By Jennifer Kronholm Clark
The entrance hill is awash in wildflowers, pink and yellow and white. Orange traffic cones bar the driveway, and signs direct visitors to call ahead.
At this time of year, the camp is usually bustling with pre-summer staff working to get the grounds ready for campers and administrative staff busily preparing for Staff Development Week.
But this year, all is quiet. The normal hustle of the season has moved online.
On May 1, Executive Director the Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer and the three Bridge Conference Ministers of the Southern New England Conference announced
that Silver Lake was cancelling its 2020 in-person summer camp program due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Silver Lake’s first priority has always been, and continues to be, the health and safety of our campers, staff, and volunteers,” they wrote. “With prayerful discernment, it became clear that providing an authentic Silver Lake overnight summer program was not possible this year.”
In the wake of this announcement, Silver Lake has been overwhelmed with the positive support of our community. Alumni, parents, and volunteers voiced their appreciation for Silver Lake’s commitment to safety and the well-being of the global community in emails, social media comments, and phone calls.
“Making the decision about the summer was both incredibly difficult and very obvious,” said Ryan. “I am filled with hope knowing the best way we can share God’s love this summer is to keep our campers, families, volunteers, and staff safe by not gathering physically for camp.”
Those who had already registered for 2020 were given the option to receive a full refund, to roll over their deposit to 2021, or to convert their payments into a donation. More than 100 of those initial registrations were converted to at least partial donations, resulting in gifts of $13,500.
Other Silver Lakers showed their support through donations as well. Since the announcement on May 1, Silver Lake has received more than $26,000 in independent donations, totaling nearly $40,000 in donations in a month.
“Silver Lake is not going anywhere!” said Ryan. “I can say that with confidence because of the love and support our community has shown for this life-changing ministry. Thank you to so many of you who have given. It is by widening the pool of givers that Silver Lake will continue to thrive.”
Silver Lake has every intention of running in-person summer camp in 2021, with updated policies and procedures to ensure all participants stay healthy.