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2020 in Review

Tom Sawyer Camps

Catalina Island Camps

5 kids posing in front of a target

March 13 – First Lockdown

  • CELP and After School Camp closed and have not reopened.
  • CELP Staff sheltered at camp for 6 weeks.
  • Office staff transitioned to remote work platforms. Teams and Zoom became normal.
  • We planned for both camps to open while many camps chose to not operate. We did not want to give up despite the uncertainty.
  • Our goals were to keep everyone employed, keep everyone safe and open for kids.
bright orange sunset

June – Day Camps Can Open

  • ACA Field Guide focused our planning.
  • Worked with local and state leaders to secure permission to operate (Dr. Ghaly).
  • Everyone worked hard to create scaled back programs with many new requirements.
  • When resident camps could not open, CIC program staff joined TSC staff at Day Camp.
  • TSC lost the pool at Muir High School after 2 days. Fewer than 10 kids cancelled as a result.
  • TSC hired Nurses for the first time. All three were so impressed with the TSC team.
  • We quickly learned that the new layers of protocols work and that outside activities are safe.
two kids playing with water

July – Rapid Pivot on Catalina

  • Family Retreats were an allowable option under the health orders.
  • Everyone stepped up to make it happen.
  • People wanted to come to camp.
  • CIC created separate dining, beach seating and campfire areas for each group.
  • Bathrooms, kayaks and other equipment were assigned to groups.
  • We added an option to do Banana Boating for an extra fee. For spring, we have added several guided activity options.
weekday and weekend family retreats at howlands landing sign

August – Summer Camp ends

  • As camp ended, we were struck by the harsh realities of our immediate financial future.
  • We projected a worst-case scenario that we could run out of money before the end of the year.
  • We made several hard and heart-breaking decisions to lay off staff and cut other expenses.
kids posing in front of a stick fort

September – Fall Camp and Horseback Riding

  • When schools announced they were staying remote, families were desperate for opportunities to get their kids outside.
  • Private horseback riding lessons, afternoon camp and Saturday camp were all popular with different groups.
  • Morning camp was smaller and is now discontinued.
  • Families and campers remain loyal and grateful.
  • We were closed for the weirdest reasons (wildfire smoke, a car crash, a crime scene).
4 kids on horses

Distance Learning

  • We wanted to put unused office space to work.
  • The concept of learning pods were in the news at the start of the school year.
  • We started with 2 students and now serve between 4 and 7 each day.
  • It’s a great service for families, students and our staff who work.
  • Some campers stay for PM camp. We drive them to the park for lunch.
kids in a pen playing with a ball

December – Stay at Home Order

  • Day camps continued to remain open during the stay at home order.
  • Our experiences with a consistent group of families who understand the risk and value the benefit of their kids being at camp keeps us going.
  • Holiday Camp and Ranch Camp were great success especially with families who had not been involved.
  • Staff continue to keep themselves safe.
  • We started weekly COVID testing in January.
  • Recently a few staff got COVID from outside of camp. They quarantined and kept it outside camp. They have all made (or are making) full recoveries. We are in constant contact with the Pasadena Health Department.
child meditating

2020 Success Stories

  • Safe and Healthy! No reports of Covid-19 spread at camp!
  • Families literally moved to tears. “You gave me back my child!”
  • Brave, resilient, and dedicated staff made it work.
  • We all did what needed to be done.
  • We were stronger together. Both camps played a role in the others ability to stay open.
Two campers being pulled in a tube by a powerboat

Success Stories of 2020

  • We created exciting new CIC/TSC Programs: Cabin Rentals, Fall Camp, Distance Learning, Private Horse Lessons
  • Private horseback riding lessons are a huge success. We have had as many as 60 lessons in a single week!
  • Afternoon Camp and Saturday Camp have 40-60 campers a day.
  • We celebrated Fall Camp families with a fun Zoom Magic Show over the holidays.
  • Retreats ran safely until Halloween with several repeat families.
boy playing with orange slime

Success Stories of 2020

  • We hired Alexis – on Zoom, while trying to open camp! With very little training, she jumped in 100%. Bonus? She makes great tamales.
  • We used CampBrain in many new ways. The daily attendance and cabinizer features have simplified registration and check in/out. We found new ways to use session options to collect hard to get info from retreat families.
  • This year, both camps started accepting campership donations online as part of summer camp registration.
  • We have almost completed a new lease on the TSC corral space.
  • We are working with business consultant, camp parent and friend, Tom Cassutt.

2020 Financial Overview

  1. In a nutshell, the first half of the year was a disaster, and the second half of the year showed our resilience and that recovery was possible.
  2. Losses from the first 6 months were crushing:
  • We went months with no revenue.
  • We still had to pay substantial fixed expenses such as salaries, rent, insurance, and fleet and property leases, etc.
  • Refunds paid to families and schools drained reserves.
  • We tried to spread out or ask for leniency for some of our more significant expenses.
young boy playing with sand

2020 Financial Overview

  1. We received first round PPPs for TSC and CIC. These were spent to keep people employed. We were unsuccessful in getting the seasonal calculation of loan value applied after the fact.
  2. We applied for lines of credit and loans with various banks but were denied in part due to unstable economy.
  3. A summer without vans, ongoing frustrations with licensing, high fixed cost of vehicle leases and the need to raise money led to the sale of 15 vans and possibly the beginning of a transportation revolution for TSC. There is no van transportation for 2021.
  4. Sadly, we had to reduce full-time staff costs through lay-offs and wage reductions. These were some of the hardest decisions we made.
  5. In August, we projected running out of cash by the end of the year; however successful programs, vehicle sales and cost cutting measures created a more favorable position.
  6. TSC paid many of CIC’s expenses in the last quarter of the year, including the island lease payment in December. We tried to get a lease extension while discussing payment of the 2020 lease and there are no current discussions with the Island Company. We plan to engage them again soon.
a chicken standing next to flowers

Financial Outlook

  1. We will apply for new PPP loans in the next few weeks. PPPs are mostly forgivable when applied to qualifying expenses. There are two parts to this round of PPP.
    • First, the new relief act corrected the seasonal exemption issue and on January 25 both camps can apply for an increase to our original PPP loans based on the seasonal exemption rules. We have already submitted preliminary paperwork to our lenders.
    • Second, after the increases fund, we can apply for a second full draw of the PPP loans. We will have 24 weeks to spend 60% of the PPP on payroll to qualify for forgiveness.
    • These forgivable loans will provide a critical business-saving boost we need to return to “normal”.
  2. On December 31 (after applying in June) TSC secured an SBA Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL). CIC has an EIDL loan application from the same time still in progress. EIDL loans are not forgivable but require payback with interest.
boy playing with mud

Financial Outlook

  1. We believe the worst is behind us. There are no plans to further reduce staff.
  2. Many of us made financial sacrifices this year. We continue to discuss how and when we can increase salaries. We will keep you posted.
  3. Once we return to normal program operation, it could take 18 – 24 months to fully recover from the economic losses of the past year.
  4. Organizationally, we will not look the same this year or next. For now, we do not anticipate returning to the full time staffing levels we employed prior to the pandemic.
young kid holding frog up to camera


  • Are efforts being made to secure staff vaccines? If so, when?
  • Will we require employees to get the vaccine and/or get Covid-19 tested?
  • Do you plan to eventually rehire and rebuild former year-round teams to what they were before, or will there be restructuring?
  • If we have to get by with less hands, how will we accomplish the same amount of work?
  • If CIC doesn’t run summer, are family retreats enough to sustain us?
  • Are there any updates regarding Howlands or City of Pasadena leases?
sun going down above the water

In summary


All indications are, that despite all of the uncertainty,

disappointments and ever changing landscapes of the past year,

we will emerge from these crises ready and able to move forward.


“For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it”


boy jumping over hose