What did summer 2020 mean to you?

"Even if everything is exactly the same thing next summer as it is right now, they will have Elmwood to look forward to. A north star."

It is hard to believe that camp closed over a month ago. While we are full speed ahead preparing to make 2021 our best summer yet, it is hard not to look back fondly and celebrate last summer’s accomplishments. Camp was a labor of love in 2020, and we were lucky to have the opportunity to create and lead Elmwood Outdoors.

Over the next three weeks, we are sharing with you thoughts from families and staff about the impact that Summer 2020 had on them.

At the end of the summer, we received countless letters about how camp was transformative for kids and parents alike. We cherished every single letter. There were way too many to share with you, so we picked two that we thought well represented the overall sentiments. Next week, we will share what the summer meant to our staff, and in the final week of this blog series, we will share how this summer impacted our year-round team.

Thank you to our entire community who allowed us to spend our summer together, outside.


It was Thursday night – 4 days before Elmwood Outdoors was to begin (and about 4 months since we entered lock-down) – and we opened the mail from camp. Inside the envelope was the expected information about drop off procedures, daily packing list, and other administrative matters. But when we saw what else was there, the tears came streaming down our faces. Right there, on an 8.5x11 piece of paper, in color, was the Elmwood Outdoors 5-week calendar! It was all there – Name Your Group Day; Tie-Dye Day; Camper-Counselor Show; Pool Dancing; even the Birthday Bunch! We felt a little silly having such an emotional reaction to a camp calendar, but it was in that moment that we realized this wasn’t just going to be camp in a pandemic, this was really going to be Elmwood! After months and months of virtual playdates, occasional scooter-riding/bike riding with 1 friend at a time, our child would be allowed to escape to her happiest place – 900 Dobbs Ferry Road.

In some ways deciding to allow our daughter to go to camp in the midst of a pandemic was very difficult. It sure has been a scary time; every decision is an exercise in risk assessment. So many questions flooded our minds: Would she be safe? Would we be safe? Would the experience be worth the risk? Would it work? Would camp have to shut down? If she had to stop going, would that be worse for her than not going at all? And more.

But when we thought about her previous 3 summers, the tremendous staff, and the care and love that Elmwood provides, the decision became easy for us. Nothing is guaranteed, but we decided that if anyone could make the 2020 summer special, it was Gregg & Hillari and the Elmwood family. And so, on July 13, we did the same thing we had done every summer since she was a preschooler – we trusted the magic of Elmwood… No that’s not quite right – We trusted the incredible hard work, dedication, care, tireless energy, love, compassion, thoughtfulness, kindness, and communication of the Directors, Leaders, and Staff that make the Elmwood magic possible.

Our trust paid off. Within the first 2 days of camp, an entirely new drop-off/pick-up procedure seemed to be functioning as if it were in place for decades. Our daughter’s smile was finally bursting out again and she was an ecstatic Rainbow Puppy Superstar. And over the 5 weeks, while somehow the rain stayed away, she learned cheers, songs, dances; made art projects; played in the pool; climbed; ran; experienced carnival; competed in the Tarplin Games; and made best friends. Every day she came home from camp joyful and exhausted. She gives everything she has to Elmwood every day, and it always gives her back more.

Thank you!!! You think of every detail of the summer experience. You hire the most amazing counselors and train them expertly. You and they demonstrate every aspect of the Elmwood 10, every day. We appreciate everything you have done.

And now comes the long wait before receiving next summer’s Calendar!



It’s hard to remember the emotional territory we were in back in the spring. But what I do remember is being sure you two would have to pull the plug on camp, and dreading the moment that email would come and hope for a bright spot in the darkness for our kids would be snuffed out. Yet it never came, and instead email after email infused with “we can do it!” lifted our spirits and made us think just maybe this is possible.

Still, we were sure five weeks ago that camp would be a tenuous thing, easily disrupted by the realities of our COVID world. Again, the disruptions never came. Instead, there have been art projects, excited retellings of Jerry’s stories, choreographed pool dances, and so, so much love for you two and your counselors.

In this season of intense disappointment - for us and the kids - and a series of “it’s not possible”s and “that’s too hard”s, it’s difficult to put into words how meaningful Elmwood was for our family this summer. It filled our kids with joy every day, and clearly it did that without adding great risk to their lives. Aside from the pleasure it gave us all this summer, it showed us what is possible going forward in our communities.

All that is to say, as we enter the incredibly tenuous school year with no idea what is going to happen in the classroom, or when the kids will see their grandparents, or when they will travel somewhere new, nothing is more meaningful than knowing that, even if everything is exactly the same next summer as it is right now, they will have Elmwood to look forward to again. A north star.

Thank you for all you do every year - but never more than now. It’s a special time no matter what, but you two and your staff outdid yourselves this year in contrast to what everyone else around you has achieved with the same ingredients.