Summer 2020 Update

May 19, 2020

Heartbroken. Beyond words.

We had prepared an update to send today to our Camp families. In light of the announcement this afternoon by the Ontario government to close overnight camps, there is simply no other way to share the news that Camp Wenonah will be unable to open for the 2020 season as a result of the ongoing challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic within Ontario and around the world. We had been hopeful that the 2020 season could take place in one way, shape or form; however, after weeks of careful consideration and consultation, it is now official that we cannot operate – AND – we know with absolute resolve, this is the right decision.

As the current President of the Ontario Camps Association (OCA: an organization of 450+ Summer Camps across Ontario), I have been working with our Camp Wenonah Consultant Tom Appleyard and our Camp Wenonah Director of Health and Wellness Nancy Vandenbergh (we are three members of the seven person OCA COVID-19 Task Force). Prior to today’s announcement, we had looked at every possible scenario to safely and successfully operate Summer Camps. This included ongoing meetings and deliberations with key government leaders including Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s senior team, leading provincial and local health officials and many others. During the most recent meeting a few days ago with the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s senior team and a group of leading medical consultants, it became more and more apparent that we do not have the necessary data and knowledge yet to properly manage this disease for 2020 and, therefore, we wholeheartedly support today’s announcement by the Ontario government.

We have always put health and safety first and foremost, and we continue to do so. The key strengths that make our close community so unique, like cabin and tabin shared living experiences, canoe trips, meals together in the Lodge, our many programs, campfires and the Goodbye Circle are sadly some of what shapes this difficult decision today.

WENONAH PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Wenonah began with a vision of creating the best possible environment for children and young people to grow together. Our mission statement at Wenonah perhaps describes this best:

“Surrounded by nature and guided by accomplished leaders, Wenonah campers have fun and learn lifelong skills in a safe and respectful community. In the words of a camper, “Camp Wenonah makes us better people.”

Suffice it to say, in our first 24 years, Camp Wenonah has grown immeasurably. We transitioned from leasing a property with a few camper cabins and a dining hall, to three years ago, purchasing the original site and the additional 50 acres that was an adjacent campground to support the expansion of our programs and our ever-increasing enrollment demands. In this same time, we prioritized and built many new buildings, updated existing structures, and created and enhanced scores of program areas. The amount invested in the property, the facilities, the programs and especially the people have been our assurance that we remain true to our mission.

2020 was on track to be our greatest Summer ever, with exceptional Senior Leaders, an amazing seasonal staff team, revamped food service with a talented new chef, and the greatest group of campers one could ever imagine.

CAMPER FEES

Similar to the majority of Summer Camps in Ontario, Wenonah sets its fees more than a year in advance. We then receive those fees from families twice a year; once when they register, and again when the final balance is due on April 1.

Fees received do not sit in the bank; that money is spent throughout the year. We begin immediately planning and working for the next season, following the final day of August Camp. During the year, Wenonah immediately puts the received fees toward salaries and benefits for our year-round staff team, capital development, mortgage payments, the lengthy shutdown and closing of Camp each Fall, office rent, insurance, professional development, seasonal staff recruitment, health and safety preparations, program development, utilities, purchase of capital items and program supplies. The list goes on. These are, generally speaking, unrecoverable costs.

In our case, over the past three years, we have also used these early payments to finance ongoing and significant capital developments that have created many improvements to the Camp facility and program we have all come to love and look forward to each Summer.

Like most camps, when final payments are received on April 1 they fund ongoing business operational expenses.

I share these details with you to help create an understanding as to why we require your patience perhaps more than other types of businesses. The pandemic has come at the very worst time of the year for Wenonah. We have been working non-stop since last August preparing for the 2020 season, with every expectation that we would be operating this Summer. Had this occurred last Fall, for example, we could have done far more to mitigate the current circumstances.

CREDITS & REFUNDS

Over 24 years, the loyalty of our Camp Wenonah families has been, quite simply, astounding. We hope you will “stay with us” as we move through this Summer and begin planning for Summer 2021.

For those who have paid deposits or full fees for 2020, we want to be clear that no one will lose any value on their registration. In fact, we would like to add more value.

SIMPLY PUT, WE WANT TO SAY THANK YOU TO OUR FAMILIES

FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORT.

CREDITS

  1. FOR THOSE CURRENTLY PAID IN FULL FOR THE 2020 SEASON:
    • You will have the 2020 fee schedule stay in place for the 2021 season.
    • You are automatically enrolled in THE WENONAH CHAMPIONS CIRCLE; a new initiative developed to acknowledge our Camp families during this challenging time. As part of this lifetime acknowledgement, you will automatically receive a 5% discount on fees for all future Camp programs for all members of your current immediate family. This will include additional programs and weeks at Camp beyond your 2020 registration (for example, if you have registered for a one week program in 2020, membership in THE WENONAH CHAMPIONS CIRCLE will extend the 5% discount on fees to as many additional weeks you may choose in the future during each season AND for all additional family members). This begins with Summer Camp fees in 2022, and all future Spring & Fall weekends, and Women’s Weekends registration.
  • You will have first choice of dates and programs when 2021 registration opens during our usual Priority Registration period, beginning July 1, 2020. You can simply apply your credit immediately and you will be fully registered for next season.   As most of our families are aware, Camp sessions fill quickly, with most Periods at capacity in September of each year. We will commit to holding 2021 space for all 2020 families until September 15, 2020.
  1. FOR THOSE WHO HAVE PAID A DEPOSIT AND WISH TO PAY THE FINAL BALANCE FOR THE 2020 SEASON:
  • If you would like to pay your 2020 balance in full (by June 30, 2020) in order to take advantage of the additional benefits listed above, including membership in THE WENONAH CHAMPIONS CIRCLE, please contact us via info@campwenonah.com.
  1. FOR THOSE WHO HAVE PAID A DEPOSIT, BUT NOT THE FINAL BALANCE FOR THE 2020 SEASON:
    • You will have the 2020 fee schedule stay in place for the 2021 season.
    • When 2021 registration opens on July 1, 2020, you can simply apply your credit immediately to have your space secured.
  • Your final balance is due April 1, 2021. We are also currently looking at an optional installment plan which may be of interest to your family.
  1. FOR THOSE REGISTERED FOR THE 2020 WCIT PROGRAM:
  • 2020 WCITs may choose to attend the one-month 2021 WCIT program in July or August

  OR

  • We are pleased to announce we are offering an 8-week hybrid program in 2021 that equally combines leadership training with a paid internship. Information will follow.

Families who would like to apply their credit towards 2021 registration, please complete this form no later than June 30, 2020.

Families with WCIT participants are asked to please complete this form no later than June 30, 2020.

REFUNDS

We believe strongly in providing refunds to families who require them. Although our standard policy is ‘no refunds’ beyond April 1 each year, we are extending this deadline. We have always operated with integrity at every turn in our history and we believe this is the right thing to do.

Despite our best efforts and intentions, we are hoping families will understand that it will take us some time to issue refunds.

We will commit to providing refunds as we are able to over the next year and through 2021 as required. This is the transparent reality of our small family-owned business: one that is seasonal in nature and does not have other revenue sources during the year. Summer Camps are not like other businesses that deliver their services year-round. Stores that may be closed for a few months will eventually reopen and potentially recover lost revenue, thereby limiting their exposure and overall loss. Unfortunately, we cannot. With the compressed operating season of our industry, our next season is not until the Summer of 2021, a full 12+ months from now. This is the reality for our small business and the Camp industry in general.

Refund options include:

    • Leaving a deposit on your account as a credit for 2021, and receiving a refund for the balance of your fees.
    • Receiving a full refund on your fees.
  • Receiving a partial refund, and making a contribution towards the Wenonah Campership Fund to aid future Wenonah campers in need of financial assistance, including those attending through our New Canadian Camper Program, to attend Summer Camp.

If you would like to request a refund, please complete the form we have linked to below by June 30, 2020.  We will follow up in July 2020 to let you know more about the timing of refunds.
Families requesting a refund, please complete this form no later than June 30, 2020.

CONTACT / PAYMENT METHOD UPDATE

With our Burlington Office still required to be closed by the Province of Ontario, we request all correspondence come in the form of an email to info@campwenonah.com. We continue to do our best to respond in a timely fashion.

In an effort to immediately reduce expenses, Wenonah will be suspending the use of credit cards as a method of payment or refund until further notice. Payments can now be made via cheque, e-transfers, or wire transfers.

LOOKING AHEAD

We will continue to update everyone over the weeks and months ahead with more information for the 2021 season and beyond.

2021 Summer Camp registration information, which begins July 1, 2020 will be sent by email in late June.

2021 Summer Camp dates and fee information is now available.

A FINAL THOUGHT

I am a true believer that Camp changes lives and have been ever since I first attended Summer Camp in 1968. It is impossible to fathom that this will be the first year in 52 of them without Summer Camp in my life.

Children generally have little idea of the long-term impact of Summer Camp; however, we know definitively that it often shapes and defines who we become. Summer Camp helps us gain confidence, empathy, independence, resilience and a crucial sense of place and community. Camp provides us with lessons of a lifetime – aspirational and pragmatic ones alike. With these thoughts in mind and with your support, our team at Wenonah is more committed than ever to weather this storm and return through the year with renewed energy and conviction for the Summer of 2021.

In the meantime, I would like to extend a massive thank you to the many members of our vast Wenonah community who have been in touch; offering heartfelt support and words of encouragement.

As we live through this global event, which for many will be one of the defining moments in our lives, we find ourselves taking stock of what is most important. Our families. Our children. Our communities. Healthy and loving relationships and the promise of brighter days ahead.

We know that this news is profoundly difficult for you and your family. We have some thoughts on how families can discuss this news with their children.

We have also written a letter directly to your children that we ask you to share.

At the end of each month at Camp, for the past 30 years, there is a thought that I share at our final Morning Watch before campers prepare to head home.   I always felt that it perfectly captures the essence of our experience:

Just like an ever-endless chain, a friendship lasts forever

Through thick and thin, through frown and grin, we guard it like a treasure

And though it goes through lots of harm like dust and tarnish and rust

Our secrets lend a kind of charm to the friendships that we trust.

And though our homes are miles apart and only Camp we all attend

With letters and songs and smiles from the heart, our friendship will never end.

I know I speak for everyone in saying that I can hardly wait for us to be TOGETHER once more on the shores of Clear and Saw Lakes. We are already counting down the days until we are back at Camp in 2021.

With much love and gratitude to everyone in our Wenonah community,

Jeff

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