Colorado summer camp

Summer 2020 Update

Friday, July 31st, 2020
Dear Camp Families,

2021 is going to be a very important year. Not only because we are celebrating our 100th summer, but because children need what Cheley Camps provides. Our children have lost so much in the past six months. Education, physical activity, important life events, and connection with their peers to name a few. While Cheley can’t replace any of these losses, we can provide a challenging and nurturing natural environment for children to reconnect and reset.

In times of uncertainty, children need resilience. All of us are functioning with additional stresses as we explore the unknown. At Cheley, children learn how to dig deeper on a long hike, overcome their fears on a challenging horse, or trust a fellow camper on the high ropes course. They use this resilience to navigate the uncertainty of a pandemic as well.  Children need to develop the ability to connect with those from different cultures. Cheley has campers from over 45 states and 10 foreign countries every year. Children learn to appreciate, if not embrace, different cultures and ideas. They learn that they can have different views or different upbringing and still be friends. Children need time in the outdoors, away from screens. Cheley provides a unique environment where campers really connect. They share their feelings, have hard conversations, and learn how to really get to know someone. All of this without technology. With the prospect of remote learning for part or all the school year, a summer away is going to be even more important. We even noticed in our small programs that some campers seemed challenged to connect or engage in conversation. These skills are going to be vital to their ability to succeed.

We were fortunate in 2020 to offer some one-week camps – Trigger Bill Discovery Camps – to local campers. While we operated at a small fraction of our normal capacity (only 10 campers/unit), it allowed us to learn protocols, deliver a camp experience, and develop staff. The laughter in the dining room and singing from the lodges reminded us what camp should be like. As with many businesses, this has been a very challenging year for Cheley.
We are incredibly thankful for the outpouring of support through emails, phone calls, contributions, and the many families who were able to transfer their tuition to 2021. We are anticipating record enrollment after having waitlists in all our units for 2020. As always, we never recommend waiting to enroll. While we are planning to operate at full capacity, we also want to let families know that if we had to reduce our capacity for any reason, we would do so on a first-come/first-served basis (i.e. time and date of registration).

This was not how we planned to celebrate our 100th Summer. We worked extremely hard all spring to navigate the pandemic, but as Brené Brown shared in her Zoom commencement speech to the University of Texas, “The world does not ready itself for our plans.” The loss of a regular summer, and the situations that we, and all our families, are navigating, has inspired us to be even better next summer and to make the most of the opportunities we are given. Now more than ever before, children greatly need the camp experience. We look forward to seeing you in 2021!

Sincerely,
The Cheley Staff


Monday, June 8th, 2020

Dear Camp Families and Staff,

We hope this letter finds you well. Despite the numerous hurdles, we would find a path to camp after each obstacle. We have put together procedures to mitigate the risks, we were determined to do everything in our power to make this another magical summer, we wanted to be the light at the end of the tunnel, and as this giant machine is getting ready to take off, we are out of runway.

We are so sorry, but the time has come for Cheley Colorado Camps to cancel the summer of 2020. Even typing these words is difficult. Last fall, as we prepared to celebrate our 100th Summer, we had no idea what was coming. At the beginning, an advisor in the medical field said, “Wait as long as you can to make a decision, things are changing every day.” Unfortunately, the time has come and there are still too many unanswered questions for us to feasibly proceed.

Friday afternoon, plans were promising as we had a plan for testing, we were expecting to hear from Governor Polis and everything was falling into place. In the last two days, the environment has quickly changed. We are still waiting for finalized guidance from the State of Colorado, which was supposed to be shared with us at the end of the week. We have now been told it would be a week or two before we would even hear a decision from Governor Polis and we fear there will be a spike in cases. We can’t continue to wait nor can we ask our staff and camp families to wait. Testing, the unknown about how contagious it is among young people, the prevalence of asymptomatic cases, and so many other uncertainties make it impossible to proceed. As we make this decision, we take solace in knowing we gave it our best shot. 

What drove us to pursue this lofty goal was the need for camp. We hear stories about children who desperately need the camp experience right now. Providing the Cheley Experience is how we know how to help in a time when so much help is needed. We wanted to be part of the solution. We are a family that figures out how to “make it happen” and a family that returns to our mission about building resiliency in a challenging environment.

Our team has been amazing. At every challenge, each one of them found a way around the obstacle. When Wilderness First Aid training was canceled, we found a new trainer. When dining room capacities were reduced, we adjusted the plan. We solved the problem at hand.  We have written protocols, modified programs, adjusted the numbers…stuff that camp directors do every summer. These solutions were the path to providing the camp experience this summer. And yet there are still many solutions needed to feel certain to successfully proceed.

Our seasonal staff are incredible. You believe in our mission and our desire to bring an aspect of normalcy to our campers’ lives. We are sorry that we can’t continue because we realize you’ve made plans to be here, and that this is yet one more thing that has been upended in your life. Thank you for sticking with us and making sacrifices to try and make working here possible. Any of you that were planning on being here this summer, we extend our job offer to you for next summer.

Our camp families have been our inspiration. We realize this has been a challenging time for each of you. Almost overnight, all of our lives changed. Parents had to balance the jobs of teacher, coach, parent, spouse and employee. Children had to deal with so many losses. The stress in families with so much uncertainty has taken its toll. The calls and emails of support, concern, and frustration have poured in after each update. Most of us have been confused as to how to proceed with this virus. Some of you were pushing alongside us, and others were frustrated and disappointed by our pursuit of the summer. To each one of you and any staff who may have felt similarly, we apologize and ask for forgiveness and understanding. 

We prayed for strength, support, and guidance. “Adapt and proceed” and “may your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears” were our mantras. No different than technical climbing or hiking a challenging peak. You get to a tough spot and you adjust your route, or you take a water break and re-evaluate. Unfortunately, we have come to the part of the hike where the storm clouds are looming, and we can’t find a route that we can put our trust in. It is time to turn back and attempt the peak another day.

What does this look like for Cheley Camps? We are not completely sure. We have kept our eye on the peak and dedicated our energy to that goal. We are going to take a few days to connect with our camp families to say thank you for believing in us. We may be able to lead some horseback rides, offer some climbing, or allow you to come fish in the pond. Or we may just take the summer off. We will keep you posted on what we decide.

This past week after a frustrating afternoon, Jeff was on the phone with his family. It was bedtime and he was saying goodnight to each boy. When Jackson, their oldest son, was done saying goodnight, he said, “I am praying for you dad.” It was the highlight of an overwhelming, emotional week. He was probably praying for us to make it work. However, sometimes we must stop long enough to be able to hear our inner voice even when we don’t like the answer.    

In closing, we are grateful to each one of you. Hopefully, our commitment to figuring this out serves as an example of determination rather than hard-headed stubbornness. We have learned so many lessons over the past two months that we will have chapel talk material for years. We are worried about the impact we are seeing on our children, our families, and our world. This impact motivates us to dedicate ourselves to an amazing Summer of 2021. We look forward to connecting with many of you in the next few months and celebrating our 100th Summer next year. We will be in touch in a few days with the options for our camper families.

We will not be hosting a zoom webinar this evening.

Sincerely,
Jeff Cheley and Brooke Cheley-Klebe

View our Virtual Summer Camp Tour
Find out why Cheley is one of Colorado's top rated summer camps!