A summer sleepaway camp charging $3,400 for two weeks abruptly closed earlier this month after several staff members were fired and campers complained to parents of poor conditions.
Camp Quinebarge, a summer camp for children ages 6 to 16 that has operated in New Hampshire for the past 85 years, shut down just six days after its summer opening.
On July 2, Executive Director Eric Carlson told parents that Camp Quinebarge would be closed indefinitely due to the lack of staff and problems with its food supplier, and to come pick up their kids immediately, according to the Boston Globe.
This came just one day after the directors issued a message to parents saying ‘the past couple of days have been a bit rough,’ but despite the challenges, campers were safe and ‘overwhelmingly having a good time.’
Camp Quinebarge, which charges $3,400 for two weeks of attendance, abruptly closed earlier this month after several staff members were fired and campers reportedly endured poor conditions (File photo of bunks in a Camp Quinebarge cabin)
Executive Director Eric Carlson told parents that Camp Quinebarge (pictured above in this photo from 2019) would be closed indefinitely due to the lack of staff and problems with a food supplier and to come pick up their kids immediately
Parents say their children were served food on dirty dishes and ‘left in tears, bored and devastated’ after so many things at Camp Quinebarge (map of camp pictured above) went wrong
However, parents said they have since discovered that was not the case.
One father, who requested anonymity, claims he found a note in his son’s pocket days after the camp closed reading:
‘We have been in tears, bored, and devastated the whole day. [The camp director] is lying to you all. You have to trust us. You have to. We are not joking and we are not having fun. So many things are wrong with this place.’
A mother with two children at the camp, who also wanted to remain anonymous, told DailyMail.com that her concerns lie with the camp’s lack of communication when issues of safety arose.
In addition to shortages of staff and proper food, she said some parents shared instances of children getting physically assaulted by other campers, and kids getting sick without parents being informed. But she emphasized that camp directors failed to actively communicate with parents about the issues.
‘I can perhaps understand what went wrong and how to fix it for next time, but the lack of communication was outrageous and unprofessional,’ she said. ‘There were both major and minor issues, and we are incredibly lucky that no one was seriously injured.’
She said most parents want Camp Quinebarge to take responsibility for what happened, issue an apology, and take steps that prioritize safety and child supervision so this doesn’t happen again in the future.
‘When you create an unsafe environment and you’re dealing with minors, you have to be held accountable. This cannot happen again.’
In a statement provided to the Globe, Carlson said that Camp Quinebarge was impacted by ‘industrywide staffing and supply chain complications that were ‘not due to any long-term issues with camp operations”.
Adding that, ‘we sincerely apologize to all those families and staff members who had their summer plans interrupted by our premature closure’.
A few days after the closure, the camp’s executive leadership issued a statement to families reading in part: ‘Upon reflection, we know that camp is only good for the kids if we can ensure their health and safety, and with the untenable nature of our food supply, we know that we were right to say we could no longer do that, no matter how devastating it was for us and for you.’
The camp, now being referred to as the Fyre Festival of summer camps, advertises that it offers campers ‘the best time you could have in the world.’
Like Fyre Festival, which was a musical festival promising luxury accommodations in the Bahamas but instead provided attendees with housing in FEMA-style tents and cheese sandwiches, Camp Quinebarge reportedly did not make good on its promises.
Camp Quinebarge is now being referred to as the Fyre Festival of summer camps. Fyre Festival was a fraudulently marketed musical festival promising luxury accommodations in the Bahamas but instead provided attendees with housing in FEMA style tents (left) and cheese sandwiches (right)
Quinebarge promotes high-quality, well-balanced meals, noting that it accommodates dietary needs and have nutritious options for the pickiest of eaters. ‘Campers love our food!!!’ the camp website touts.
In a letter to camp staff, the mother said her daughter claimed ‘the food at times was inedible and lacking in proper temperature and storage’.
The girl also reported that breakfast items were often so scarce ‘that campers had to beg counselors for a bagel’.
The letter alleged that ‘cheese and other dairy products were left in sweltering conditions for hours and that dinner foods occasionally were cold and hard’.
Similarly, one counselor told the Globe that a child was served a ‘mostly raw meatball’ during a meal. He also noted that the commercial dishwasher was broken and kids were served food on dirty dishes.
Camp Quinebarge (pictured above in a 2019 file photo) promotes one-on-one engagement and dozens of activities. Parents and counselors say this year the camp failed to provide campers with fun-filled experiences
Camp Quinebarge also promotes serving high-quality, well-balanced meals, noting that they accommodate dietary needs and have nutritious options for the pickiest of eaters (Camp Quinebarge file photo from 2019)
The camp, which promotes one-on-one engagement and dozens of activities, failed to provide campers with fun-filled experiences as well, the Globe reported.
Activities were allegedly understaffed and overworked counselors screamed at each other in front of the children. The newspaper notes that several staff members quit and/or were fired.
The mother reported that her children shared stories of activities and cabins running without proper ratios and with ‘completely inadequate supervision by adults’.
She also notes that many of the activities they were promised in the camp tuition were unavailable to campers.
One counselor shared that they and other colleagues were hired in the days leading up to the camp’s opening and didn’t receive adequate training.
‘I was hired about 4 days before campers arrived,’ MJ Lowry, 21, told the Globe. ‘They just kind of said, ‘Hey you were referred, we’ll send you the application. You seem to be qualified, do you want the position?”
Carlson confirmed that some employees joined the staff late due to hiring difficulties, but reiterated that ‘at no time were corners cut with regard to the vetting of staff or our mandatory trainings.’
Camp leaders actively tried to fill open positions prior to the start of camp. In fact, Camp Director Nick Hercules took to Twitter on May 27 asking former President Barack Obama to promote the camp’s need for staff.
In a tweet, pictured above, Camp Director Nick Hercules asked former president Barack Obama to promote Camp Quinebarge’s need for staff amid hiring challenges
The mother noted that not all parents reported negative experiences. She said of the 80+ parents who had campers in the first 2021 session, about half had positive experiences and half shared stories that echoed her own.
‘My kids’ experience was probably one of the worst,’ she shared.
Additionally, she said her kids attended Quinebarge in 2019 and that ‘it was a great camp then’. She said, at that time, the counselors went ‘above and beyond and [did] a great job.’
Quinebarge will remain closed for the rest of the 2021 season. ‘As soon as we finish our closing work for 2021, we will begin preparing for summer 2022,’ the letter to parents from the camp said.
Officials say they will be issuing refunds to families impacted by the closure.
According to the mother, parents are upset because they have received mixed messages about refunds. She says some have received a full refund while others have gotten a partial or no refund at all.
The camp did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.