Adjusting Our Sails

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Over the past month, you have adjusted to changes and experienced the loss of many beloved aspects of your lives. You’ve heeded the call for distancing and made sacrifices to help your families and communities to weather this storm. Our communities, our nation, and our world are being changed daily by this coronavirus pandemic, and so too are the program possibilities for the AYF in 2020.

I write to share a difficult but clear decision – we will not be able to gather for residential programs at Miniwanca or Merrowvista this summer. That includes summer camp and Miniwanca and Merrowvista, the National Leadership Conference, Summer Seminars for Women, and Alumni and Family Camp. In truth, it is not a decision, but a blinding recognition. Along with national leaders in outdoor programming, we are announcing that we need to make a major change of course this season. In this time of physical distance, we will offer only free online programming to connect our community until we can safely gather in person.

Our AYF directors and Board members have been working for the past month to consider every barrier and issue before us as we prepared for Miniwanca and Merrowvista camps and the National Leadership Conference. After exploring medical practices and protocols, licensing regulations, accreditation standards, staffing requirements, and program promises, this team came to the conclusion that we will not have the staff, health screenings, resources or expertise necessary to conduct safe programs in the traditional NLC, in-camp and Four Trails formats.

We know this change comes as yet another disappointment among so many you have had to endure this spring. As staff, we share your deep sadness; we know what this means in the lives of all who have been looking forward to a summer experience at both Merrowvista and Miniwanca.

As we navigate this unprecedented time, we are keenly aware that many of our families are feeling financial strain and uncertainty. Please know we will provide full refunds of all fees paid in hopes of offering some relief. Our staff will email the families next week to initiate the refund process and to offer several options for a timely return of their deposits or apply their payments toward a place in summer 2021.

This news certainly will bring up questions for you and especially the participants and campers you are connected to. We do not have all the answers right now, but we will do all we can to support our communities through this transition.  The future of our summer camps will be more flexible, offering the possibility for more choices among program offerings. Campers enrolled in programs such as Voyageur or Odyssey will have options in 2021 like participating in the trip that was missed in 2020 or enrolling in another program. Participants in the National Leadership Conference will be able to continue through their program progression as they would have during the 2020 National Leadership Conference.

While the AYF is taking a different path this summer, we are still on mission and in motion, and we fully intend to be for another 100 years. Thanks to the generosity of our donors through the decades, our nonprofit is supported by an endowment that will help us navigate through this storm and stay vibrant and buoyant as we reach our centennial in 2025.

As we have often said in our AYF communities, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Let’s lean on one another, offering the shelter of connection and understanding as we strive to live at our best during these uncertain times. We will look for you in new ways, gathering on the Cyber Sand Dunes and in the Virtual Valley, our online hubs for connection and virtual programs. Trust that when we can gather safely on the sand dunes of Miniwanca and the hillsides of Merrowvista, we will. I look very forward to seeing you there.

Until then, let’s do all we can to ensure our own health and the health of others. Let us bring our best to this needy world. And let us all…

Aspire Nobly, Adventure Daringly, and Serve Humbly

Anna Kay Vorsteg
AYF President

Andy Mulcahy
AYF Director of Operations

Liz Marshall
AYF Director of Advancement

Matt Loper
AYF Director of Programs