After careful assessment, the American Youth Foundation Board and staff feel we can offer safe, mission-supporting programs at Miniwanca and Merrowvista in summer 2021. It is clear that COVID-19 is not the only threat to our children’s well-being – all youth need healthy, happy, social environments that encourage and enable growth, foster true independence, and build spirit. We can be that place!
What will summer 2021 look like?
As you can imagine, our operating conditions will be quite restrictive to prevent exposure of our children and staff to COVID-19. New CDC, state, and industry regulations for camps mean we must reduce the number of participants in our camp communities and the number of sessions offered. We will create a community “bubble,” requiring staff and campers to remain onsite for the duration of their time at camp. We intend to expand our site-based wilderness elements on our properties for older campers.
While it will not be simple, we are confident these adapted programs will possess powerful signature elements of our AYF programs. We will announce 2021 program dates and offerings in mid-January, and registration will open the following week.
How can I help?
Camper and family feedback are critical to our planning. While regulations will determine some of how we operate, we still have many decisions ahead and appreciate your input in this process. We hope you will find a few minutes this week to complete this survey, even if you do not expect your child to participate in 2021.
This year poses new challenges not just at Miniwanca and Merrowvista, but also for you, our campers and families. Many variables will need to be considered as you decide if you will participate this summer: vaccine availability, additional costs, transportation, response if illness presents, ability to test and quarantine pre-camp, and more. Please use this survey to express your thoughts and better understand the circumstances we are currently wrestling with. The information you provide will shape our vision for 2021.
What if conditions change this spring?
Some youth programs have opened summer registration now, assuming pre-pandemic conditions and offering pre-pandemic programs. These organizations promise to reach out in the spring with any changes, additional costs related to COVID-19 testing, and cancelation.
Like many others, the AYF is building our 2021 plan based on current conditions. If those conditions improve, we will update you with good news of greater possibilities. We believe this is the most honest and transparent approach to take with our families, participants, and seasonal staff. After a year of so much disappointment, we do not want to overpromise and under-deliver.
When will summer 2021 hiring begin?
As you may recall, the loss of program revenue this year necessitated an unfortunate reduction of our year-round staff and several sad departures. Fortunately, the security of the coming 2021 summer season means we can begin to rebuild our team. We started with Astrid Wielens, who now serves as Senior Health and Safety Director. Astrid has a long history with the AYF, having served in leadership roles at Merrowvista for 14 years and more recently on our Risk Management Committee.
We are also pleased to announce that Emily Knuth will serve as Miniwanca Girls Camp Director. Emily also has a lifetime of history with Miniwanca, as a former camper and staff member, as well as a current camper parent and volunteer. Emily is a seasoned professional who also works at DePauw University’s Prindle Institute for Ethics, one of our partner organizations.
We are beginning the process of summer staff hiring. There are many roles to fill, and we expect it will be more challenging to recruit camp nurses and health team staff with the current demands of the pandemic. We are seeking cabin and village leaders, as well as more experienced adults to lead our summer programs. Online applications will open in January, and we hope you will share them with qualified and interested candidates.
We know you will have many questions as more plans are announced in 2021. We will add Frequently Asked Questions with to our website and email with more information as plans for summer 2021 develop. We will do our best to respond to questions in a timely manner. Please be aware that our staff will enjoy a well-earned holiday break Thursday, Dec. 24 through Sunday, Jan. 3; our virtual offices will reopen Monday, Jan. 4.
As we wrap this difficult year, we thank you and our broader AYF family for lifting us in our time of need, ensuring not only the organization’s health, but also our staff’s. So many shone a light on the AYF in 2020, illuminating us during what could have been a very dark year. Please know we are profoundly grateful and look forward to serving as a light for you in the years ahead.
Wishing you a healthy, happy, hopeful holiday season. May you find new ways and reasons to celebrate.