Dear Pemi Families,
Every Saturday night during the season, we end our campfire with the song that asks, “I wonder if anyone’s better for anything I’ve done or said, and whether good will in the heart may offset mistakes of the head.” While our hearts are undeniably eager to open Pemi for 2020, everything we currently know and can reasonably project about the course of COVID-19 in the coming months tells us that opening this year risks being a grave mistake of the head. As a result, the Pemi Board and Managing Directors, informed by a galaxy of governmental, public health, and camping entities, have reached the very difficult but unanimous decision to cancel all camper sessions for 2020.
Throughout Pemigewassett’s 113-year history, we have never before failed to open for a summer season. We made it safely through two world wars, the Spanish flu, an outbreak of viral pneumonia, the polio siege of the 1950s, and, most recently, 2009’s swine flu. We have always felt confident that we could keep camp safe and healthy for our campers and staff, despite the many and varied challenges. 2020 is different. Without readily available point-of-care diagnostic testing, antibody testing, or an effective vaccine, we simply cannot be sure of keeping the novel coronavirus out of camp. Without an effective therapy, we cannot minimize the threat to any camper or staff member who might contract the disease and, consequently, threaten the families and communities to which they would have to return. Social distancing is the only effective response at the moment, and Pemi’s infrastructure and program are irreversibly based on the communal living that is at the center of the traditional camping experience.
This was obviously an extremely difficult decision for us to reach. Boys have never needed a summer of togetherness, accomplishment, and mutual support more than they do right now. We understand—and share to our core—the great disappointment that will be felt by the boys who have enrolled for this season (especially this year’s wonderful group of 15s), by their parents, by our excellent and eager staff, and by the thousands of Pemi veterans out in the world at large who know first-hand how much each successful camp season means to everyone who is part of it. Pemi has always been in the business of teaching boys and young men that success and happiness in life are founded on determination and resolve and the courage to identify what it is you want—and then the willingness to throw yourself, 100%, into making it happen. It’s that resilient spirit that animates us right now as we look forward with eagerness to the 2021 season. But we also teach Pemi boys that the fulfilling life is about careful planning and risk assessment and not allowing sheer will and strong desire blind you to hard realities. That’s where we are right now.
Looking ahead, we encourage you to adhere to all sensible, official guidelines for managing life in a time of COVID-19. But while you are safe at home or venturing cautiously out, we hope you will reach out to your Pemi friends, young and old, to share a kind word, whether on your own or in ways that Pemi facilitates. To lead the way, Danny and Kenny have prepared a video message so you can hear from them directly today. They look forward, in the days that follow, to checking in with all of you campers personally via phone.
Parents will be receiving an email from us laying out refund, rollover, or gifting options for the deposits and tuition you have paid.
Pemi missives traditionally end with our special banquet toast, Good Luck, Long Life, and Joy! We need to take some time to mourn our loss of the regular 2020 season. Let’s also, though, resolve to be our best selves at this trying moment, to be kind to one another, to stay healthy, and, finally, to find joy in all the unexpected places our new reality has opened up for us.
Tom Reed, Jr.
For the Pemi Board of Directors