Pictured Above: Alexia Braden (age 12) and Michael Braden (age 13) from Saint John the Baptist Church in Beaverton, OR open their camp boxes.

Summer Camp has become a rite of passage for hundreds of youth each year who attend the Metropolis Camp at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center in Dunlap, CA. And even though COVID-19 prevented campers and counselors from experiencing camp in person, the spirit of Summer Camp resonated through a virtual experience for 140 youth that continued the 38-year legacy of this exceptional ministry.

A Summer Like No Other” emerged as a unique opportunity for youth to participate in a complimentary virtual three-week program that brought the Metropolis Summer Camp and Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center into their hearts and homes.

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LEFT: His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos with his Summer Camp Box in front of the Metropolis House. At the camp farewell, Metropolitan Gerasimos took the campers on a virtual tour of the Metropolis House. RIGHT: Anna Sophia Mason (age 8) from the Annunciation Church in Modesto, CA shows the newly sprouted seedlings she planted as one of the camp activities.

“The participants in this year’s Virtual Camp had an exceptional experience and it created a whole new venue to explore creativity in ministry,” remarked His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco. “While nothing can replace the interpersonal connections made at camp, our dedicated staff and volunteers rose to the challenge of the circumstances brought forth by the pandemic and made this a meaningful and memorable program for all the participants.”

To prepare for an immersive experience, each camper and staff member received a Camp Box full of supplies to enhance participation in various activities and some additional surprise gifts that embodied the spirit of camp and the fellowship that would be cultivated during this program.

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Maria Baglin (age 9) from Saint John the Baptist Church in Anaheim, CA is excited to open her camp box.

Virtual Summer Camp was held on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays for three weeks, with two-hour sessions every morning and every evening. Each day began with prayer, with campers participating in the Orthros Service or the Akathist of Thanksgiving. Various activities followed including Orthodox Life sessions, Arts and Crafts, Faith and Culture, Gardening, Zoomba, and Cooking. Every evening session began with Vespers or Paraklesis to the Theotokos. Campers then shared in cabin devotional discussions, tested their knowledge at Trivia Night, showcased their star qualities at the Talent Show, and demonstrated their fancy footwork at the Virtual Dance. Campers also experienced virtual field trips to Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA, and to the Minkler Cash Store in Minkler, CA.

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Madelyn Smith (age 12) and JW Smith (age 9) from Saint John the Baptist Church in Beaverton, OR show off the supplies to make their friendship bracelets and prayer ropes.

In the blink of an eye, the three week Virtual Camp came to a close, but not without some wonderful memories being created. To remind campers of this experience, a video montage was created to keep the experiences of Virtual Summer Camp at the forefront of their minds and hearts, along with hopeful prayers that in July 2021, everyone will be able to gather together in person for Summer Camp at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center.

The Metropolis of San Francisco Virtual Summer Camp was organized by Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Johanna Duterte Carter; assisted by Program Director Rev. Father Christian Burkhard; Staff Director Anna Teodosiadis; Activities Support Coordinator Evan Tsagaris; and Arts and Crafts Director/Video Editor Presvytera Maria Burkhard. Numerous clergy from throughout the Metropolis also participated by leading daily services and Orthodox Life discussions.

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Fotini Markou (age 11) from Holy Cross Church in Belmont, CA proudly displays her completed watercolor project.

Special guest instructors included: Nicholas Metrakos – seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA; Alexander Eliades – Pastoral Assistant at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ; and Nicole Merritt – graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, CA. Additional staff assisting with cabin activities included: Melissa Alexiou, Sofia Asmerom, Joseph Ayoub, Zain Ayoub, Nektarios Chaffee, Panayotis Chaffee, Georgia Danos, Demetri Dogias, Lucy Duran, Lia Forakis, Sophia Fraser, Jeanine Kaileh, Marcus Koumontzis, Chryse Kruse, Paloma Kruse, Chrysanthe Pappas, Amalia Patrinellis, Savanna Ramirez, Max Ramseyer, Yianni Reynolds, John Strzelecki, Lindsay Stasinis, Christina Vasquez, and Nicholas Wilk.

Visit the Metropolis of San Francisco Youth and Young Adult Ministry website for more information on upcoming programs and activities.