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I spend the early morning each day playing Spelling Bee in the New York Times. My husband and I have a friendly competition to see who reaches the “Genius” level first. The game tasks you with spelling words from the 7 letters provided. There are days when I find myself feeling like I am back studying for the SAT. Profundity is a 10 point word on Spelling Bee. Great depth of emotion is an important awareness right now.

It is impossible to not be happy today. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, music has been playing, and all that can be heard are happy conversations and laughter. This session has gotten off to a rousing start with so many returning campers. Over 70% of these girls have been here a minimum of 4 summers. We will be passing out 15 Five Year Blankets at our Sunday campfire. We know these girls, and they know us. They have ridden the rollercoaster with us; not knowing whether or not camp would happen for a couple of months. Then, when camp was a go, they had to wait 3 more months to get here. The enthusiasm we saw on opening day was unparalleled. What a way to finish up this historic summer!

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We said farewell to our Key Blue girls just a few minutes ago. The counselors will be cleaning thoroughly in anticipation of the Key Yellow campers arriving on Sunday. Now that we are staring down our final week, we have started to breathe just a bit. We are mindful of our 7 remaining days and our need to stay vigilant. We have certainly been much cleaner and healthier than ever before. It is easy to become a mask and hand-washing advocate after running camp this year! It has also been fun to watch the evolution of masks. We started with nondescript and now we have Winnie the Pooh, shark teeth, tie-dye and personal names adorning the masks.

Camp has been important on so many levels this summer. We had to figure out if we could pivot our operations under this communicable disease threat. It was hard to conceive that a 100+ year old business was going to lose to COVID-19 after surviving polio, and we did it. Most importantly for us, though, was what camp meant to our girls. We were aware of what our girls were losing while quarantining at home for weeks and months. We are in the business of preserving the joys of childhood, and there had been very little joy leading up to the summer.

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We have been overwhelmed by the joy of our girls this summer. The smallest treat has brought the biggest smiles. The gratitude expressed by our girls for all that our counselors and staff have done for them is unprecedented. How fabulous it is to see our girls learn to put these feelings into words and share them with those responsible. We have also received an outpouring of support from our campers’ parents. Never before have so many parents pulled into camp for pick up with tears of gratitude and thanksgiving for their daughter’s 2 week experience, and several of the thank you notes from them have brought tears to our eyes.

This has been a summer of figuring it all out together. Never before, have I been more grateful to run Keystone, and never before have we felt the true strength of our partnership with our camp families. We knew this would be a historic summer. We just didn’t anticipate that the emotional rewards would be so profound.