Registration is open and the countdown to Summer 2022 is officially here. Here’s what we have in store for 2022…
230 days. The countdown to Summer 2022 is officially here. Since waving our last summer 2021 campers goodbye, Ryan and I have had the incredible opportunity to hear from families, chavarim (campers), and tzevet (staff) about their summer experiences. I know the survey we use has a lot of questions, takes a lot of time, and is a bit of a bear; but it gives us a great lens to orient our compass for the coming 230 days. The heartfelt stories, candid feedback, and thoughtful reflections you’ve shared with us have helped us launch into Summer 2022 planning with new intentions and unbridled excitement. To celebrate registration opening this week, we want to share some of what we have in store for 2022 and our biggest takeaways from 2021.
On the horizon…
Revamping Our Communications Systems
The uncertainty of the past 18 months has only reinforced the need for consistent and transparent communication from our team to your family. We heard your frustrations with our communication regarding ever changing COVID policies and delayed response times when you had questions for our camp team. Because of this we are re-evaluating our summer communications systems to ensure that we are doing everything possible to guarantee a 24-hour response time from a member of our supervisory team who is familiar with your camper and their experience. We’re also revamping our pre-camp communications plan to make sure you feel confident and know what to expect before dropping your camper off on their first day. We’ll be rolling out both virtual and in-person Q and A events, hosting monthly camp tours, and pre-camp orientations to set every camper up for success this summer. We also heard and share your frustrations related to summer photo uploads. The camp photographer is truly a vital member of our summer team and the lack of their presence at camp was sorely felt in 2021. We’ll also be increasing our social media presence by creating a consistent summer upload schedule and publishing regular blogs as we have in years past. We are committed to understanding how we can improve summer communication and look forward to implementing new solutions.
New Programming: STEM, Lacrosse, and the Return of Session 2 Tracks
We are beyond thrilled to announce that we’re expanding our programmatic offerings to diversify your camper’s experience next summer and beyond. We have some promising partnership opportunities with local and national STEM organizations to bring a smorgasbord of STEM based programs to camp. From worm composting to robotics, your camper might find a new hobby based in STEM this summer. We’re also happy to announce that we’ve been working with USA Lacrosse to expand our sports offerings and bring lacrosse to camp. Exploring best practices in coaching, gear, and safety have all been topics of conversation in bringing lacrosse, the sport of the future, as Ryan has so lovingly dubbed it, to Ranch Camp. This sports program expansion will allow campers to explore team work and competition in a supportive and meaningful way. Our hope is to give all our campers the opportunity to find new passions that can transcend the camp experience.
We know that many of your campers missed the opportunity to participate in one of our Session 2 Track programs last summer which is why we’re bringing them back, COVID regulations permitting, for 2022! In case you’re unfamiliar, during Session 2 every camper enrolled in the full session gets to pick a track, or area of concentration, to become fully immersed in for the duration of their time at camp. This summer, we’ll be offering Outdoor Adventure, Sports, Arts and Theatre, Beginner Horsemanship, and our traditional Equestrian program. You can learn more about our tracks here.
Staffing for the Future
It’s no secret that camps are just one of the many industries effected by global staffing shortages. As many of you know, we had incredible difficulty finding and hiring staff our 2021 summer. Additionally, many of our international staff, outside of our delegation of shlichim from Israel, were unable to come due to travel restrictions. A huge thank you to everyone in our community who pitched in – repeatedly – to help find staff and make camp happen this summer. After countless interviews we were able to assemble a small, but mighty group of leaders to guide your campers through their summer journey. We could not be more thankful for our 2021 tzevet (staff) and all the joy and vibrance they put into creating an unforgettable and much needed summer experience. However, our staffing shortage this summer prompted a conversation to re-evaluate our entire staffing model. Moving forward, we’ll not only be hiring top tier specialists, but will also be finding staff with previous camp, educational, or child care experience to join our team as lead madrichim. These lead madrichim will live in every cabin to provide a consistent standard of care across the board and make sure every camper’s need are being met. We’re also working with Camp Shai to adapt their inclusion model to our residential setting and we’ll be hiring specific inclusion staff so all campers can feel successful at Ranch Camp. We’re confident that these changes to our staffing model will have a big impact on creating a space for campers to explore and belong.
We’re also thrilled to be expanding our international staff delegation. We’re working with multiple international staffing agencies to significantly increase the number of international staff that come to Ranch Camp. We’re committed to providing a culturally diverse environment that allows campers to develop empathy, broaden their perspectives, and deepen their connection to the international Jewish community.
Looking back on the journey…
Our Community is Back
I think it’s fair to say that our 2020 summer cancellation left a sizeable hole in everyone’s hearts. After spending almost a decade of my life returning to Ranch Camp summer after summer, I didn’t realize how much I would miss being surrounded by our summer kehillah (community). Although the road was bumpy at times, I can’t begin to express the joy I felt when campers’ laughter and smiles filled the air again after a summer of silence. I know that I was not alone in feeling that joy as campers and staff alike were able to finally embrace and rejoice in their reunions. We are overflowing with pride in what are community was able to accomplish this summer. Not only did we not have a single positive case of COVID, we fostered friendships new and old, gathered to make s’mores around campfires, cheered on our peers during Maccabiah, challenged ourselves on our new ropes course’s inaugural season, and trotted together on horseback. The depth our community is, truly, unprecedented.
Looking into 2022, we’re expanding our scope of MESSH initiatives so that every camper has the opportunity to leave camp with their very own kehillah (community). We’re bringing back activity groups and maintaining age divided villages to diversify and solidify every camper’s social and emotional experience.
2021 Drop-Off and Pick-Up
I’ll be the first to say that Session 1 drop off was disastrous at best. Despite multiple conversations with our COVID testing company and feeling as prepared as possible, no one could have planned the perfect storm of events that left some of our families waiting on COVID test results for hours. I want to personally thank all the Session 1 families for the patience and grace they showed our team during drop off and apologize for all the inconveniences caused. Determined to do better for Session 2 and 3, we offloaded much of the logistical responsibility and planning from the testing company to our own team. We ideated and streamlined the process, and while far from perfect, we saw huge improvements from Session 1. While COVID testing, knock on wood, will not become a regular in our check-in protocol, pre-camp health screenings including temperature checks and reporting symptoms likely will remain for the foreseeable future Pre-camp health screenings help keep our community healthy and safe last summer and we want to replicate those results in future summers.
While we are still evaluating our drop off and pick-up logistics for Summer 2022 we are considering restructuring the way the bus to and from camp system works. We absolutely loved seeing all our families reunite on pick-up day and are exploring the possibility of expanding the value in on-site camp pickups. We want to hear from you! Click here to let us know how you feel about bussing to and from camp.
A New Way of Celebrating Shabbat
Shabbat is one of the most special times at camp. Campers and staff get the opportunity to break from their normal routine, have an amazing dinner, dance and sing, and feel the power of our community together. We were determined to not let COVID take away the magic of Ranch Camp Shabbat despite not being to gather in the ways that we have in years past. To keep our community safe, we tweaked where and how we celebrated Shabbat throughout the summer. During staff week, we celebrated on the sports field and it quickly became apparent that the lack of shade borderline unbearable. Then, during Session 1 we celebrated in the commons. Finally, we moved back to the Pavilions, socially distanced and wearing masks, which felt like ‘camp’ again. We also introduced Saturday morning “Shabboptions,” cabin elective programs designed to allow campers to connect to Saturday tefilah (prayer) in new ways. Campers could choose to connect to Shabbat through hiking, painting, music, yoga, and so much more. We’re excited to keep offering Shabboptions in 2022 and create a platform for every camper to explore Judaism in a way that is comfortable and meaningful to them.
Whether it’s your first summer or your thirteenth, thank you so much for being a part of our camp community. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. I can’t wait to welcome you back to camp in 2022.
Ranch Camp Assistant Director