What a summer 2020 turned out to be! The good, the bad, the ugly — and the grateful.

During this pandemic, we are inspired by so many heroes rising up to meet numerous and mounting challenges. We see and hear their stories — on air, in print, and online — everyday. We see nurses, doctors, and hospital support staff working countless hours in a row. We read about grocery store employees working to keep food on all our tables. We witness volunteers preparing meals and providing much-needed company to the home bound. And, of course, we are proud of our first responders, who these many months later still often work around the clock.

At camp we have our own heroes — those who endured ups and downs, invested considerable time and expense, and braved the stress to open summer camp safely amid COVID-19. 

Yes, my camp staff were aware of the bad and the ugly every day, and many a prayer was uttered. But in all the mess, good still happened. In these unprecedented times, I found myself most grateful for a few heroes who I proudly call my own: Camp Marymount’s year-round staff — along with the 75 fine young men and women who made commitments to our camp for the 2020 summer season, our counselors, maintenance, and kitchen staff, and support and programming team. Our staff is paid very little, as they commit to the mission more than the money. And this year, they were paid even less because we canceled our first two-week session. Even so, they still wanted to work.

We told them they couldn’t leave the camp property on their days off. They still wanted to work. 

We informed them they would be tested for COVID-19 several times and the experience would not pleasant. They still wanted to work.

We shared that the program was drastically changing and told everyone about the new strict policies to be followed. Our staff accepted the changes 100 percent and brought with them an enthusiastic energy and a creative ingenuity to ensure Camp Marymount 2020 would be one of the best summers ever. There were risks, challenges, and added duties on top of already hard work — and my staff still said, “We want to work.” I am indebted to them all for making Marymount happen.

This summer, everyone hunkered down and worked diligently to bring a taste of freedom back to so many kids. A careful following of guidelines coupled with our staff’s love for our campers helped bring back a strengthened sense of community. For at least a few weeks, around 500 campers had a chance to experience their “old normal.” At the same time, they got a glimpse of some of the changes they would see at their schools this year. They had fun and became better prepared for a possible return to class.

I am so grateful for my heroes — at Camp Marymount and across the country — who, in one way or another, made camp happen in a time when the odds were against us. Most of all, I am thankful for the lessons and the blessings that found me during the summer of 2020.

Tommy Hagey is the executive director at Camp Marymount in Tennessee. This column is adapted from his letter to the editor that appeared in the August 17, 2020 issue of the Brentwood Home Page.

Photo courtesy of Camp Marymount, Fairview, Tennessee.

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