Esprit de Corps

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We accomplish so much more together. We balance one another. We are more creative. We solve problems more quickly. We generate a powerful esprit de corps!

This applies on so many levels for me right now: personally, at camp and in my larger community. As a local elected official, I remain very attune to larger societal issues. We have all been impacted by witnessing the current strife in our nation. Our rollercoaster of emotions that has been part of our lives for the past 3 months is exacerbated. We are desperate for some semblance of normalcy. As best I can tell, our daily flag ceremonies have been with us since Keystone was founded. The flag ceremony is one of the ways that we account for everyone in camp during our day. We have a roll call of cabin attendance and follow that with the raising or the lowering of the flag. It is a big deal as our girls grow older to be able to carry the flag and perform the raising and lowering. The Pledge of Allegiance to our flag is made each morning. As I recite the pledge, I challenge myself each time to reflect on the words I am saying. This is a profound time in the history of our nation, and I find the words of the last half of our pledge have never been more important to keep in the forefront:

One nation, under God,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

On Tuesday, I had the honor of walking side by side with our city police chief, our county sheriff, other elected officials and many citizens to demonstrate our unity around issues of justice and equity in our county and beyond. I truly love where I live. This is a safe, supportive community of caring citizens that maintains a strong esprit de corps, and I find this a parallel to our camp community.

I cannot tell you the powerful emotions we all felt as our staff arrived last weekend. Thinking we would never see this day just 12 weeks ago, it was thrilling to see the faces of our returning staff. Instantly, we felt hope, joy and love. We do what we do to build a strong, supportive community of confident and resilient women and girls. Yes, we are wearing masks, we aren’t hugging, we have been maintaining social distancing, but it is life-giving to be together. Our Keystone Camp community has always been one that values our differences. Each person at Keystone is a valuable member of our community. They each make a contribution that strengthens the fabric of our camp community. We seek to understand and appreciate each other for who we are and what we bring of ourselves and our life experiences to camp. Our shared time together at camp allows us to understand our larger world. Our friendships cross boundaries of race, socio-economic class, ethnicity and religion, and we are all stronger and more compassionate human beings because of our time together at camp. This esprit de corps buoys us in other areas of our lives.

The other profound element of our camp world right now is our alignment behind the common goal of opening camp. Staff has been cleaning, organizing, counting and testing everything from light switches to activity equipment. With the tremendous unknowns of early March and April, all had been paused. Now, we are in a race to the finish. Only 8 days to go! We want this summer to be as “normal” as possible. We want camp to look polished as it has in past summers. We want everything to be ready to go with the first camper arrival. With the help of our maintenance department, we are spearheading so many sub-contractors finishing up the jobs we had contracted for back in the late fall and early winter. We couldn’t open without Crabapple and Pisgah being finished. We couldn’t open without badminton courts. We have things to get DONE! We all feel as if we are working 24/7 to make summer happen, but we are sharing the load together.

We are excited to get camp underway, but we know that this is not a “normal” summer. I want to continue to communicate that there is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any place where people are present. We understand we are taking a risk. By choosing to attend camp this summer, you are also assuming risk. We are working with the latest information and protocols that are available to us. I cite Diane Tyrrell in that, “There is no such thing as a best practice, because there will always be a better practice.” We expect to see shifts in recommendations on procedures and protocols over the course of the next 9 weeks. Our commitment to you is to stay on top of the latest information and to work very closely with our public health department. Our nursing staff is AMAZING. Our Nursing Director, Eleanor Mathews, developed a COVID-19 camp pre-screening tool that the ACN is recommending to its membership. We are very proud that two of our nurses have had articles published in Compass Point, the quarterly publication of the Association of Camp Nursing (ACN). We are very fortunate to count several local nurses among our medical staff. Two are employed by our local hospital and 3 serve in our schools. Our nursing director is part of our administrative team and has been working with us since day one on our coronavirus protocols. Earlier today, all of our camp nurses were part of a zoom meeting. Our medical staff is aligned and working together as one.

With the help of our public health department, all staff were tested for the coronavirus this past week, and very happily, all were negative. This represents a snapshot in time. We remain vigilant in our procedures whenever our larger group gathers. We are figuring out meals, assemblies, evening programs, flag, etc. The green always lives a tough life in the summer, and I think we will be out there more than ever this year! Our staff has been so patient as we take temperatures, screen for symptoms and monitor handwashing and mask wearing. We are practicing all that we will be teaching our campers. Leading by example is the way we roll at Keystone!

Our shared human spirit, our esprit de corps, will carry us through the challenges we face. We are a team that believes in each other and our larger camp community.

“It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies.” - Thomas Paine