COVID19 Update for Youth Summer Camp Families

Dear summer camp families,

This message is for parents & guardians of children registered for these summer camps:

As we watch spring unfold, we also are watching the unfolding of the pandemic and the continuing restrictions on gathering together in groups. With this text, we would like to update you about cancellations & refunds and how Vermont Wilderness School as an organization is weathering this period.

THE GOOD NEWS: Camp is still on!

We are hoping that by June 15 — the scheduled first day of Otter Camp — restrictions will have eased to allow for small in-person programs.

At the start of the pandemic we instituted new safety protocols for youth programs. Before we restart any programming, these protocols will be updated to the match the most current health advisories.

We won’t run camps unless we feel it is safe enough to do so. This is something we already weigh every year!  There is always some risk in spending the day outside making fires, running, walking, and exploring rough terrain.  We seek to teach awareness and how to minimize risk while also engaging with life. This year, the new risk we are adapting to and learning from is COVID-19.

So, our great hope is to return to the fields and forests this summer with your children!

  • If you want to add any camp weeks, or you know anyone else wanting to attend, now is the time to register.
  • Despite the uncertainty, summer programs ARE filling up.  (The 2nd week of Otter Camp is now full, with a waitlist.)
  • No deposit is required. For the time being, we are waiving our standard requirement.
  • Receive a $25 discount if you pay in full two weeks before the payment deadline.

THAT’S GOOD… but what if it turns out that summer camps CAN’T happen…?

  • You will be offered a full refund, including deposit, for any camp week that VWS needs to cancel or postpone due to Covid-19.
  • Our full cancellations & refunds policy can be found here 

THE BAD NEWS: This pandemic represents a very serious threat to the economic viability of the Vermont Wilderness School.

Social distancing requirements have hit some organizations and businesses especially hard. This includes VWS. The effects already include: inability for programs to meet in person, loss of wages for our staff members, and potential reduction in donations and grants. Our insurance policy (like most policies) does not protect us against losses due to a pandemic. VWS does not have an endowment or nest egg to get us through a time like this. We will continue fundraising, but raising money from grants and donations will be more difficult during the coming recession, especially when we are surrounded by such great need.

We want to be here to provide in-person youth and adult programs as soon as we are able. With great sadness we have had to cancel our spring programs and slash the hours of our field staff. We also are reducing our administrative staff hours significantly.  Please bear with us as our administrative capacity shrinks. Even with these reductions, it will be difficult to keep VWS financially viable, especially if the stay-at-home order persists through the summer.

THE OUTLOOK

We are so grateful to have received expressions of support from so many people in the past month.  Many of the parents whose children are enrolled in our youth programs have declined refunds for cancelled sessions, simply to help keep VWS viable during this time. The message we are getting is that people want VWS to be here for the long haul, and that our mission is more relevant than ever.

Thank you for understanding and patience, and for considering how we might help each other during this uncertain time. At VWS we believe that together we can rise to meet the challenges we all are facing.

If you have any questions about camp, please contact Ash Young.

In relationship & gratitude,

Sam Stegeman, Executive Director
Ash Young, Administrative & Outreach Coordinator
Ingrid Burrows, Board Chair
Amy Hyatt, Director of Shambhala Warrior & Nature Camp
Bob Etzweiler, Director of Otter Day Camp, Foxwalk Day Camp, and Wild Within Teen Camp