Texas Parents Shocked Kids Came Back From Jesus Camp With COVID-19
As the country was in the midst of a pandemic, and as cases in Texas in particular were surging up to nearly 10,000 cases a day, dozens of parents across the state sent their children to sleepaway camp at Keller's Keystone Church in Hill County.
It did not end well.
Many of the campers came home from the July 6-10 session with COVID-19 and are now very, very sick, and their parents are very, very unhappy. A camper on the first day was revealed to have been exposed to the virus through a family member and was sent home later that day, later testing positive. The church assumed it was in the clear, but that camper had already been around several other campers and passed it along. They did send out an email to parents at some point during the week notifying them that the camper had been sent home.
That was when parent Stephanie Brady started checking in on the camp's social media, and did not like what she was seeing.
"So I start watching the photos come through, no masks, sometimes masks and it just looked really unnerving to see this happen," Brady said. "So I reached out to them again during camp, I texted them both again (people affiliated with the camp), and they're like, 'No everything is fine, we're taking temperatures every day, all is good.'"
Photos and videos which have since been removed from social media as of Sunday evening. The church said in an email, 'By request, and to protect the privacy and safety of campers of Keystone Church, we have removed all photos and videos from summer camp."
Brady quarantined her 17-year-old daughter Paige in her room when she came home, and soon enough, Paige tested positive for COVID-19. The church's response was to just delete all of the pictures from their social media, citing "privacy."
The church deleted photos from the summer camp that they had posted on their Facebook page. Those photos and videos showed dozens of students shoulder to shoulder, not social distancing.
"We found out later from my daughter that they considered their small group 40, which was how many were in her cabin," Brady said. "So when they were with those 40 girls, they didn't have to social distance, they didn't have to wear masks, to me that is not a small group."
When Brady found out her daughter was far from alone, she contacted the church and asked them to contact people and let them know, because hey — there were 300 kids at that camp who are now walking around, potentially spreading the virus to others. The church declined, though once the story came out in the news, they did release a statement.
"When I reached out to [the camp director], he was like, 'Well I didn't make you send your kid to camp. I didn't force you to send her.' And I was like, 'No you didn't, but we were really hoping that you would have taken the necessary precautions to make sure she was safe.'"
I'm not sure why anyone would assume or even hope that, what with it being a sleepaway church camp in Texas. Personally, I am only surprised that they weren't purposely trying to expose kids to the virus for the purpose of faith healing them afterwards.
Obligatory "Leopards Eating People's Faces Party" tweet.
If you are thinking that, at the very least, this will lead to other parents deciding to take things more seriously, be more careful, or even get angry at the church for having been so incredibly irresponsible, you would be very wrong about that. Other parents who spoke to NBCDFW said that they thought that if parents didn't want their kids to get risk sick, they shouldn't have sent them to camp:
"At the end of the day, these kids are junior high and high school kids and again, risk versus reward, and at some point if the parents were super uncomfortable with sending their kids because this virus was hanging around that we all know is hanging around, then they shouldn't have sent their kids to camp," [Amy] Jackson expressed.
She said there was a point several weeks before camp that the church had offered refunds to those who did not want their kids to go to camp due to the pandemic.
"We knew going into it that there's a risk and we did it anyway, I would probably make the same decision over again and I feel like the church did everything in their power to keep things as safe as possible while our kids were there," said Jackson.
Yes. Knowing what she knows now, this woman would still send her kid to Camp Corona. Which may be part of why Texas's COVID-19 graph looks like this.
Daily new cases graph showing Texas' cases skyrocketing.
Comments left on the Facebook post about the children getting coronavirus thanked the church for "not being ruled by fear":
I'm so thankful for Keystone's dedication to our kids, for not being ruled by fear, and for handling this tough time with so much grace, and so much community outreach. I love my church.
And even parents who sent their kids there said it was worth the risk:
Keystone made it very clear to the parents what to expect at the camp. As a parent, my son's spiritual growth and the connections he makes at camp far outweighed the risk of getting sick. Lives were forever changed by God and that is what matters. Thank you, Keystone, for your heart for students.
Yes, there are some long-lasting effects to people's lives after contracting COVID-19. Like long-term heart and lung problems. Thanks, God!
On the bright side, at least a few of the parents were smart enough to at least think this was bad enough to contact the local news, so there's that. Maybe some of their friends will think twice before they send their kids to overnight Jesus camp. And maybe, just maybe, that will put just the tiniest dent in Texas's surge. If we're lucky.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse