Important Summer 2020 Update from Camp Wise

Dear Camp Wise Families & Friends,

There is no doubt that these last several weeks have brought significant disruptions to our lives. As we shared in last week’s message, we have been consulting with and receiving guidance from several partners in camping and childcare. After careful consideration and consultation with experts, it became increasingly clear that the risks to bringing our community together in-person this summer would be extraordinarily unique and challenging with no guarantee of the safety and well-being of anyone. It is with deep sadness that the Board and professional leadership of the Mandel JCC and Camp Wise have made the very painful and difficult decision to cancel our Camp Wise Summer 2020 season.

For over 110 summers, Camp Wise has been the Home of Happiness for countless campers and their families. Our summer home has been built around safe, healthy, and exceptional experiences, and the decision to cancel camp this summer was made following guidance and information provided to us by local medical professionals familiar with the spread of the disease, the CDC, and the American Camp Association in collaboration with the Camp Wise Committee and the Mandel JCC Board. In addition, our state government has not yet been able to advise on a suggested direction which gives further concern. Ultimately, the decision was made and founded upon one goal – to safeguard the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community. This includes our professional and summer staff, the returning campers who love their summers spent at Camp Wise, the new campers who were looking forward to their first overnight camp experience, their families at home, and others they are connected to and responsible for in their communities. In this unprecedented moment in time, we believe it is incumbent upon us to do what we ask our campers and staff to strive for every day each summer, which is to live by our Camp Wise values, even when it’s hard and involves sacrifice.

Support For Your Camper & Family

We expect that our campers and their families will feel the cancellation of this summer’s Camp Wise program as profoundly as losing a piece of their home and a part of their family. We also understand that many of our campers were looking forward to milestone summers, and we are planning to work with you to address your concerns and questions about this. We are thinking of each one of you in light of this disappointing news and we are here for you. We are all strongly and deeply devoted to our camp family—not just during the summer but throughout the year and especially at this time. Our Camp Wise community is bound together by our moments of shared celebration and challenge. We believe strongly in giving ourselves space to experience sadness and disappointment. Through experiencing this together, we are confident in our ability to be resilient, as a community, as we move forward. We will be reaching out to every one of our camp families in the coming days to offer our support.

What’s Next for Your Camper?

Camp Wise is all about relationships and community. Our connections to each other and to camp in Chardon, Ohio create the most beautiful, diverse fabric woven together by memories, friendship, laughter, campfire conversations, and Shabbats spent together in the Chapel. Right now, we are grateful to be able to maintain these relationships through virtual means, but we know that technology is no replacement for the connections made at camp. The connections formed late at night when it’s long-past “lights out” or those bonds cultivated through overcoming challenges in daily activities stay with us well beyond our summer days. We are all looking forward to when we can gather safely and in good health as a Camp Wise community and are hopeful it will be sooner than later and that we will have options. We will continue to share updates with you in this regard. While we long for the time we can spend together in person, the Camp Wise Team will continue to offer ways to connect with camp virtually. And, in the coming days and weeks, we will provide more information about how to stay connected with Camp Wise throughout the spring and summer.

We are committed to building summer and year-round experiences which are driven by our campers’ interests. We are eager to hear your thoughts about how to incorporate missed opportunities into future Camp Wise programming and we will be reaching out to get your input. In the meantime, we know there will be a number of questions regarding your camper registration fees.  We hope the following will be helpful to you.

Option #1: This is the default option and requires no action on your part. All balances will remain as a credit on account to be used for camp or any other Mandel JCC programs/services. Families accepting the default option will lock in 2021 camp fees at the 2020 weekly rate, even if you use your credit for non-camp services.

Option #2: Donate all or a portion of camp fees to sustain and support Camp Wise. We are heartened that the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) has recognized the urgency of our situation and has stepped up with a matching grant to encourage everyone who cares about Camp Wise to act immediately. Tuition donations will be matched dollar for dollar (1:1). Additionally, all other donations received during this time will be matched 1:2. The All Together Now matching grant program is made possible through JCamp 180, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

Philanthropic support is critical to Camp Wise stabilizing its financial condition as soon as possible so that we can begin to plan ahead for Summer 2021. To donate in full or in combination with the remaining balance left as a credit on your account which can be applied for future services will entitle you to receive 2021 camp fees at the 2020 weekly rate. You may also elect to donate a portion and receive a refund for the difference without benefiting from the 2020 locked rate benefit.

Requests for conversion to donation or donation/credit/refund combinations should be sent to

Option #3: Request a refund. With the extended closure of our business operations, refunds may take longer than normal to process. While the timing is difficult to predict, we will work to expedite these requests as quickly as possible. However, a 2-3 month timeline is possible. Submit your refund request to

All 2020 enrolled campers will be considered returning campers and will be eligible for any priority registration for the 2021 summer program.

Camp Wise will continue to be with you and here for you this summer and beyond. We thank you for your support as we navigate through this together. Please join us for our community Camp Wise Shabbat tomorrow, Friday, May 1 at 4pm Eastern Standard Time. It is our first opportunity, as we take steps forward, to come together as a community of campers, staff, parents, and alumni and demonstrate our solidarity, and shared love and support of each other and The Home of Happiness. Click here to join our Shabbat program at 4pm tomorrow afternoon.

May we go from strength to strength, together,


Michael Hyman                 Mindy Davidson                Rachel Felber                     Loren Chylla

President & CEO                Board Chair                        Camp Director                   Camp Committee Chair

Mandel JCC                         Mandel JCC                         Camp Wise                          Camp Wise