Programming during COVID-19 can be challenging, and this Summer heat can wear you down. I love special guests, and there is nothing better than having your local fire department come out to your camp and spray the campers and staff. Let me take you back to when you were in school as a student, and you had a substitute teacher. Most people would get excited because you knew that this would be a different day, and possibly a movie would be put in. This is how I think campers think when they see a special guest arrive at camp! They get a new voice/person, and their day is different. Your staff are entertained, and the programming is off their shoulders for at least that activity period. They can sit back and relax, and like this event, they can get in on the fun with the kids as a participant. It is important to not forget about your staff. They are in this summer heat, and they are going through a lot mentally and socially as well. Let them be a kid again, and run through the water, and forget about the crazy world for a few minutes.
There are several ways to coordinate special guests during COVID-19. Talk with your board members and members of your YMCA or community. You may hear some great ideas. Budgets are tight, and there are many free things you can have inside your camp. Police department, Fire department, EMS, High School and College Career Advisors, and local business leaders. If you have them inside your camp, make sure they are screened, and their temperature is taken. Then have them speak to your groups, have them rotate between the individual groups you have. It is important for them to see these leaders in person, ask questions, and inspire them for the future. I also love having old staff coming back to speak to the campers. Many of my staff are now in professional careers, and want to help inspire the future youth. When we focus on youth development, it is important for you to teach these campers that they must work hard, and set goals. When they see and hear actual stories, it helps push them to succeed.
I heard this quote the other day, “Be teachable. You’re not always right.” Devotion time with your campers is also important. Share quotes with them, you are also like a special guest. You have the amazing opportunity to inspire them as well. It is important to not take that for granted. With all the craziness around them, please take the time to pause. Speak, listen, and reflect. Make devotion time fun as well. Use pictures, real life stories from your childhood, and make sure there are appropriate for your age group too. Special guests and your staff make camp memorable. I have included this in the Resource Zone and featured under Youth Programming.