Dear Parents,

Our number one priority is for camp to be a safe space for all attending.  In 2021 part of our safety plan means mitigating the risks of COVID-19.  We will be sending monthly emails to you detailing a component of our COVID-19 safety procedures for the coming summer which have been developed following guidance from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local health departments, and the best practices from The American Camping Association (ACA).

This month we are talking about cohort style camping.  So, what is a cohort?  A cohort is a small group which will do all of their activities together and live together if they are part of a residential program.  The ACA describes a cohort as “the smallest practicable group of campers.”  At Manidokan and West River this cohort will be defined by the program to which you registered them and will range from 12 to 24 campers and staff depending on the program.

While this small group style camping many not be how we have organized camp in the past, we are excited to introduce a cohort concept to our programming this summer because small groups provide excellent opportunities for deep relationship and community building, which we believe are especially important for young people after a year of social distancing.  From a COVID-19 safety standpoint, cohorts minimize interaction between groups because they function as independently as possible.

Here are some key elements on how cohorts will function at camp:

  • Each cohort will live and do all activities together.
  • Campers will not change cohorts.
  • The limited size of the cohorts results in programs that are approximately half the size of our regular programs.
  • The camp schedule will be modified to allow for as much of camp as possible to happen outdoors and to limit unnecessary interactions between cohorts.
  • If two cohorts are sharing overnight accommodations, the cohorts will be in separate bedrooms.
  • If more than one cohort is in a shared indoor space, the space will be large enough to accommodate groups that size while meeting state and local indoor gathering guidelines.
  • Campers within the same cohort will still adhere to physical distancing and face mask usage requirements. Whenever possible activities will be adapted so at least two of the following three COVID-19 safety measures can be used together: being outdoors, wearing masks, and physical distancing.
  • Cohorts will do activities as sperate groups, including meals and travel.
  • If cohorts come together for a communal experience (like worship), the cohorts will still be physically distanced from each other.
  • Meals will be served outside whenever possible. If meals must be served indoors, cohorts eating at the same time will be distanced to meet state and local dining guidelines.

The above elements of cohort style camping are intended to limit the number of people a camper interacts with while still allowing for a fun and meaningful camp experience. 

If your camper has been to Manidokan or West River before, we recognize that this changes the structure of camp significantly.  We also believe it will allow us to run camp safely in the midst of COVID-19 and to continue to have the meaningful camp interactions and experiences that make summer camp so special.

If you would like to know more about our COVID-19 safety protocols you can always find the latest information on our website at

March’s email will share details on our enhanced cleaning and sanitation plans.



Chris Schlieckert                                 Rev. Kirstin Shrom-Rhoads

Director, West River Center               Director, Manidokan Camp and Retreat Center


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