COVID-19 Update

Closed for Summer 2020

On May 19th, the Ontario Government made the announcement that “Overnight camps will not be permitted to operate in the summer of 2020.” This announcement supports Camp Wabikon’s decision and the note below sent out on May 14th.

Dear Wabikon Staff, CITs, campers, families and friends,

The last few months have been challenging, to say the least. Adjusting to changes and a physically distanced lifestyle has been scary, exhausting, frustrating, and at times extremely disappointing. We have, however, also seen how the power of positivity and kindness can strengthen communities. How creativity and ingenuity can bring us together and help us grow in new ways. Perhaps now more than ever we draw on our camp experiences to comfort us, keep us smiling and help us move forward. We know that the familiarity of camp has been a beacon of hope for so many and we have been reminded how lucky and privileged we are to have the opportunity of summer camp.

The logistics involved in offering the incredible Wabikon experience that our staff, CITs, campers and families appreciate and expect means that a decision about camp this summer must be made. We cannot wait any longer. We have explored every reasonable possibility and option presented to us and waited patiently for some “good news” and a positive answer to our guiding question:

“Can we keep our staff, CITs, campers and families safe
while offering them the incredible Wabikon experience they deserve?”

Sadly, the answer is NO. Safety is our top priority. There are too many known and unknown risks for Wabikon to responsibly operate this summer. In addition to the fact that there is simply no way to ensure COVID-19 would not make its way to Wabikon, all of the current health and safety directives issued by provincial and local governments present us with a long list of insurmountable obstacles.

As such, we have made the extremely difficult decision
to cancel ALL Camp Wabikon sessions for summer 2020.

The beauty of Wabikon is that it brings together youth from all over the world and provides a safe space for them to engage and grow in a highly interactive environment. This was to be the Bernardo family’s 40th summer welcoming campers, CITs and Staff to Camp Wabikon. Whether this was to be your first summer with us, or a return to your home away from home, we share your disappointment and feel your frustration for this lost experience. It is time to draw strength from each other and our mutual love and enthusiasm for camp as we navigate the new reality of a summer apart.

Full refunds for all Summer 2020 registrations will be issued in the coming weeks. This will occur automatically so there is no need to contact us regarding finances unless you wish to make other arrangements.

Our wish is that every one of you remains safe and well as we continue to adjust to life during a global pandemic. Our hope is that we will be able to be together again in 2021.  Thank you for your love, understanding and patience. We look forward to staying in touch and keeping our Wabikon Family connected.

Our best wishes to you always,

The Bernardo Family

Frequently Asked Questions


While the May 19th announcement by the Government of Ontario that “Overnight camps will not be permitted to operate in the summer of 2020” eliminates any possibilities for this summer, these are some of the questions we received most frequently.

What happens with your deposit or payment to date?

We appreciate that you have a lot on your mind these days and we want to do what we can to help by keeping this simple. Full refunds for all currently registered Wabikon campers will be automatically processed. You do not need to contact us regarding your refund unless you wish to make other arrangements.

Why the whole summer? Couldn’t you just run one session in August?

There is an incredible amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that Wabikon is ready so that every Wabi camper can have “the best summer ever”. Trying to retain a staff team as well as a food service provider on a “maybe” are two big issues that make “waiting to see what happens” unrealistic for us. Furthermore, the preparation of our physical property and facilities, the proper on-site training of our Staff Team, the review of all camper information and the follow-up calls that are needed to ensure each camper’s safety… this all takes time. Most importantly though… just one case of COVID-19 entering camp puts the entire camp at risk. Experts in the scientific and health communities are suggesting that it will likely be December or January until we have the necessary data to adequately prepare for safe operation… we are just not there yet.

The only thing harder than a bad outcome is the uncertainty that precedes it. With all the uncertainty this pandemic has been causing in our daily lives, we hope that perhaps, making this decision now might give you the time to digest the news with your children and prepare for a summer without camp.

Would the campers and staff not be safe living on the island in a “bubble”?

Perhaps in theory, but that “bubble” would be practically impossible to create or maintain.

Currently, there is no public testing available that could be given to each camper and staff before or upon arrival to ensure COVID-19 is not brought into camp. Even if there was, the reliability of current testing technology is far from foolproof, especially in asymptomatic carriers with lots of potential for false negatives. Remember, you just need one case of COVID-19 to infect many people – especially in an environment like camp. Furthermore, with current testing limitations it would be impossible to know if a camper with a fever or a sore throat, or any other minor ailment may in fact be COVID-19 positive with the potential for him/her to infect others.

In addition, camps have people entering and exiting camp more frequently than you may imagine. From food deliveries and necessary kitchen supplies, repairs and maintenance that require outside service professionals (like hydro, refrigeration, fire safety equipment, etc.)… staff could never leave camp and even the spouses and partners of our director team would not be allowed in. Runs to the hospital for medical emergencies, supplies and medicine would create further possibilities of exposure.

Why couldn’t you try to social distance at camp?

The social distancing measures that would be required in a camp setting are not only unrealistic, they are also not conducive to giving Wabikon campers the summer they deserve and need. Not only is it practically impossible to execute, but it would likely tarnish your children’s camp experience.

From no bussing, to screening upon entry, daily screening by counsellors, inability to hug and console a child, inability to hold all-camp or even section gatherings, no meals with campers on benches sitting side-by-side, separating beds and reducing cabin group sizes, removing indoor activities in small spaces (what about when it rains?) – even doing a simple buddy call at swimming would pose a challenge. Worst yet, no line ups to get tuck! We would not feel comfortable enforcing a rule that requires all campers and staff to stay five or six feet away from each other or be forbidden from holding hands or giving a hug. To even imagine camp that way is just not realistic in our opinion.

Why couldn’t you just disinfect everything?

If you have been to Wabikon you know that this is simply not possible for our facility. In addition, we would have to disinfect all baggage and packages coming into camp – all supplies including food and medicines that are picked up from town etc.  Currently, the public health directives in places like Australia and the USA, as well as the ones being discussed in Ontario indicate the requirement that every item in camp be disinfected after each use. Every archery bow and arrow, guitar, canoe seat, kayak paddle… the list is extensive. As well, everyone would be required to properly wash their hands before and after they touch anything! Given how interactive camp is, the time spent washing hands may outweigh time spent enjoying the interactions. Attempting to ensure that campers do not share any towels or clothing and act in a perfectly hygienic way… it is just not realistic.

But young kids aren’t really at risk.

It is possible that most campers may not get sick. However, there are still far too many unknowns about the effect COVID-19 has on children so even one or two is too many.

To date, there have not been any peer-reviewed approved studies confirming if children are transmitters or what the long-term effect on children may be. We hope the news stays positive in this regard. Nonetheless, we must recognize the fact that children CAN contract this disease and we require far more information regarding which children are most susceptible, why and what that all means. We have learned, for example, about a potentially serious presentation in children, that appears to be related to COVID-19, which resembles a typical but more severe version of something called “Kawasaki” disease, a known condition in younger children. There have also been concerns about other inflammatory diseases affecting children including heart disease.  The bottom line is children can get sick and we do not know enough yet to understand how serious a risk COVID-19 is for them.

Why can’t we sign a waiver and just send our kids to camp?

For us this is not about legal liability. It is about safety and acting responsibly to ensure the well-being of those we love; your children, our staff, and our collective families. We have not even factored into our decision the potential spike in cases as campers and staff re-enter their community, potentially infecting parents, grandparents and other loved ones.

What about our CIT Program?

Our hearts are with our 2020 CITs who have been long awaiting this special summer. We will be sending an e-mail to all registered 2020 Wabikon CITs in the coming weeks with some options and ideas on how we can move forward.

Wow… what are the financial implications of closing camp for an entire summer?

We respect this question and trust that it comes from a genuine place of concern for Camp Wabikon’s future. The financial impact to us will be considerable but we look forward to many more amazing Wabikon summers in the years ahead. All decisions regarding Wabikon’s operation during a global pandemic, however, must be made with the singular focus of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our Staff, CIT’s, campers, families and friends.

Register Soon for Summer 2021!
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