The moment was not lost on any of us.
There we sat, a team of full-time WA employees experiencing something we had not seen or heard in 2 years: the sweet sound of the controlled chaos of staff training. The phones were ringing with parent inquiries. Multiple staff training sessions were taking place around the greater Yellowstone eco-system. The energy was high. Our team which had experienced so much sadness over the pandemic period, including cancelled programs, disappointed kids and parents, employee layoffs and an unknown illness, were now embracing this moment of controlled chaos with sheer joy!
Clearly, we have not totally put the pandemic behind us. The rollercoaster ride of the 18 months past year has taught us caution. But on arrival day, when we saw kids coming from every direction to once again adventure with us, it felt like we had reached a milestone moment.
I am sure the joy of this moment was shared by many, including our staff, kids, families, and our colleagues across the country. I can see it in the content my camping professional friends have posted on social media. Arrival days and staff training are filled with joy across the country. I find myself profoundly struck by how important this summer will be for so many kids.
I know we will all learn from the struggles of COVID-19. But I also know, from my many years of providing outside adventures to kids, it has never been so fun to have such chaos. I love that we at WA have the honor of being a part of their next phase of the pandemic experience. Maybe—just maybe—the experience they have with us will be the positive milestone that launches the rest of their life.
In the midst of all the chaos, a longtime WA parent and Jackson resident saw me standing outside our offices in Jackson as I was taking in the moment. She came up to me to drop off her son’s paperwork. As we looked up and down King Street and Snow King Avenue, all you could see were lines of U-Haul trailers and 15 passenger vans. She patted me on the back while the fury of activity was taking place and said, “Lucky kids on these trips…nice to see your vans back in town.”
Then she asked, “But seriously, is there always this much action around here?”
I laughed as I considered the void of last year and all that we had been through and replied, “Not always, but most of the time.”
Then, to myself, I thought “I hope this joy never ends!”
Happy summer to all.
May it be a milestone we all cherish forever.