Editor’s note: Every couple weeks or so, Christopher Little, outdoor education director for Shady Creek Outdoor School and Event Center, sends updates on life at the outdoor school to staff at the Sutter County Superintendent of Schools and other interested individuals. The latest letter from Little demonstrates the passion and persistence of those at Shady Creek to make sure each child who attends the school has an experience that will stay with them a lifetime.

I have so much to say!

The past few weeks have been crazier than ever here at Shady Creek. It’s had some of the sweetest, best moments of the year and some of the biggest headaches of the year – all wrapped up in under three weeks. 

The week before last was the week that COVID-19 hit my Shady Creek team and unfortunately, we had to postpone the schools we had scheduled. This was heart crushing! Foothill School teachers had already arrived on campus when they heard the news. There was complete shock on everyone’s faces. One administrator asked me very candidly, ”Am I being ‘Punk’D?’ Is this a joke, where’s the camera?” 

I have found that when delivering horrible news, it’s best to be as direct as possible. It just doesn’t feel good to be on the wrong end of disappointing news. This was my first challenge: Find room for these campers in an already jam-packed season, to make sure no student misses out on Shady Creek. 

I am overjoyed to report we did find a way to make this happen!

The rest of the week was weird. Don’t get me wrong, I was productive and grateful for this time. I even found time to escape with my wife Shannon for a night, which was long overdue. But the week was spent avoiding my infected staff. It was the saddest feeling of all to see them go down one after another and be powerless to help. The waiting game does not fit into my personality very well.

Last week was the brightest rainbow after the most horrific storm! As a precaution, we moved the week to a four-day week so the Shady Creek team could recover completely. Turns out, we needed another day to clear all protocols. In my 16-year history with this program, I have never been part of a three-day week. 

Three days really works out to a little over 48 hours at camp. Right from the very start we hit the program into hyper drive! The week was May 4to May 6, so “Star Wars” memorabilia was everywhere! The kids really felt they were in a galaxy far away! We had three incredible schools from Paradise Unified, Achieve Charter from Chico and Sierra Elementary from Rocklin making up the roster for our Shady Creek family for the week. 

Complete strangers became best of friends within a matter of 48 hours. This alone made the week worth fighting to happen. There were several students upon arrival that said this was a place they felt valued and loved, instantly making all the hard work for this week worth it. 

On a delicate but very real note, we did have a student open up about her struggles and battle with cancer. This student was more than an inspiration to the whole team, her story is the kind that squeezes tears from every part of your soul. Every second spent with her was magical for all of us and constantly reminded us how important it is that we serve every kid we possibly can.

We also set up our party tent! Sutter Health and The Shady Creek Foundation teamed up with us to make this happen – and it took a lot to see this one through start to finish! This project kept me up at night, seriously! Thank you to all that helped! Shady Creek team, Monica, James, Demetrio, Andy, Seth, Chris and Emma Cope, Jordan and Shannon – you are all incredible!

This week is set up for greatness! We have Franklin School, Nuestro and Cedar Lane at camp! These schools are always a blast to have up at Shady Creek and we’re off to a fantastic start already. Every week is truly unique how it unfolds. I can’t wait to see how this one shakes out!

 

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