Our Community Rises to the Challenge

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Silhouettes at sunset on beach

by Catherine Klene

Summer 2020 will undoubtedly be different than years past, but president Anna Kay Vorsteg shared that the AYF community has already exceeded her expectations. 

“This pandemic has issued a very real test of our values and priorities, and we passed,” Anna Kay said. “We collectively passed so beautifully.”   

In April, Anna Kay made the difficult announcement that summer 2020 could not proceed as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, but even she was not prepared for the deluge of goodwill from the wider Founder Friends community.  

It’s so emotional for me, and I was aware that we were sending out news to thousands who shared that same emotion,” Anna Kay said. “Historically, when I’ve sent hard news of a much smaller scale, I’ve received some mad or sad reactions. I expected some negativity. I was bracing for it. But the night the announcement went out, my phone lit up with texts and calls of support and a willingness to help.”  

That outpouring of kindness was just the beginning. The AYF was flooded with messages of understanding and a desire to best support the organization during this unprecedented time.   

“Everyone recognized our shared loss. There’s something special about that. They understand that this isn’t a business relationship. It’s so much more than that,” Anna Kay said. “I’m so touched by the messages that showed they cared not just for the fiscal state that we were in, but the emotional state, as well.”  

Shortly after the announcement, the AYF hosted virtual Town Halls for parents, campers and seasonal staff to help process the news. 

“The people who blew me away were some of the campers I spoke with who’ve worked toward these culminating experiences for years. This is their Voyageur year or their Odyssey year.” Anna Kay said. “I’m sure a part of them is so deeply upset, but the fact that they could keep that disappointment from coming at us is remarkable. The maturity required for that is so impressive.”   

Anna Kay said her focus has now shifted to the broader world and how campers, summer staff, and National Leadership Conference attendees can support their own communities.  

This is an invitation to be our best and apply it in a sincere way at a needy time,” Anna Kay said. “For example, instead of coming to the AYF this summer, maybe we challenge our teenagers to bring the AYF into a household that desperately needs childcare, when it is safe to do so. They could bring routine and schedule to a family and introduce the AYF mission. Imagine 1,000 households with AYF enkindled spirits as their childcare this summer.”   

As AYF transitions to virtual summer programming, Anna Kay encouraged all Founder Friends to lean on each other and reach out for support during what will a difficult summer for many.   

“In times of trouble and times of challenge, just like all those trips we lead, part of why we can accomplish those remarkable things is we are doing it with others,” she said. “We won’t let the physical distances between us keep us from community this summer.”