From the Director’s Desk (by Michelle "Konk" Roberts)

Posted On: Friday, July 17, 2020

Sharing the decision-making process for Cairn’s 2020 season

So what now?

It’s been two months since the Government of Ontario announced that overnight camps would be unable to run this season. Two months since we knew for sure that the summer of 2020 would look very different from any other summer in camp’s history. While we knew that this was the best way to keep our community and province safe, it was hard.

But as days and weeks have passed the hard got a little easier. We discovered just how creative and resilient our community is. We took advantage of having a virtual platform to cross oceans and span decades allowing us to reconnect with old friends and welcome new ones. We’ve played together, sung together, and celebrated together. We’ve come together, not in person but in spirit, to help make that hard just a little easier.

We’ve also taken the time to make decisions on what the summer of 2020 would look like since we weren’t able to run camp. I want to take some time to share this plan with you and to talk about how we got there.

The Process

When COVID-19 hit and Ontario went into a state of emergency this March, the Camp Board, myself, and the year-round staff team started planning. 

We started with the possibilities. No idea was too far “out there” - we discussed offering a partial season, running at reduced capacity, renting out cabins, only having family camp, designing a day camp, using camp as a tent and trailer site, creating virtual camps, and anything else you can imagine. 

Then, just to make sure we weren’t missing something, we spent time talking to other camps, consulting with the Presbyterian Church and the Canadian and Ontario Camping Associations, and looking at the response of other related industries. 

From all of this we came up with outlines for each of our potential scenarios - and then got down the nitty-gritty. 

This is where Excel spreadsheets and I got very friendly. The Camp Board and I spent some serious time looking at the numbers. Projections were drawn up for the next week right through to 2022. Potential income streams were assessed, expenses were calculated, cashflow was analyzed, and financial feasibility was measured. We had weekly Board meetings, stayed in constant contact with our local health unit, and listened with hopeful ears to every government announcement.

Ultimately though, all of our decisions came down to three grounding factors:

  1. How can we continue to fulfill our mission in these very different circumstances? How can we continue to provide a welcoming, inclusive community where all can learn, grow, and experience God’s love?

  2. What can we do to keep our community, province, and country safe?

  3. What do we need to do to ensure Cairn’s future so that our children, and children’s children will be able to experience the life-changing experience of camp?

When we applied those three factors it became clear to us.

The Plan for 2020

Virtual Programs

If you haven’t heard, we are running virtual camp programs this summer for kids and teens ages 3 to 17. Our three online programs - “Pee Wee”, “Camp, Camp Wherever You May Be”, and “LEAP Leadership Program (Lead with Empathy, Act with Purpose)” - have been designed intentionally to promote opportunities for campers to build new and maintain old friendships, develop meaningful relationships with staff leaders, practice living in a stimulating faith community, and have the chance to be meaningfully engaged in activities with their peers. 

You can find more information about each of these programs at 

2020 Site Rejuvenation Project

While a “summer off” was never in our plans, we decided to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation and take this time to practice our stewardship. What is stewardship? If you responded ‘one of the 4S’s’ you are absolutely correct! It’s often the ‘S’ that campers have the most difficulty grasping. The definition of stewardship is ‘the job of taking care of something’. But even this seems abstract to campers struggling to understand. So what does it really mean to be a steward? It means leaving something better than you found it.

This summer we are going to be stewards of our camp property. We are not only going to take care of the beautiful 197 acres that we are blessed to call home: we are going to leave it better than we found it.

In a regular season, we open the site in April when the ice is still melting, and close at the end of October with the hope of beating the first snowfall. In between, there are only sporadic days where the site is empty of guests. From rentals and schools in the spring, through camp in the summer, to weddings and retreats in the fall, we are in full operational mode. This makes it challenging to take on any projects that disrupt the main areas of camp. So, this year, we are going to demo, dig, and repair! 

Digging up the driveway to remove those pesky boulders and create drainage? Yes please. Giving the kitchen a facelift with new drywall, and a few fresh coats of paint? Absolutely. Opening up the Breezeway for repairs? No problem! When we welcome our camp family back home in 2021, it will be to a site that is better than we left it.

How can you help?

So many of you have reached out to ask how you can help camp this summer and we would love to take you up on your kind offer. Here is how you can help camp this summer:


Help us be stewards of our camp property and donate to our Site Rejuvenation fund. Donations can be made online at or through our camp office ([email protected], 705-767-3300). Or join our next fundraising event, The Cairn Euchre Classic - a virtual Euchre tournament. Find out more at

Spread the word about virtual camp

Check out our virtual program schedule at Follow Cairn on Facebook and Instagram so you can share our social media posts with your friends and family. Know someone with kids age 3-16 who are looking for stimulating activities for their kids this summer? Send them the link to our summer programs page to help us spread the word about Cairn’s programs.


Have some time on your hands? Cairn has a number of projects, both on-site and online, for which we would love your help. Wait, on site, did you say? Yes. We are currently accepting a limited number of on-site volunteers to help Little Dipper complete our 2020 site stewardship projects. In order to ensure the safety of our staff and community all on-site visits must be pre-approved by the directing team and adhere to all health and safety standards. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Robynne “Mapes” Howard at [email protected].

We are blessed to have the support of an amazing camp community. Thank you for your willingness to give, support and care for Cairn and our community.

Yours in service,

Michelle "Konk" Roberts
[email protected]

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