Many camps and members of the summer camp industry refer to the Summer of 2020 as the "Lost Summer." We recognize that is exactly how it feels to many boys and their parents but let us look back on Chikopi's Summer of 2020.
On May 19, Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, announced, "overnight camps would not be allowed to operate in the province due to COVID-19." Here in South Florida, schools, shops, restaurants, parks, gyms had already been closed for two months. Food shelves were bare. We were under a nightly curfew, not allowed to leave our homes unless it was deemed essential. Nessie was only allowed to walk 200m from home.
But being camp people, especially northern Ontario camp people, we have 100 years of experience on how to make the best out of the worst. Every summer, we are confronted with problems and turn them into opportunities. It was nothing new to Chikopi to face a challenge like COVID and survive. So in keeping with tradition, Teagan, Nessie, and I decided to get in the Suburban and come what may, head to the border. As we drove north, the Ontario Government loosened the border restrictions just enough that we were confident we would be permitted to cross. We were correct; after a short time answering questions, we crossed the border at Syracuse and headed for Chikopi.
We entered our two weeks of quarantine. Neil and Sherri had been at camp the weekend before our arrival and left food and supplies in the MainHouse for us. They had already shaken off the cobwebs and awakened Chikopi. The shutters were off, the fridge, freezer, water, and hydro were on. They knew it would be dark when Teagan and I arrived at an empty Chikopi, so they left the lights on for us as a welcoming beacon.
We cut grass with the 1965 Grass Burner, the 2015 John Deere, and the Stihl Weed Whacker during our two weeks of quarantine. At one point, we used up all the petrol in camp. Luckily for us, Mr. Martin's son-in-law was at the cottage and generously went into the Bait and Tackle to fill our petrol cans. When we ran out of milk for our tea, Brenda dropped some off in the cooler at the entrance.
Bob's family and the Aref, Lawson, Osman, O'Sullivan, Ovis, Swoyer, and Taylor families, donated dollars. Because many of our Chikopi alumni are amazing, we welcomed several volunteers who donated their time and supplies to fix and repair. Colin, Bronis, and Sebastian built a new walkway to the cabin line. Along with Colin, Patrick, Sean, and Colin, they built a new ramp to the swim shack. Yes – that was three Colin's on camp at one time! Matt and Liam installed a shower in the Staff House. Paul and Sebastian sanded then varnished the doors of the MainHouse. Dave, Brett, Suzanne, Ray, Sebastian, Neil, Colin, and Sherry moved huge boulders to the entrance. Colin gave all the camp vehicles their annual service. Together, we cleared the backfield, cleaned out the tool shed, the Carl Crossman Garage, and the PJ Library and Game Room. Murray and Yvonne installed a new gate post and re-graded the entrance. As I type, Mac is repairing one dozen Adirondack chairs. By far, the most exceptional contribution was made by Neil and Sherry. They drove to Chikopi every weekend for five months, often accompanied by their sons Colin and Blair. They cleaned, repaired, but, most of all, ensured everything at Chikopi was as it should be.
As 2020 Canadian Thanksgiving approaches, you may be thinking that 2020 did not give you much to be thankful for. But for Teagan and I, we are blessed and immensely Thankful. We may not have opened Chikopi's doors in 2020, our 100th Anniversary, but, because of family, friends, and some extraordinary alumni, we know the light at Chikopi is still on. Let that light be your beacon, and we will look forward to welcoming you back in 2021.