Koutou Hao proudly shows off her bull’s-eye. The 2021 camping season came with great hurdles, but “we rolled up our sleeves at Camp Howard and found ways to circumvent our issues,” said Sr. Krista. (Courtesy CYO/Camp Howard)
Koutou Hao proudly shows off her bull’s-eye. The 2021 camping season came with great hurdles, but “we rolled up our sleeves at Camp Howard and found ways to circumvent our issues,” said Sr. Krista. (Courtesy CYO/Camp Howard)
After sitting out the 2020 summer camping season due to COVID-19, Camp Howard staff and youths were ready to go in summer 2021. Coming back from a year like 2020 was not as easy as one would hope, but we did the best job we could.

I read about camps across the country, and the issues they were dealing with were similar. We could identify with a lack of staff, supplies and food shortages. Many camps closed for the summer. But we rolled up our sleeves at Camp Howard and found ways to circumvent our issues.

The most important ingredient in a successful summer camp experience is the counselor assigned to a camper’s cabin. That bond is very important and the way the staff member relates to the kids. You can see it as youths walk across the camp and as they sit by the campfire. The respect for one another, the sense of keeping campers safe, the smiling, laughing and fun experienced.

Generally, staff begin the summer with staff training, then stay for six weeks to help us facilitate the summer camp season.

This summer, the average staff worked about three to four weeks, and very few were in for the entire summer. We were in constant hiring mode, training mode and of course supervision mode.

Through the diligence of the leadership staff, we were able to hire all the staff we needed, but it took a great deal of effort.

We are grateful to all staff who helped during the 2021 camping season; they really make the camp.

Food and supplies were a second issue this summer. Fortunately, Camp Howard does not depend on food delivery, and we have always picked up our own food. It saves us thousands of dollars each summer, and it’s allowed us to be flexible and successful in acquiring needed materials. That is not to say it was easy! For the first time we had to shop for staples at up to five stores each week instead of one. Thanks to the ingenuity of our kitchen staff, we were able to meet the needs of the camp all summer.

The behind-the-scenes tasks were difficult, but the mission of the camp — making great memories for kids — was undeniably successful. Every camper I spoke with loved being with friends, interacting and taking part in camp activities. They had been so bored and isolated because of the pandemic that getting out of the house and into nature in the wonderful cabins and activities at Camp Howard was just what they needed to rebuild their inner cores.

I had the opportunity to teach archery one day at camp and spent a lot of time with boys and girls excited to be there. I watched them as they took joy in the activity and without exception gave thanks for making camp happen this year. They had a deep sense of gratitude for the fun, excitement and adventure for which they had longed. I cannot say enough about the wonders the camp does in adding confidence and putting a smile on the face of a kid.

— Sr. Krista von Borstel, executive director of Catholic Youth Organization/Camp Howard