AYF campers across the country have spent the last two weeks building forts, logging miles on their virtual Four Trails treks, and teaching their families the sudsy fun of Arlos and Dishland.
Invincible Summer, the AYF’s free online summer programming, has united the Merrowvista and Miniwanca campers under one AYF banner, joining one another for Interest Groups, Games Nights, and much more. Some campers have even elected to undertake a Founder Medal Challenge, pursuing virtual badges and attending Zoom events to earn an actual Founder Medal to be sent to them at the end of the summer.
Miniwanca parent Katie Bell said registering her children Nate, 12, and Sam, 9, for Invincible Summer was an easy decision.
“We cherish the experiences we have while at Miniwanca and how that magic and spark carries forward into the world we live in while away from the dunes,” Bell said. “We chose to participate as an opportunity to continue to grow in these uncertain times while at home. Knowing the staff who created Invincible Summer and trusting that they would bring their all and best to this, it was a no–brainer.”
Bell said Sam has thoroughly enjoyed his time in weekly Interest Groups, which she said have the energy and feel of in-person camp. “Sam has loved the IGs he’s participated in: Nature Crafts, where he built a super creative fairy house in our yard, and then Scavenger Hunts, where he went all over the house finding cool things,” Bell said. “We’re just getting into the badges, which I can see really being fun for the kids to do.”
Chelsea Bernthal, Miniwanca director of community and school programs, said it was important not only to provide fun activities, but also to bridge the distance between camp friends and rekindle connection.
“There have been lots of moments watching kids see a familiar face and witnessing that spark of recognition when they realize, ‘This is my community,’” she said. “One child who participated in a lot of our spring programming has taken a lot of leadership and initiative during Interest Groups, and that’s really sweet to see. He feels comfortable in the Zoom space, teaching people how to use it and keeping the conversation going.”
Four Trails, Trailblazers, and Avail campers have had the chance to connect with their trip groups and villages in small group discussions, and the entire community has gathered for Evening Reflection, Night’s Doings, and a very special flash mob.
Amidst the fun and games, Four Trails manager Andrew McIver said campers are exploring what it truly means to live as their best selves in their daily lives.
“One of my favorite programs is the Inspired Best Selves workshop,” he said. “Every time I go, I’m really surprised at how open people are being in the virtual setting. No matter the setting, AYF values feel like them come through.”
While the virtual space won’t replace an in-person camp experience, Bernthal said Invincible Summer is helping to reinforce one of the AYF’s key values: positive community.
“Every time campers leave camp, we tell them the place isn’t what makes Miniwanca or Merrowvista special,” she said. “They all have the capacity to create positive community wherever they are, and this is challenging them to create that away from camp and away from anything they expected.”
Invincible Summer will culminate on Friday, July 31 with a Final Fire Celebration on Zoom. Learn more about the final two weeks of programming and other activities online.