Community, Togetherness and Teamwork
As a summer camp director, my family and friends ask, “isn’t it stressful planning for camp during a global pandemic?” This question always catches me off guard, because the first emotion that comes to mind when I think about summer camp is not stress; it’s gratitude.
When I started as director for Apachi Rogers Park and Apachi Evanston Day Camps in December 2019, I had no idea what the new year would bring. Coming from Ohio, I was excited about a new city, a new community, a new job, new co-workers and friends, but most exciting of all, new campers and families to meet. This was my first chance to begin to develop relationships and coordinate exciting summer activities with counselors, camp staff and the greater Apachi community. There was a lot to learn, a lot to get done and many people to meet before summer 2020!
Then Covid-19 hit, forcing our summer plans to shift. Initially, it felt like meeting in-person and developing those relationships would be nearly impossible. Now, a year later, while the pandemic is still present, interacting with Apachi Rogers Park and Apachi Evanston communities and planning for summer 2021, doesn’t seem so impossible.
As I reflect on last summer, I’ve realized that many of the connections that were made then are proving to be more powerful than in a pre-Covid world. In fact, one of our Apachi camp counselors wrote about his 2020 camp experience in a high school reflection essay about the most meaningful thing to have happened to him in the last year. He shared what he wrote:
“In my box I put a baseball card that the Camp Director made for everyone in camp after the year was over. I have a card for each of my campers, my co-counselor, and all of the head staff including the security guard. When I see the card, it reminds me of how much of an amazing summer I had despite Covid-19 restricting us from doing a lot of things that we normally would. It reminds me that even though we are going through something as terrible as a world pandemic, when we try together, as a group, we can really achieve a lot and show how well we work together.”
When I read this again, I see the strength of community, togetherness and teamwork. I hear this counselor’s gratitude for camp echo that of my own. I also see a role model who I’m proud to have working at Apachi Day Camp and I’m excited he’ll be coming back this summer to inspire a whole new group of campers!
While Covid-19 turned our camp world upside down, we were still able to examine our approach to camp and ensure we could offer not just a safe summer, but an incredible, memorable, and fun summer. A summer that could still leave a lasting mark and resonate with campers, staff, and our community long after it’s over.
The best part is, our Apachi families noticed all of our hard work and efforts in giving their children a lasting experience. Their enthusiasm was so overwhelming they wanted to share with other families, as well! A parent, who decided to keep her children home last summer due to safety concerns surrounding Covid-19, reached out to our Apachi parent forum to get a better understanding of how we created a safe and fun experience. To ease her concerns, here’s what our camp parents had to say:
“JCC [Chicago] Apachi [Day Camp] was the best thing that happened to my kids last summer. We were nervous but the camp staff did such a great job! My kids felt safe and they were happy to have normal summer activities (adjusted to the covid times though). It was a very positive experience for our family.”
“My kids, 8 & 7 last summer, loved it and it was the most normal feeling 5 weeks we’ve had since pandemic started.”
“My son – 9 last summer – was uneasy about the mask but it ended up being no big deal. He had a GREAT time and is super excited to return! It also made school mask wearing a non-issue.”
“My 18-year-old daughter was a counselor last summer. She is super Covid cautious and Covid anxious. She was very nervous as camp approached but had the BEST summer ever! She would come home with a smile from ear to ear (or ear loop to ear loop) everyday! Apachi [Day Camp] gave her the first sense of normalcy since March 14. She now has a countdown on her phone for Apachi-Summer 2021!”
The mom, now bolstered with the support and encouragement of our camp community, responded:
“Thank you so much! This is such an amazing community. We’re going ahead and registering. This is honestly the most hope I have felt in a long time.”
It is impossible for me to read this and not feel anything but gratitude. So, when asked “if camp is stressful to plan during a pandemic?” I can reflect on last summer and the impact it’s had on our Apachi community and know we were able to work together to make last summer, unlike any other. Now, I am really looking forward to this coming summer under the Apachi sun.
Matt Steinberg | Director, Apachi Rogers Park & Apachi Evanston Day Camps
Matt developed a strong passion for camping as he worked his way up the ranks at the Mayerson JCC in Cincinnati, OH. He started as a CIT at Camp at the J, eventually became the Youth & Teen Coordinator, BBYO City Director and Assistant Camp Director and was then promoted to Assistant Program Manager and Camp Director. Matt left the nonprofit world for a bit to pursue his MBA with the intention of coming back to camping. He brings energy, enthusiasm and strong camping experience to Apachi. Matt’s favorite thing about camp is the atmosphere because there’s excitement and fun every day. He believes miracles can happen at camp, such as seeing children who have a hard time socially at school thrive and feel included and watching campers who are afraid of the water conquer their fear and learn to swim.
Matt holds a B.A. in Philosophy, with a concentration in Childhood Education & Media Communication from Miami University of Ohio and a MBA from The Ohio State University. He is an avid sneaker collector, enjoys watching old movies, and enjoys reading philosophy, psychology and health and nutrition books.