for the rights of others. Donate the gift of your physical abilities to those who need them or your intellectual strengths to those who may benefit from them. Compliment someone. Refrain from starting that online argument and instead message someone privately with respectful inquiry. Perform random acts of kindness. Send a letter to an old friend. Stand up for those with less. Learn to play the ukulele with your neighbor’s kids. Create a terrible watercolor for the first time in your life and give it to your parents… or your kids. Find someone who needs an ear to listen to and be their shoulder to cry on and don’t stop until you’re both struggling to breathe from shared laughter. How possible is any of this? We have no idea but it’s the Unirondack way to dream big and believe in something greater than us.
Of course the Unirondack spirit feels closer and warmer and greater and stronger with the help of the community we build together when we are at camp — when we can bang hoola hops on Gilman tables and sing with held hands each night around the campfire. But that spirit is only truly possible at camp because it is brought there by all of you. So for now, share it with those around you and know that we will do everything we can to help you while eagerly awaiting your return as soon as possible.
Finally, we want you to know that Unirondack’s health as an organization is not in danger. We have successfully secured the Federal PPP Loan which will protect the salaries of our Directors. We have also received three large donations in the last 30 days which have provided vital support for us as we look ahead to 2021. We want to be clear that Unirondack will face an unprecedented loss without this summer’s operating income. But we feel nothing but confidence in our ability to return from this to a strong and successful 2021. And to our members, we’ll be providing you with more details of our finances and our plans for sustaining Unirondack into next year. If you have ever donated to our endowment, please know that our 2021 plans are being made possible because of you. Without these funds, we would face a very different reality than the one we’re in today. For those who are registered for a summer session, we will be in touch soon about refunds and finances in the coming days.
Alas, we know these times are uncertain and for so many of us right now there are countless joys that we are missing. We’re so sorry to add Unirondack to that list. Please know that you are all in our hearts right now as we know that we are in yours.
Lauren Hunt, Executive Director
Kris Fiore, Director
Elizabeth Bashur, Camp Manager
–Information as of 4/15/2020–
Things continue to be uncertain. Nevertheless, we are committed to doing all we can to make sure Unirondack’s spirit is reachable, even if Unirondack is not. These times have given us pause and have forced us to confront what is vital to our organization. We’ve also had to get creative with our skills in ways we weren’t expecting to when the year began. But we want you to know we’re here for you and excited to be a place in your life as soon as we can.
It would be disingenuous to say that we are expecting to open up camp on time this summer. While we are still making our summer plans with staff hirings, project planning, and permit applications, we are also actively planning for an eventuality in which sessions will need to be cancelled or rescheduled. Our decision date for summer scheduling is still May 15, but we are preparing as many alternatives we can in the likely event that some of our summer schedule will be affected. We appreciate everyone’s understanding while we continue to wait and see how things progress.
A reminder on our registration policy changes:
- No Deposit for summer camp registration!
- Full money back until May 15.
- Full refund for cancellation due to direct illness of COVID-19.
- Full refund if a Unirondack program is cancelled.
For now? Please continue to promote camp! I know it feels weird but if we do have summer sessions this year we need campers! Our opportunities to effectively promote camp through our usual in-person events have been greatly hindered but we are still accepting registrations for summer sessions! So tell a friend, send our brochure around! We want to be able to open if we can and we’re excited by the possibilities and open to your ideas. The more we can expand our network to whatever programs we are able to offer this summer the better! Thank you for supporting camp and as we will say many times over in the coming weeks and months, we will see you as soon as we can.
Finally, some folks have asked us what procedural changes to expect for if we open and while we know that changes will need to be made, we aren’t sure what they entail. The Department of Health hasn’t given us their standards yet as things are still in motion, but we are sure that the only way camp will be allowed to open is if it is easy to do so safely. The DOH in New York operate with great caution which we always appreciate and they have said that if a green light is given, they will provide us with the proper guidance to open camp and keep our campers safe in the process. Thank you to all who have reached out with questions and suggestions!
We can’t wait to see you as soon as we can.
With Unirondack Love,
-Kris, Eliz, and Lauren
–Information as of 4/1/2020–
It’s been a few weeks since our first update so we wanted to give you some information and details around our planning for 2020 as it pertains to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
As the waves of information continue to come in from medical professionals as well as our professional networks of camp leaders around the country we are working to prepare for the many different outcomes. While we are still waiting to make a call for this summer’s sessions, we want to at least share with you our plan for the next 45 days.
First and foremost we want to tell everyone that as much as we want to start this Spring season on time, we have no choice but to reschedule our QSA Weekend, Adult Paddling Adventure, and our inaugural Writer’s Retreat. This is obviously a great disappointment for our campers and saddens us to say, but we are already looking forward to ways we can make these weekends better in 2021 and hope you will consider joining us for them next spring!.As of now we are holding off on deciding on Family & Friend’s Weekend as it’s still seven weeks away and we will make that call by April 15.
Here is our anticipated timeline for the next 45 days:
April 15: Decide Family & Friends Weekend
May 1: Decide Young Adult, Men’s Weekend, and Women’s Weekend
May 15: Decide summer viability until Ballou*
July 1: Decide on Ballou 1 & 2
July 15: Decide on Family Camp and Adult Camp
*Should we be prevented from opening this summer our plan right now is to hold off on making a decision about Ballou camps. NYSDOH has already said they would be happy to work with us to make a partial summer happen if it is decided that camps can open mid-summer but because Ballou is our latest session and can be a camper’s last opportunity to experience camp, we will hold off on making any decisions until July.
Revised Refund Policy
In anticipation of the uncertainty and difficulty around planning for this summer, the board has revised our refund policy to the following:
- Cancellations on or before May 15, 2020: Full refund
- Cancellations due to direct COVID-19 Illness: Full refund
- Should camp cancel: Full refund
- Cancellation between May 15 – June 1: Refund minus deposit
The board welcomes feedback on this process and will be constantly reevaluating things as more information becomes available!
Every Monday at 8pm we will be hosting a Virtual Unirondack Campfire! Campfires are family friendly and are one hour long.
We have some EPIC virtual plans to keep you occupied and engaged this Spring so be on the lookout. Remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates!
———————— Information as of 3/19/2020 ————————–
As we are sure you are all aware, many organizations and events are considering changes and adjustments due to COVID-19, a strain of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. We wanted to take this moment and reach out to the Unirondack community and assure everyone that we are keeping a close eye on the situation as things evolve.
Thanks to a strategically placed Unirondack employee (Lauren Hunt, Unirondack’s Executive Director) working with the New York City Council’s Health Committee, we are lucky to be well informed on the status of COVID-19 in New York State. Kris and Elizabeth are traveling home today from the American Camping Association Conference where all of the camping community is discussing best practices and sharing ideas about how to keep our campers safe and our camps strong.
We know that every day brings rapid changes to everyone’s short and long term plans. Our college age staff and camper alum are facing school closings and cancellations, and the constant news and social media updates are causing anxiety and stress. Through all of this uncertainty remember that your Unirondack family is always just a call, text, or email away. We may be geographically, spread out this time of year, but we’re always here for you.
Now is the time to reach out to your camp friends with reassurance, and to pay attention to facts. Let’s help interrupt the way that panic and racism seeps into the messaging that is all around us. Do good camp, and take good care.
We are a few months away from any in-person programming at Unirondack and feel confident that we will be able to open as planned, as best evidence does point to things being much improved by then. We will continue to monitor the situation over the next two months. Right now information is coming in faster than we can plan or process, so for now we will assess the facts as they become available. We are also obviously following any and all recommendations and requirements from New York State and the NYS Dept. of Health for any procedural changes when we do open.
We still have a little space left in our spring and summer programs. Don’t let the opportunity for time at Unirondack pass by. Additionally, should programs be cancelled due to mandates from other outside agencies, we will be offering a full refund for programs, so please don’t let that be a preventative concern.
A fun way to bring camp into your Coronavirus prevention is to sing Black Socks while you wash your hands for 20 seconds (with an extra round of the “not yet” part for full cleaning effect).
With Udack Love,
Lauren, Eliz, & Kris