A group trekking during EHC session. EHC 70th year anniversary logo on the side of the image.

Enchanted Hills Camp Sessions

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

April 6, 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

For almost a year we’ve been preparing for the biggest and most fun summer ever for Enchanted Hills Camp during 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. And we’re 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 to the ACB Convention, 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 test 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 a number of 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 out 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
CEO
LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

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Enchanted Hills Camp is Accredited by the American Camp Association
EHC is Accredited by the American Camp Association

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