In March, just days after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic, Holt Camp made the difficult and heartbreaking decision to suspend the 2020 camp season for the safety and well-being of campers and camp staff. However, as we grappled with the conclusion, we realized the unique opportunity this summer presented. So for the next twelve weeks leading up to the summer, Holt’s post adoption team began developing a new alternative camp program, Holt Camp at Home!
For the first time ever, Holt Camp did not take place in person, but instead it went virtual. During the course of four weeks, I was fortunate to witness nearly 400 Adoptees, ages 9 to 17, participate in camp this summer.
It was wonderful to see campers, new and returnees, from across the country meet and connect on Zoom. Many of these newfound friendships have even continued outside of camp!
Each day of Holt Camp began with music playing in the background while the camp staff welcomed campers onto the Zoom call. Each session was two hours long and packed with various activities to help campers stay engaged. All the activities the campers participated in were connected to the adoption topic of the day such as, community, identity, adoption language, or changes. Some favorite activities included, scavenger hunts, Mad Libs, and a Zoom-out game, where we zoomed in on a picture and campers needed to guess what it was as we slowly zoomed out. We also utilized Zoom’s breakout room feature that divided all the campers into small groups every day. Each camp day was aimed to be fun and lighthearted, mixed with components that encouraged campers to reflect on their adoption and experiences as Adoptees.
While there are countless highlights from Holt Camp at Home, there are a couple that stand out. The first was seeing Adoptees having fun and enjoying the shared space with others just like them.
Whether they were being asked to dance the Macarena, play tic-tac-toe, or share something interesting they learned from their small group discussions, campers were willing to participate while laughing and smiling through it all.
Another notable highlight from camp is how accessible the program was to families. In past years, physical distance and financial burdens often limited Adoptees from attending camp in person. Since Holt Camp went virtual this summer, campers only needed a technological device in order to participate, and there was no fee to attend.
This summer, we were also able to offer Zoom calls for camp parents and guardians in the evenings after the camp day. In these sessions, Holt Camp staff collaborated with social workers from Holt’s Post Adoption Coaching and Education (PACE) program. The parent sessions were aimed to provide parents and guardians an opportunity to connect with other camp families, have discussions related to camp and/or adoption, and have their questions answered.
It was also wonderful to be able to serve Adoptees from more states than ever this year! In past summers, the in-person camps have served Adoptees living in states near our five camp locations. However, this year, we had Adoptees from 38 different states! While we hope we can return to in-person camp next summer, we are excited to take these learnings to continue providing more virtual programming for Adoptees in the future.
While I was saddened that we were not able to get together in person, I was grateful for the opportunity to bring Holt Camp to Adoptees in the comfort of their homes this summer. This summer was not our typical camp season, but because of our amazing campers and their families, our virtual Holt Camp was still a fun and meaningful time. Holt Camp at Home would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our awesome camp team, which includes the adult Adoptee camp counselors, our amazing camp registrar Pame Chow, the PACE social workers, and Holt’s post adoption department. Thank you to everyone who was a part of this unique experience, and for making summer 2020 an amazing and unforgettable year of camp!
Joli Hanlon | Camp Director