A group of campers who are blind and low vision explore flora at Enchanted Hills Camp while the sunrays peek through redwood trees in the background.

By taking a pause, Enchanted Hills Camp will help flatten the curve

Dear friends and supporters,

For almost a year, we’ve been preparing for the biggest and most fun-filled summer ever at Enchanted Hills Camp for this, our 70th birthday year. We’ve nearly completed the new pool bathhouse, spiffed up the dining hall and its commercial kitchen, deepened our lake and stocked it with fish and cleared away the last piles of debris from the 2017 fires. We’re on track to begin building a half-dozen replacement cabins in lower camp later this year. We’re also midway through a process with Napa County which will give us the permits we need to finish the camp-wide rebuild after the fire. It’s been such a good year in fact, that we committed to bring the entire world of blind camp leaders to EHC in 2021 to show off what we have built and to lead the field in designing the best blind camp programs anywhere.

Then, just three weeks ago, California counties were shut tight in a massive effort to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. Early reports this week show that the heroic isolation actions by Californians in particular are making a difference in the virus spread.

We at the LightHouse have known for some weeks that a decision was looming about whether the epidemic and government regulations would allow us to host our usual 600-plus blind campers, their families, staff and volunteers this summer. We hoped the epidemic would have burned through California by our traditional June start to our summer season. One-by-one, though, organizations are realizing that it may not be possible to host group events this summer. From the Olympics to the Democratic Convention, from the World Blind Union conference to Wimbledon, and the American Council of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind conventions, most are deferring their group gatherings until next year.

Camp Director Tony Fletcher and LightHouse leadership wrestled with these realities as the weeks dragged on. Could we screen campers entering camp to keep everyone safe? The medical facts are that people can harbor the virus for several days without showing symptoms and be infectious during that time. The virus can linger on surfaces for several days. Could we imagine keeping a six-foot distance between 100 campers and staff all week long? Most importantly, we couldn’t bear the heartache if even one camper contracted COVID at Enchanted Hills. To implement real protective measures at camp, we believe, wouldn’t make it camp at all. The closeness, camp spirit, hand-on-hand instruction, the heartfelt hugs and adventurous athleticism – none of this would be possible under current government guidelines.

Accordingly, in an abundance of effort to keep our community safe, for the first time in 70 years we’ve decided to skip the entire summer sessions of EHC. There will be no gatherings of any kind at camp until September 2020 at the earliest. We’re heartbroken to have to deliver this news to the thousands of people who have thrilled to EHC over the years and will thrill to it again when the epidemic is over.

If you are one of those hundreds of people who have already made reservations for your EHC summer, you have a few options. You can:

  • Get a full refund.
  • Apply your deposit to your stay during the 2021 summer season.
  • Donate what you might have spent at camp to our fire rebuild fund.

And you can participate in several distance camper events via Zoom as you’ll see below.

For information about your personal situation please call Alyah Thomas at 415-694-7345 or email her directly at athomas@lighthouse-sf.org.

With camp closed this summer, we’ve suddenly found a way to make excellent use of the rare circumstance of having camp empty during summer. We now plan to use the season to dig a massive 3,000-foot-long trench to finally underground all the overhead electric wires now strung haphazardly throughout camp. The trench project will remove fire-causing danger from these overhead wires and will give us stable and reliable power not threatened by falling branches and weather. We’ll fill the trench with new high-pressure water mains for fire hydrants, new pipes to service larger water storage tanks, with state-of-the-art optical fiber for reliable phone and internet service and use the new course to help us irrigate parts of camp never before able to be green in summer.

We could never have undertaken this project during a normal camp season, so it’s a small consolation that we’ll be able to start it sooner than planned. The $500,000 trench project will be finished well before we usher in the next wave of campers beginning next year.

All these post-fire reconstruction efforts take money, lots of money. We’re asking our extended community of friends to help with the reconstruction generously. To make camp safe and secure for the next 70 years takes sweat, imagination, and dollars. If you’re in a position to help with a donation or a pledge to our capital campaign, please write our Development Director Jennifer Sachs at jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org or just call her at 415.694.7333. And if you have some very big ideas on how to help camp, please contact me personally.

So, what to do this spring and summer to replace the EHC camp coziness around the campfire, or the easy socializing in the shade? Camp Director Tony Fletcher has the answer for kids, adults and their families. Beginning Saturday, June 6, Tony will host a weekly Saturday evening campfire-by-Zoom. You will be able to gather with Tony and the gang of counselors, volunteers and campers you know from previous sessions: telling stories, catching up and making some new friends. Tony’s first chat will be followed by many others through summer, with gatherings for various ages, personalities, interests and communities. Lighthouse will advertise the times and call-in details as the date approaches.

In the meantime, it’s spring at our camp. The grass is brilliant green, the creeks are running strong, the frogs are croaking and the wildlife abundant. Thousands of redwood seedlings are now eight feet tall after the fire, and visitors say camp has never looked more beautiful. It will be there, stronger and safer than ever when we emerge from our houses, blinking in the sun, and yearning for that special community that will persevere in a place called Enchanted Hills.

Our very best hopes that you stay safe and are well.

Bryan Bashin
Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, San Francisco



2 thoughts on “By taking a pause, Enchanted Hills Camp will help flatten the curve”

  1. Dear Friends
    You may be wondering about Blind Bikers Old Rugged Cross camp this year.
    We are going to go ahead in Faith that the Good LORD will settle the COVID-19 PANDEMIC BY THEN
     So, we plan to have the camp July 20 – 26–2020.
    Winter Camp for the Blind was really good we had 7 days of camp at Camp Au Sable in Grayling Mi. This was a first to have 7 days and it was so good.

     The first Day we stayed in Grayling and went to swim at the Ramada in the morning in the afternoon went snow tubing at Hansen Hills
    The next day went to Indian River to meet THE Indian River Snowmobile Club they took us for snowmobile in the morning and afternoon. And some went skating in the rink down and across the road.

     We went to Amish Smucker Organic Maple Syrup Farm on Wednesday. Sam Smucker and the Folk over in Mio Put on a real good meal for us. We sang some hymns after that then went on a hayrides buggy and sleigh rides. Then a tour of the maple syrup factory. It was a real good day.
    Thursday, we went to Challenge Mountain for a day of skiing and it was very good as usual.
    Friday, we stayed at Camp Au Sable had One Horse open sleigh rides in the afternoon then prepared for the Sabbath.
    Sabbath Morning, we had Church and Sabbath School in the Morning My Sabbath School Teacher Dr. Alan Patterson had the Sabbath School class. After that Fred Calkins presented The Jesus on Prophesy Class. Fred Had Jesus on Prophesy Cases all week in the morning and evening. It was REALLY GOOD.
    Then after lunch we spent some time in the Nature Center and had good fellowship then played some games after Sundown
    Sunday after Breakfast and Camp Counsel we packed upped and went home.
    Now we are looking Forward to what God can do for us this Summer.
    He has always helped us in the past and I have FAITH THAT HE WILL THIS TIME

    Ph 248-459-3165 or 248-459-3166

    The campers and volunteers need to know that that while we are going forward in faith but we will continue to monitor the  situation of COVID 19 and the restrictions that are currently in place and if it does not change we will have to cancel or postpone camp but until then we will go forward!  God is in control! 

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