Wow. Thanks. Help. An important COVID-19 update from the AYF

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Four Trails Kayaking Group

Dear AYF Community,

Author Anne Lamott says there are essentially three prayers that get us through tough times: Help, Thanks, and Wow. This summer has been full of such moments for the American Youth Foundation. It will likely not go down in the record books as a favorite, but these long months have been rich in ways we never imagined. Even as we navigate so much loss, I feel hopeful not only for the future of the AYF, but also for what lies ahead for our human family. We have so many reasons to say: Help. Thanks. Wow.

Wow | As our virtual summer programs come to an end, we are wowed by all we learned and accomplished. We were in our growth zone as we stumbled and stretched to connect online. We came together, proving virtual connections possible and powerful. Hundreds joined our various online spaces, gathering in community while taking part in activities and conversations intended to move them in the direction of their best. The pandemic limited our abilities to gather at Miniwanca and Merrowvista, but it did not stop us from gathering as Miniwanca and Merrowvista.

Thanks | This unique season could not have been possible without the direct and generous support of so many. Our deepest thanks to all who donated to help keep us in motion and to the volunteers who shared their time and talent during our virtual programs. Of course, we are grateful for all who participated in our Invincible Summer camp, National Leadership Conference (NLC-Z), and Summer Seminars for Women. We hope all of you gained something from these collective efforts – we sure did.

Help | We look ahead at a changed landscape, adapting as we act to secure a healthy future and asking for your help to persevere during these difficult times. We are disappointed to share that the AYF will not be able to offer our Community and School Programs at Miniwanca and Merrowvista in the coming semester. The AYF typically serves more than 5,000 participants in three- to five-day residential programs during the academic year. This loss quickly translates to losses on other fronts.

This pandemic-induced program interruption has meant the elimination of nearly all program revenue for this year and, as a result, the loss of need for many staff positions. With great sadness, we must say goodbye to twelve beloved team members at the end of August. In addition to these layoffs, our Senior Leadership Team will also take a reduction in pay.

We are experiencing a triple-prayer moment.

It is hard to lose dedicated colleagues who have wowed us with their gifts. We are thankful for the efforts they have poured into Miniwanca and Merrowvista. We ask for your love, support, and help lifting their spirits. We also ask for your continued financial gifts to support our ongoing work, maintaining sites and systems to ensure our swift return to mission-supporting programs.

No one faces an easy assignment, but we are united to do everything we can to ensure a long, strong future for the AYF. Our team has held this news with amazing grace, and now it feels important to share it with our broader community.

It has been a unique and challenging summer for the AYF, a season that required letting go, surfaced rich learning, and revealed items of critical concern that were equaled with just as many points of light. We must recognize not only the real threat of complex issues like a pandemic, racial injustice, the environmental crisis, and much more, but also recognize the urgent invitation they pose. The world needs bold actors who will dare to bring their best to these problems. The AYF will endure – we must, for it is our mission to inspire such actors.

I pray that you, your family, and friends are in good health and able to take good action, and I hope you know that the AYF is working hard to ensure its continued health. May the fiscal discipline we act with today prove that we intend to be about this mission for another hundred years. We will not run the well dry; rather, we will adjust the flow, conserving what we have until sources are replenished.

Here’s hoping we drink from the fountains of Miniwanca and Merrowvista next summer. Until then, let’s keep drinking from the wells of truth, beauty, love, and courage.

Wishing you continued rich discoveries on the journey toward your best,

Anna Kay Vorsteg