Camp Ernst FAQs on Summer 2020

Why are you making the decision to cancel this summer?

We have been closely following the guidelines and information provided to us from our state and local authorities on when and how we can open camp.  The unknown status of opening overnight camp in Kentucky does not leave us enough time to prepare the program, staff, or property safely. In addition, the suggested guidance for operating youth programs in the COVID-19 environment place restrictions on our enrollment and program which would be necessary for safety and controlling the spread of the virus, but would change the camp environment so significantly that we couldn’t provide the program you signed up for.

Did you consider alternatives to cancelling the entire summer?

We did. We looked at a variety of options including starting camp later in the summer with smaller sessions, reducing camper capacity, only certain age groups, smaller cabin groups, changes to schedules to limit the possibility of groups mixing, removing large group gatherings like campfires and a variety of options around meals and the dining hall. After thoughtful consideration, we decided none of the options could provide the safe and enjoyable high quality, community-based feeling and experience at YMCA Camp Ernst that we promise and you expect.

If the state of Kentucky allows youth camps to open later, will you reconsider?

At this late date in Spring, we are not able to shift towards opening our traditional operation.

Why did you cancel your overnight camp programs if the Y is having day camp at Camp Ernst now?

In response to the community need for child care for school age kids, the YMCA is proud to continue its service of Day Camp programming to local families. Due to the space and grouping requirements of child care in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the local YMCA (RC Durr) simply does not have enough square footage to accommodate all the children who need to be cared for. The program will be split temporarily for summer, 2020, with pre-schoolers at the RC Durr YMCA and school age children borrowing the property at YMCA Camp Ernst.

Do you still need to raise $1Million if you’re hosting day camp?

Yes! The YMCA Day Camp program falls into the operation of the RC Durr YMCA and our Camp Ernst shortfall remains critical to fill in order to break-even in 2020 and get Camp Ernst’s traditional overnight camp programming back with a facility ready for you in summer, 2021.

This is going to be really difficult for my child. Do you have any advice on how to talk to them about summer camp being canceled?

We absolutely understand that this is just one more loss on top of what has been a season of losses. Our friend and camp alumnus/donor Shane Strunk, LISW, who specializes in adolescent therapy, has offered some tips here.

What about fees that I have already paid?

We recognize that this global pandemic is financially affecting people in different ways. As such, we have several different options for families that have already paid some or all of their fees.

  • Donate all fees to the ongoing operations of Camp Ernst. This option helps us the MOST and will support our limited staffing, feeding the horses, and maintaining the property so we can open back up for you in 2021!
  • Donate a portion of fees paid and receive either a refund or a 2021 credit for the remainder. A credit for 2021 helps us with cash flow so we appreciate you choosing this option, too!
  • Receive a 2021 credit towards overnight camp for all fees paid
  • Receive a refund for all fees paid (returned to the original payment method)—we recognize this is a challenging financial time for many families!

What is the process to indicate my preference? Should I call or email camp?

Due to the number of camper families and our desire to streamline the process as much as possible, we have set up a form for you to indicate your preference. You can login to your Camp Brain account here and navigate to your camper’s registration, then complete the “2020 Cancellation Form.”

How long will it take to get my refund? Please know that due to the large number of camper families and the complexities with the process that refunds, receipts, and credits will take some time. If you have not seen the appropriate changes to your accounts by June 30, please feel free to email Eli to inquire.

Why is camp asking me to consider donating some/all of my paid fees? Would this be a charitable donation?

Since nearly all of the planning and many of the purchases and improvements for summer have already happened, the horses still need to be fed, and our property and limited staff need to remain, we really need your support! Our status as a 501-C3 organization under ownership of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati qualifies all donations for a receipt for tax purposes, and the new CARES ACT allows for most donations to be tax-deductible even if you’re not itemizing!

One of my children is currently a rising high school freshman, so will be eligible for the popular Crew program in 2021. Can I register for that now?

Yes! You can complete the cancellation form for your LIT camper and indicate that you want the funds to roll over to Crew for 2021. This gets you in earlier than anyone else, as public online registration for summer 2021 will open July 1.

One of my children is aging out of summer camp.  If I apply my funds paid to 2021 can I use those funds for a different child in my household?

Yes. Please choose the “other” option on the online form and fill in any special instructions you have.

My child was set to be on Crew this summer—a rite of passage for longtime Ernst campers. They are crushed to miss this iconic tradition. Can they do crew in 2021 instead?

We share the crushing feeling of your teen and have been really proud of the work we get to do every summer with these young people. Our hope is to find a path to an expanded year-round teen program in the coming months, but it is still too early to tell what will be feasible with our current limited staffing structure and funding.

At this point we do not have plans to extend the Crew 2021 age beyond 15/entering 10th grade. Our hope is to open 2021 with the E-team (16 year old) staffing program we have enjoyed for the last 15 years. All candidates in the correct age range will be welcome to apply (in October) for summer 2021 E-team.

Will my scholarship by valid for camp in 2021?

Yes!  We will still be able to offer families who were awarded scholarships in 2020 the same scholarship for summer 2021.

When can I schedule a horse trail ride or riding lesson?

We hope to offer some limited ranch programming opportunities beginning in July. Check our social media for updates! @campernst on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What about Labor Day Family Camp and weekends in the fall?

We are still working towards holding these sessions and putting plans in place to offer them in a modified manner, with appropriate distancing and sanitizing procedures, in anticipation of CDC and health department requirements.

We are still planning for many of our regularly scheduled fall programs beginning mid-August. We expect to know more about what COVID-related requirements will be for these sessions by mid-July. As of right now we still plan to offer them in a modified manner, with appropriate distancing and sanitizing procedures.

Can we come visit camp this summer?

Not at this time.  We realize that Camp is a refuge and second home to many alumni and families.  We will keep you updated with any opportunities to be at camp and hope to be able to get people back as soon as we know we can.

How can I help Camp?

Camp Ernst is blessed with a community of supporters who care about our mission and know that a camp experience changes lives. We rely on this support and are grateful for all who offer it!

Please consider these ways that you can support Camp through this difficult time:

  • Make a donation and let us know if your company provides matching funds!
  • Donate all or a portion of your camp fees
  • Purchase a brick for the patio in front of the new valley cabins!
  • Notify us of any grants, foundations, or other funding opportunities that would provide support to Camp Ernst (
  • Watch social media (especially Instagram @campernst) for upcoming virtual camp challenges and opportunities to get engaged
  • Volunteer! When we can, we will we will have several volunteer days for our camp families and alumni who wish to help us with projects around Camp. A variety of projects will be available including family friendly options.

What’s the best way to get in touch with camp?

As Eli is the only one in the business office and currently working from home (so not answering the main office line), please email her or complete the response form on Camp Brain.


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