Camp Courageous closes for summer due to COVID-19

Due to the spread of COVID-19 and the susceptibility of campers coming to Camp Courageous, the organization made the difficult decision to close for the summer. Several events in the spring were also cancelled or postponed. (Photo courtesy of Camp Courageous)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Last week, Camp Courageous in Monticello announced some devastating news…Due to the spread of COVID-19, the camp, which was set to serve 10,000 campers this year, had to close down for the summer.

     “Taking into consideration the high number of summer campers and staff who travel in from all across the country and the world, as well as the health-vulnerable nature of the campers that are served, myself and the camp’s Board of Directors felt it was in the best interest of all to cancel summer sessions,” Camp Courageous CEO Charlie Becker said. “This decision was not mad lightly, but safety has always been the number one priority of Camp Courageous. We sincerely look forward to the day campers, staff, and volunteer return.”

     Becker has been with Camp Courageous for 41 years, and has never seen something like this, a widespread pandemic, impacting every level of Camp: volunteers, campers, staff, and financial.

     “This is hitting us on ever level,” he said.

     Becker said he seldom remembers a time when an entire week would get cancelled, let alone the entire summer season.

     In 2009, MD (muscular dystrophy) camp was cancelled in June due to spread of Swine Flu.

     In March of this year, the MD association contacted Camp Courageous about cancelling this year. Becker said that started the ball rolling to have the conversation about closing.

     This decision has been on Becker and the BOD’s minds for a while now, definitely in the back of their minds knowing their campers were among the most vulnerable and susceptible.

     “It’s tough but people’s lives are impacted,” said Becker.

     Before anything was finalized, Becker met with department heads to get their opinions on the matter. Then he brought it all to the BOD.

     “They endorsed this decision 100 percent,” he said.

     Camp Courageous then made the formal announcement to its campers, as well as other seasonal camps throughout the state.

     “I wanted other camps to know what we did so they didn’t think they were on their own,” he said of the courtesy call.

     Forty people (camp employees and their families) live at Camp Courageous. Seasonal staff and counselors also live at Camp for an extended period of time.

     Becker said they sadly had to furlough program staff beginning in April. They were encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits.

     Some of Camp’s volunteers and staff continue to volunteer their time by posting videos and educational opportunities for people to do on Camp’s social media pages.

     “They continue to have a love of Camp and remain dedicated,” praised Becker.

     During the summer months, Camp sees about 100 counselors, as well as 30-plus volunteers. They were all affected by the news as well.

     “We wanted to make an early decision so they could plan what to do,” noted Becker.

     Some were given room and board if needed due to travel restrictions to return home.

     In addition, Camp staff started an assistance fund to financially help those facing hardships as they tried to get home. Two volunteers received aid to fly back to California.

     Prior to this decision, Camp also cancelled its spring season, as well as its travel program, “Courageous Travels.”

     “That was the first thing to go with airports shutting down,” Becker said of the travel program.

     Their last trip was in early March.

     Last summer, Camp served 9,500 campers. Becker said they were on track to reach a goal of 10,000.

     Camp also had to cancel a couple of fundraising events, and postponed the ever-popular “Cruisin’ for Camp Courageous” from May to September. The Manchester Garage Sale is also closed until further notice. Private events at Camp, such as weddings, were also cancelled.

     This news means Camp is closed through mid-August. Becker said they wanted to take caution and not return too soon.

     “We just have a skeleton group that still comes out here to work,” he said of keeping the business running.

     While so many people in the community and beyond have supported Camp over the years in endless ways, Camp is now paying that forward. Volunteers have been making facemasks and donating food to hospitals and medical people working on the frontlines.

     “That’s the nature of our personnel,” said Becker, “to help others.”

     Camp’s nurse, Jenn Guyer, went to Jones Regional Medical Center to be of some help there.

     Becker said they’ve encouraged their staff and volunteers to “go out and do for others” right now, where the need is the greatest.

     “For so many campers, the highlight of their year is coming to Camp Courageous,” noted Becker. “This doesn’t seem fair, but on the other side, this could be a tragedy (noting the spread of COVID-19).”

     Becker said campers came out because they enjoyed time away from home, time with people experiencing similar disabilities, and time to socialize with others. It also gave their loved ones and families some respite time, too.

     “People have been coming here for decades,” he said of the long-standing relationship people have with Camp Courageous.


Subscriber Login