Dear Sugar Creek Friends and Families,
Since the pandemic began, the Sugar Creek staff and board have worked hard to complete many thorough and creative adaptations to our activities and facilities to exceed new safety standards. Adaptations continue based on new research and CDC recommendations.
As Christians, we believe God’s grace for us through Jesus Christ inspires us to love our neighbors, even when it means adopting some changes. Following Christ means respecting our neighbors’ right to health and life itself. Jesus, the ultimate example of love for others, tells us to have faith that God provides even as we care for one another, saying, “Go and do likewise.” As long as so many in our country continue to be at high risk of severe infection, and camps are at very high risk for outbreaks without some easy, basic measures, and the virus is tragically more prevalent and transmissible than even the summer of 2021, then fully accredited camps are looking to our trusted medical doctors, national medical experts, and up-to-date medical science, when questions pertain to medical topics. The CDC and ACA, as well as all local medical doctors in conversation with the staff and board of Sugar Creek are aware of the basic facts about how COVID spreads, which is primarily by airborne droplets which linger several hours after a person visits an indoor space.
Thankfully at Sugar Creek, which is a beautiful, vast outdoor camp facility, this means only a few activity adjustments are necessary to eliminate most of the risk. Face masks, especially approved N95 masks, are of course the biggest factor according to the CDC. It significantly reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others, especially in large-group indoor areas. In brief moments each day (such as using a restroom in a lodge as opposed to a smaller camp restroom, or going through the dinner line before dining outside), our guests will be in an indoor large group common space. In these times, which typically amount to about 10-20 minutes a day, masks will be used as the easiest and safest way to prevent large-scale consequences to our beloved campers, their families, and to the ongoing programs of your Bible camp ministries.
At Sugar Creek, we accept some level of transmission risk: campers do not need to mask with their cabin group (cohort) and counselor; the ACA in its extensive policies finds this an acceptably low risk level, which also lets camp programs and activities happen as normal. Other indoor activities are at high-risk for transmission especially when no safety is in place; tragically some (other) camps have had outbreaks and therefore needed to shut down and cancel kids from experiencing camp for weeks at a time this year.
Vaccines also greatly slow the spread, are saving lives, and are widely now available without cost. You will be glad to hear all our ministry staff are of course safely vaccinated, to protect themselves and others. Christian camps look to medical experts for guidance in keeping kids safe, having fun, and focusing our whole week on the same wonderful Christ-centered, youth-empowering, faith-building experiences as always. We are committed to newest evolving safety practices recommended by the CDC, state and local health departments, and professional guidelines for fully ACA-accredited camps.
Meals and program activities will be outside and in open air shelters even more so than in the past, and among small cabin groups at their own picnic tables and campsites. If weather or other factors require it, meals and activities may simply be adjusted if necessary to avoid sharing air among different cabin groups. Surfaces will be cleaned frequently with ample opportunities to wash and sanitize hands. Extra staff members will be employed and time allotted to clean and disinfect surfaces. Hand-washing stations and/or sanitizing posts will be at all building entrances, near other touch-points, and even at shared outdoor spaces like campfire rings. Sugar Creek has upgraded to no-touch paper towel dispensers across the camp. All large-group activities, including campfires, are being adapted to allow for “above and beyond” outdoor physical distancing. As in summers past, a nurse or doctor will be present each week to direct our health office in accordance with ACA and COVID safety guidelines.
As a fully ACA-accredited camp, Sugar Creek has for decades met hundreds of rigorous health and safety standards. Since the pandemic began, we have integrated 100+ additional pages of new national standards for COVID safety at residential summer camps, written by medical doctors familiar with camping ministries, community health leaders, and camp experts in consultation with the CDC. Practices are very specific. Guidelines cover everything from at-home child pre-screenings before camp, to how to best clean horse saddles during a pandemic.
These are only a few of the many pandemic safety practices at summer camp for this time of unprecedented, ongoing global challenge. There will be more, as we adapt and learn from medical and camping ministry experts and as national guidelines change to reflect new findings.
Most COVID safety actions are behind-the-scenes and may go unnoticed by our campers. That’s a good thing! We want camp to still look and feel like Sugar Creek. Great friendships will be formed, self-confidence built, life skills strengthened, the Bible taught, and God praised in awesome, FUN ways! While no institution, anywhere, can prevent every risk or promise zero risk of virus transmissions, we have a great track record with zero COVID cases across the summer camp seasons of 2020 and 2021. As places of Christian ministry, nonprofit camps – much like schools and businesses – are working hard to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of this terrible virus, until it is no longer such a factor in the world.
For over 50 years, children at Sugar Creek have been blessed by decentralized small group villages and 600+ acres of open-air spaces to roam and enjoy. With a focus on cabin group cohorts, instead of large central groups, this sacred place has always, intentionally, provided more physically distant small group ministries. Here kids can finally avoid getting “lost in the crowd.” Guests enjoy a beautiful expanse of forests, mile-long streams, high prairies and deep valleys. This summer, youth are enjoying new outdoor adventures and caring personal attention from trained, faith-filled young adult role models in small group settings – and discern their own callings in the classic, humorous, meaningful, uplifting, classic Bible camp adventures…
During the pandemic, for a while longer, some of the ways we serve alongside one another and practice loving hospitality may need to look differently, but the how and why of great outdoor ministry stays the same.
In all of this, your Sugar Creek staff, board, and volunteers are working hard so that you – our campers – will have the loving Christ-centered communities, quality relationships, outdoor adventures, prayerful stargazing, and personal connections that make a week at Bible camp so meaningful. Thank you for your help and your support in making this happen.
The Sugar Creek Bible Camp Staff and Board of Directors