After an incredibly trying year, we finally have kids back at the Florida Elks Youth Camp (FEYC) for summer camp! It’s been far from typical, but it beats the heck out of not having kids here at all. Most of this is because of the lingering issues with COVID-19. The coronavirus is obviously still a major concern for us and for parents. However, with just a few modifications to our check-in procedure, we’ve stuck with the policies that I outlined in the spring issue, and to date, we’ve had great success in keeping our kids safe. A large portion of this success has been due to unbelievably wonderful parents. In fact, if you know any parent or guardian who has sent kids to camp this summer, please thank them for being so flexible and patient. We’ve asked a lot of them this year, and they’ve really come through.
We also need to thank your full-time staff at FEYC. Across the board, these wonderful people are the key to our success. Chuck Haugh and his maintenance crew have the property in tiptop shape. Every time kids check in, it’s Chuck’s groundskeepers who make the first impression, and they’ve been knocking it out of the park. Jay Crouch and his housekeeping team have gone above and beyond to implement new, cutting-edge cleaning and sanitization protocols to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and to keep our kids safe. They don’t get nearly enough credit for the work they do in the background that keeps our staff and kids safe and happy. Cliff Richard and his kitchen staff also deserve medals. Working short-staffed this year, they have fought tirelessly to provide the absolute best meals possible for our campers, and they routinely go above and beyond to accommodate any and all special needs.
Jen Scott will not break her record of only 14 empty beds this year, but I think she deserves a pass. She has performed absolute miracles to get kids registered and organized this year despite all the additional restrictions. Krys Ragland has several projects worth accolades. First, she completely rebuilt our archery program, which has been an absolute hit with the campers. Second, she has been coordinating the pre-call and nurse check-in efforts on Sundays. This year, in particular, our success has centered around how well we organize this portion of check-in, and I have been able to sleep easy at night due to her efforts. Finally, Elliott Gilbert has absolutely put his heart and soul into this summer. Elliott designed and implemented our two-week program, gave up his day off to stay and help with those campers on the Saturdays who were here, and coordinated efforts with our COVID-19 testing doctors to ensure we could even have camp.
I am leaving out a lot of incredible people — our Blue Crew (Darin, Maddie and Ashley), the trackers, the counselors, the counselors-in-training, the ropes facilitators, the nurses (Kaila and Ashley, in particular), the lifeguards, and more. I would love to designate space for each of their incredible efforts, but to do so, our Florida Elks Magazine editor, Rachael King, would have to give me all of FEYC’s space as well as all of Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services, and I don’t think Colleen would go for that. So let me just say, thank you, FEYC staff!
Speaking of being thankful, I would like to thank the FEYC Board of Directors for the opportunity to provide a Fourth of July celebration to the kids this year. And I am proud to announce that the first ever fireworks show at FEYC Summer Camp was a great success. The weather was touch-and-go all week — Tropical Storm Elsa pushed us to the very last night of the week. However, it finally relented, and we were able to pull it off. About 400 campers and staff members gathered in front of the Smith Center Friday night and ended their week with an absolutely stunning show including music, lights and fireworks that impressed even the Marion County fire marshal. And do you know what made it better than any show I’ve ever seen? The campers. From the youngest to the oldest, campers danced, cheered and high-fived new friends throughout the entire show. It was a truly wonderful way to end such a special week and to celebrate this great nation.
Our new two-week sessions have also been a hit. We’ve had great turnout, and the second week has provided a wealth of new activities for these campers. Whether their chosen focus is adventure, sports or roll-playing games, all activities for these kids have three components built in — creativity, nature and service. So, while the campers are simply enjoying their chosen activities, we are ensuring that they are also being exposed to elements that will help them exercise their minds, get in touch with the natural world, and develop habits of being thankful and giving back to others. The feedback from campers so far is that it’s been a blast. I can’t wait to see a lot of these kids come back as counselors-in-training!
As we finish out summer camp, I am really looking forward to beginning our leadership program with 40 select campers from August until May. I know it will allow us to continue to Inspire, Connect and Expand throughout the school year, and I will be sure to keep you posted!
Be sure to visit the Florida Elks Youth Camp Facebook page for weekly posts of pictures of our kids at camp!
Summer Camp 2021
Week 1 June 20-26
Week 2 June 27-July 3
Week 3 July 4-10
Week 4 July 11-17
Week 5 July 18-24
Week 6 July 25-31
Week 7 * Aug. 1-7
* Military Week: Dependents of veterans and/or active military attend for free!