Camp Walden First Night Campfire
Camp Walden owners Scott Ruthart and Liz Stevens lead the first-night campfire last year.

The camp may not run at all this summer or may function as a family camp if social distancing guidelines persist.

Camp Walden in Cheboygan, Michigan, will delay their possible start date until at least mid-July, according to an email sent to camper parents Thursday.  

The email, sent by Camp Walden owners Scott Ruthart and Liz Stevens, says even if the state of Michigan allows summer camps to run at some point this year, Camp Walden may still not open. It will depend on the conditions the state puts forth for opening camps.  

“We want to run the camp that we want to run. We want to run the camp that the kids expect; we don’t want to run a camp where if you’re in Cabin G3, you’re not allowed to go into G4 and braid your friend’s hair,” Stevens told the Jewish News.   

Stevens said they decided to delay Walden instead of canceling at this point because there are a lot of unanswered questions about how summer camps will look this year.  

“It just gives me a pit in my stomach to think that I might not see any of those kids this summer,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s a relief to know we’re not going to have to rush into something we’re not 100 percent comfortable with. It gives us more time, it gives us more breathing room, it’s going to give us more guidance to start later in the summer if we can.”   

The email also asked parents to indicate their interest in participating in family camp at Walden if that seems like a feasible option later in the summer. Stevens said they haven’t figured out how that might look yet, but that it would involve allowing families to come to Walden and use the camp’s facilities.  

Since sending out the email, “there’s been ringing endorsement for family camp,” Stevens said.  

“Family camp is a whole different animal, but if it’s what we can do safely this summer, then we will seriously consider offering that sort of experience for families,” she said.  

If parents choose to cancel for this summer, they have the option to roll their deposit over to next year. They can also decide to pay a $150 processing fee to get a refund, but the email warns that campers who cancel now will not have a spot reserved if the camp does open at some point this summer.  

As of now, Stevens said not many parents have chosen to cancel their children’s enrollment. The camp usually hosts 430 to 450 kids throughout the summer, along with about 115 staff.   

“If we were to have regular camp, I’m certain that the numbers would be lower, and that’s okay. We want a controlled census, to be able to be comfortable… and fewer campers means easier ways to control logistically,” she said. “But we would still want enough campers to make it a real camp experience.”  

The family-run co-ed sleepaway camp has been a popular destination for Metro Detroit Jewish families for generations. 

Camp Walden expects to send out another update around June 1.

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