Dear BRLS family,

I recently received a wonderful email from Riley Moffitt, a Leader from the Midlothian YMCA Leaders Club. She was writing as the point person for the collective 6th year leaders currently attending the school. They have used virtual meetings to stay connected and discuss their Club/BRLS shared journey. At the end of this amazing email she shared this thought about moving forward and I asked her if I could share it with you.

She concludes with “Currently multiple associations have already pulled out of BRLS, leaving their leaders stranded. There will be more clubs and associations that will make this decision. We ask that you make their decision for them and reschedule all of the wonderful things you had planned for this year to 2021. We understand the logistical nightmare that this will be and that surely it already has been, but we are confident that this plan can work. We are willing to attend zoom meetings, send more emails, and work with you to allow everyone to fulfill their intended years at BRLS next year and in the following years. BRLS has always been a beacon of hope and a haven for us. Cancelling this year will not diminish that impact but allow it to grow into next year where the school can be its true self and the best that it ever has been.”

In her email she speaks so wonderfully of the school experience and its profound impact on all those who attend. She gives voice to what we all have been praying over…how can BRLS occur within the current state of the pandemic?

That was the question we have been asking since we decided to postpone the school in April. We wanted to give our dedicated volunteers time to fully address any modification options to the week while allowing time for our nation to battle this virus. We had thought that August would provide a much different landscape than the one we are now looking at in mid-July. Given the trends across the many southern states, the duration of confined bus/van transportation, and the intentional design of the school curriculum and schedule we no longer see a safe way to deliver the school. And so, it is with a heavy heart that I announce that YMCA Blue Ridge Leaders’ School has been cancelled for 2020.

I wish to thank the many people who have taken on special projects over the past few months. Many of them invested time and energy into work to try and deliver this amazing program to the hundreds of inspirational teens that have worked so hard this past year. While that work did not result in us being able to beat back the virus, every single person did this work with a servant heart and desire to see the Leaders benefit from the school. As the Director, I am humbled by this commitment and inspired by their actions to ensure that the work of BRLS thrives.

So as we move past the cancellation of the 2020 school we will quickly begin work on some other ideas on how to celebrate together THIS year as well as how to address the ripple effects caused by this announcement. Soon we will have some news about some online experiences for the BRLS family using the August dates as the foundation.

I conclude much the way Riley did, by stating that BRLS has long stood as the annual beacon of hope to the teens working in their Leaders Clubs back home. But the hope is not just limited to the Leaders, but for the countless adults who love to give back to them via their staff work. And finally it stands as hope to the school leadership team who just last night recommitted to ensuring that the beacon burns bright enough to cast the light into 2021…

Until we can gather again.

Greg Hall
Director, YMCA Blue Ridge Leaders’ School