With a bright and cheerful voice and smile, Camp Director Tara Costain launched the one-of-a-kind virtual camp: “Welcome to Anchor Camp 2020!” Beside her co-director Joanna Simpson, Tara began a 5 day fun packed virtual camp experience for 48 campers and 28 staff.
2020 was certainly a unique camp experience, with the directors of the camp launching into uncharted territories of virtual camp. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the camp could not meet in the usual way: sleeping bags, cabins, campfire fun and camp food! But FFI and Anchor Camp directors didn’t want to miss out on a summer to connect, grow, and build friendships so resiliently revised Anchor Camp content to make it digitally-compatible.
Anchor Camp 2020 entailed 5 days of camping fun, 112 Zoom cabin meetings, 5 camp wide webinars, and 62,973 zoom meeting minutes. Campers and staff were granted secure access to a Camper Portal where all cabin meetings and camper hall activities took place. The weekend before the camp began, campers received their “Camp-in-a-box” in the mail. The box included all the things needed for camp: craft supplies, notebook and prayers cards, recipes, party night surprise bag, camp schedule and of course the most important supply – personalized Anchor Camp T shirt.
Through a tremendous team effort of families, campers, technical support, staff and directors, Anchor Camp 2020 was a wonderful success and a super fun week.
Resilience, Optimism and Friendship
The theme of the camp was resilience, optimism and friendship. Talks, meditations and craft activities centered around these themes. Favorite faces from camp were included in the planned activities. Camp Medic Shelley Aarssen guided the campers in the activity of sewing a face-mask: teaching resilience to have fun and learn a new skill in the unexpected circumstances of a pandemic. Camp Cook Erika Hogan reminded campers to foster friendships and help serve around the home as she showed the secret of making the sugary butter spread called “Anchor Mud”. Music Director Aliegha Charette led the campers in songs by a campfire, karaoke-style. Campers were given a rare opportunity to go “Birding” (bird watching) with Will Huys illustrating a love of nature and true optimism to find treasures in the simple quiet moments of life.
Engaged by the Staff Director Maria Irizar, cabin staff (young women 16 years and older) were trained to engage their campers virtually, encourage friendships between campers who only met via their cabin zoom meeting, and get to know their campers as they would have in an ordinary camp setting. The 2020 Staff was out-of-this-world awesome: putting their hearts into building up the camp atmosphere and sharing aspects of Anchor camp with younger campers. Staff were able to develop themselves professionally by learning virtual etiquette and how to present digital material through online meetings.
One of Anchor Camp’s aims is to show how living virtues is joy-filled and fun, and that living a life of faith can be done in a very natural setting. Daily, the campers were able to hear a brief reflection on an aspect of their Christian life such as prayer, friendship, and Christian optimism. One evening, the campers participated in reciting the rosary together, around a virtual campfire. Each morning, Camp Director Tara started the day with an optimistic welcome and a daily offering.
Keeping the Anchor Spirit Alive
God willing, Anchor Camp will take place in-person in the summer of 2021. Directors and staff had it in their hearts to be sure the spirit of Anchor camp was kept alive this summer, even when they couldn’t camp together in their usual way. Fun aspects of camp like “The Guardian Angel Program” (writing notes of encouragement and friendship to a randomly selected camper), Talent Show, “Tuck Shop Prizes” (fun shop to spend “good habit” earned tokens), bedtime book reading, and glow sticks for Thursday night’s party were kept in the camp’s fun-packed schedule.