Congratulations, new lodge officers across the state! The Officer Training seminar in March is always one of my favorite Elk events, and this year was no exception. The energy and passion of new officers is a welcome boost for me just as we get ready to hit the camp season. Thank you in advance for all you’ll do this year!
Summer camp 2022 is quickly approaching, and we are filling up a bit slower than in the past, as some parents are still on the fence of whether to send their kids to camp due to COVID. However, I think that as the word spreads about our precautions and as we continue to get a handle on the virus as a nation, we will see an uptick in registration in May.
In the meantime, I would encourage you to reach out to families, churches, schools and community centers in your area to spread the word that camp will be open this summer. We got spoiled in the years prior to 2020 as word of mouth was all it took to get us full by April. This year, it’s going to depend again on Elks beating the bushes. So, please help us by letting your communities know that we’re open and looking forward to having kids back to the best camp in the country.
With COVID-19 on the decline, we expect to have a much more typical camp season. We will not require kids to wear masks, we will not be requiring mandatory PCR lab testing, and we will be allowing kids to participate in bigger groups from the beginning of camp. However, we will continue our use of upgraded HVAC protocol, including high-grade air filters, increased fresh air flow as opposed to recycled air from the room, and outdoor activities in place of indoor activities whenever possible. As always, we’ll have licensed RNs on-site as well as an MD on call 24/7 to ensure the safety of our campers.
One major change for summer camp 2022 is the cost per camper. Starting this summer, the cost of one week of camp will be $220. This is a $40 increase from previous seasons, but is still better than what you would pay for day care. As always, if this cost is a burden to the family, we WILL find a way to cover that cost for the family, and we’ll NEVER turn down a camper due to money. Each lodge has still received 10 Elks National Foundation scholarships that will cover one week per scholarship. Thus, if you send a camper for one week, you can use one scholarship. If your lodge sends a 12- or 13-year-old for a two-week session, you would simply need to submit two scholarships.
Your lodge receives these scholarships from your Florida Elks Youth Camp (FEYC) District Director — this is the Elk from your district appointed to the FEYC Board of Directors. Your District Director stays in contact with each lodge via email, phone and District Deputy clinics. If you are unsure of who represents your district, you are always welcome to check in with our Event Services Manager, Jen Scott, at the youth camp offices. Jen handles anything and anyone coming to camp and can provide you with all of the contact information needed for your lodge.
As I wrap up, I’d like to thank the FEYC Board for a huge decision from the quarterly meeting in February this year. At that meeting, your Youth Camp Board of Directors approved having a professional fireworks display for the campers every summer during the week of July 4! In the past, we’ve always had a party for the Fourth, but it was always missing the finale. Well, last year, we had a trial run, and it blew everyone away. All of our campers and staff — and even neighbors and Umatilla residents 10 miles away — got one heck of a show. So, if you’ve got kids who were hesitant to go to camp on the Fourth of July, you can tell them not to worry; it’ll be a blast!
Finally, I would like to remind you about the private status of our camp and why it is important for your members to “sponsor” campers. As with our lodges, if we give up this private status, it could lead to federal and state mandates as to how we run our organization. So, every camper needs a Florida Elk to “sponsor” them to attend camp. This does not mean the member needs to pay for the camper, just sponsor them. When parents call your lodge, please spend a few minutes to talk to them, to let them know what we do and to get their kids to camp. In addition, maybe even discuss why they might be interested in supporting or joining us as an organization. And remember, not every parent seeking a “sponsor” is looking for a “scholarship.” Many of these parents are not only willing to pay for their own child, but they are willing to donate money for other children to attend our camp. So, please make sure anyone answering the phone at your lodge understands this process and that they are ready to have a conversation with parents. If you have any further questions about this process, don’t hesitate to reach out to myself or Jen Scott. Our contact information is available at floridaelks.org/camp. We are both available via phone call or text.
As always, it is an honor to serve as your Youth Camp Director, and I am thankful every day for the opportunity to be a part of what Florida Elks do for kids!