June 11, 2020
Summer 2020 Update

Dear Thunderbird Family,

Today our hearts are broken as we share with immense sadness that, for the first time in 74 years, we feel it prudent for Thunderbird to cancel our camp season. It seems almost impossible to believe seven and a half decades after Speedy and Honey first opened the shores of Lake Plantagenet to a remarkable collection of brave young campers thirsting for a taste of adventure and camaraderie, we would find ourselves facing insurmountable barriers to offering a summer that truly reflects a Thunderbird experience.

Fundamental to the Thunderbird philosophy is that children’s physical and mental health and well-being flourishes when they are having fun, feeling challenged and experiencing true connection. During this unprecedented time, we feel that it is more important than ever. Camp is the perfect antidote, and this was the driving force behind our most recent attempt to preserve the summer by delaying our start. However, despite our best efforts, we were unable to secure sufficient information regarding our ability to continuously access timely test results, and, more importantly, we could not reconcile our lingering concerns.

Each Thunderbird summer brings a potential for risk. Every time a camper skips across the lake on a tube, slams red hot metal against an anvil, summits a North Cascade Mountain or paddles down a set of rapids, we face inherent risk. But it is risk we understand and accept. For a long time, we knew we were trading out the risks of past years and accepting new ones with COVID-19. Yet, the barriers still stood in front of us. We know you trust us to keep your children safe. And, although it seems our campers and young staff are within a demographic that rarely has serious complications from COVID-19 exposure, our final decision rested on the belief that the pandemic is too new, and we need the upcoming year to better understand and plan accordingly to reassure you, your children, our staff and ourselves.

We take great pride in our ability to foster personal connections as a fundamental part of the Thunderbird experience. It is not only the building blocks for the lifelong Thunderbird friendships, it is perhaps our favorite aspect of our job: celebrating the arrival of campers, comforting a homesick child, hug/handshake/high five, dance parties, friends crowded on a stand up paddle board, wrestling on the black rafts, comforting a friend….There are essential intangible elements that precipitate from proximity and close personal connections that would need to be managed differently this season. Although we pride ourselves on our ability to reenvision, our focus on mitigating COVID-19 risks allowed us little time to work on other necessary changes. Our aspirations for a true “Thunderbird experience” faded, and we knew that in that moment we needed to rethink offering a 2020 camp season.

We are deeply sorry for the sadness this news will cause your camper and the added stress of filling the summer will cause you as parents. We imagine, as the initial disappointment fades, campers will be anxious to know what happens to this summer’s experiences. For generations, Thunderbird directors have shared with worried parents and returning campers, “we start each summer where we last left off.” The 2021 summer is no exception. Campers will have the opportunity to experience their missed adventure programs (Progressions AQ, PNW, JL and CIT) as well as sailing, fishing, climbing and other memorable experiences.

It is most often in times of challenge and chaos that courage and resiliency emerge. The COVID-19 Pandemic has upended our 2020 summer. But there is no doubt that the Thunderbird bonds are too tight and too strong to come unraveled. Our burden of sorrow has been made much lighter by the incredible support, kindness, and love from the Thunderbird family. In the upcoming weeks, we will be reaching out to each family and look forward to this individual time with you and your campers.

In an effort to inform you as soon as we reached a final decision, we have not completed the final edits on our form for refunds and rollover options. By the end of tomorrow, you will receive a follow up note regarding how to access the form.

Below you will find some resources that we have collected that may be of help to you as you embark on the challenge of sharing this difficult news with your campers. Here is also a video message to the campers at girls camp and the campers at boys camp.

Be safe and stay healthy. See you in 2021!


Shari, Michael and Roger