Then came Covid-19.
Many of the volunteers have been involved with the camp for decades, including my dad, and Beth’s mom, and we have often had three generations of a family with us for the week.Our youth leaders are often campers who attended the camp until they aged out, as were some of our adult volunteers. The dean team we are replacing were there when Beth and I were campers. It is a community many of us return to year after year. And every year we invite new campers, and often new volunteers, to join our camp family. Some stay for a week, some a few years, some go away for awhile and return. Some reappear after many years to drop their kids off with us for the week. Sometimes former volunteers can only join us for the show on Friday, and maybe for the dance party afterwards. Whoever they are, and however much time they spend with us, we hope that they feel a part of the love we have for them, for each other, and for the very special place that has brought us together. It is a Mechuwana story that I’m sure many other camps are familiar with.
As a music theater camp, music is at the heart of our community. Yes we put on a musical. But we also break out the instruments and sing for morning watch and evening devotions. A group of staff take guitars and sing to the cabins at lights out. Staff and campers gather to make music together during breaks. As a camper I remember the sound of music drifting from the Lodge or from the fire circle after lights out. As a volunteer, singing together late into the night has been one of my favorite parts of the week. It was making music together that I would miss most of all.
So when Beth suggested that we have a Zoom concert to start the summer, I jumped on board, and quickly so did other volunteers. We invited current and past volunteers, every camper who attended last summer and those who had registered for this summer. Participants were encouraged to perform something — a song, a skit, a poem — or just come along to watch and be together. On the Monday night after what would have been our week of camp, a youth leader, 7 campers (mostly staff kids) and 10 adult volunteers met on Zoom. We took turns sharing favorite songs. A set of siblings shared an amazing lip sync to Disney's Gaston. Two volunteers’ kids played instruments for us, and we shared the fellowship of making music together. It was not the same as gathering in the Lodge with our instruments and our voices, but it was full of love, and although we were apart, we were together. We closed, of course, with the Mechuwana Song. At the end of the evening my son begged me to tell everyone we needed to do it again. It was bittersweet. It did remind me of what I was missing. But I was so grateful to be with each and every one of those people, and grateful for everything they have brought into my life, summer after summer.
—Bethany (Marsh) Sullivan