Parents frustrated over not receiving full refund after camp canceled in-person summer sessions

Due COVID-19, ESF camps canceled all of their in-person summer sessions this year with no options for full refunds, leaving lots of unhappy campers. 

“We were very frustrated. I was very angry,” said Jodi Teitelman, an ESF camper parent. “It really didn’t make sense to me why they were keeping 30 percent of our money.” 

The camp offered three alternatives: a virtual camp, a credit, and discount for years to come, or 70 percent of money back. 

“Obviously, like a lot of parents, we would like to plan other things for them with that money. Now it is kind of up in the air if we are going to see any of it,” Teitelman said.

Teitelman says she’s in the same boat as hundreds of other families that are paying around $550 to over $600 a week, depending on the type of camp experience.

“Summer costs could get up to $13,000, and that's the highest number I’ve heard so far,” she said.

ESF says 68 percent of families chose the ‘credit for years to come’ option. They told FOX 29 in a statement that they keep 30 percent of funds because they have year-round expenses.

“Like many school settings, we incur expenses throughout the year to develop curriculum, recruit the best talent to instruct kids in the summer, train our staff, make program enhancements-all of which are funded by camp tuition,” said ESF.  “Unfortunately, those costs are not recoverable.”

Seventy percent of the camp refunds will be paid in three separate installments. The last wave won't be provided until May of 2021.

“[The timing] doesn’t help us in our current situation, doesn’t help the parents who need that money now,” Teitelman said.

A full statement from the camp can be found below:

“We recognize and appreciate the importance of camp for so many families and we’ve been diligently working to determine what camp could look like this year under multiple scenarios. In light of the CDC guidelines just released on May 15, state emergency orders, state reopening plans, and our desire to provide a high quality experience to campers in a safe environment, we have decided with great sadness and heavy hearts that we cannot hold in-person ESF camp safely this year.  We held out as long as we could on our decision about camp. We have reviewed the health data, we don’t believe we can host ESF camps safely for the rest of that period given COVID-19 and the nature of our camp experience. In many states they are not letting operators host camp until mid-July/beginning of August.

As the national camp gold standard for the past 38 years, ESF has decided that kids’ safety and quality experiences are more important than our bottom-line. We would rather provide premium ESF 365 virtual experiences along with exclusive 1 for 1 LIVE cultural, sports, leadership and true life experiences in 2020, and provide the best in class onsite camp experiences that families have come to expect in 2021. We are working diligently to deliver a true ESF-quality and safe camp experience to all our families.

As an independent small business, this was not an easy financial decision.  However, we are surveying families and offering flexible options for them to consider given the environment and circumstances.  Like other small businesses and schools, we are navigating an extraordinary set of circumstances and have taken appropriate and prudent steps with respect to our finances.

We have appreciated our ESF families’ commitment, understanding, and loyalty to the program. And, we are doing our best to meet every customer’s needs. We announced our plan for summer 2020 to our camp families on May 21.  For additional information on our plans for the summer, please visit our website: which outlines our offerings including a robust online program, 1 for 1 exclusive, live adventure experiences, and more. We’ve also offered families the option to automatically roll over their camp to 2021 plus a 20% credit that never expires and is transferable to family and friends, and other hardship options are outlined on our website. ESF’s historical policy was to offer refunds (less service fees) to parents by April 1. We honored all refunds requested by April 1 again this year. Keep in mind like many school settings, we incur expenses throughout the year to develop curriculum, recruit the best talent to instruct kids in the summer, train our staff, make program enhancements, process enrollments, purchase supplies, make capital improvements to camp facilities, and provide year-round customer service, all of which are funded by camp tuition.  Unfortunately, those costs are not recoverable.

We look forward to serving our families through ESF365 this summer and throughout the year and being back on campus and in-person for Summer 2021!”


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