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ACA, Michigan Blog
August 21, 2013
What a change! From 2004 – 2012, I was the director of a summer camp in southwest Michigan. I came from living and working in the energizing camping world where the norm was hearing gleeful campers, collaborating with staff, juggling multiple tasks, and calling it a day after spending twelve hours in the woods to my new norm. Now, I’m my only companion, and my link to the world is a phone, a laptop, and my office window. My new environment often feels like camp after it has closed for the season – complete, unending quiet.
Don’t read this wrong, I’m not saying this change is bad. The flexibility of my ACA job gave me the opportunity to visit Michigan camp as a guest (not a visitor). I traveled to eight ACA Michigan camps with simple goals - meet fellow ACA members, tour their camps and hear about their programs. Along the way, I discovered that each camp had its own personality, unique sense of community, loyal alumni, and dedicated leaders. I also discovered one constant, each camp recognized the importance of positive youth development.
A special thanks to Camp Newaygo, Camp Henry, Camp Kohahna, Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha, Lake Ann Camp, Camp Walden, Al-Gon-Quin and Camp Kinawind for welcoming me. Pictures of the 2013 “Out and About" tour can be found on the American Camp Association, Michigan Facebook page
August 5, 2013
I’m going to share the story of a young boy. In today’s educational realm this child would receive an “at risk” label. His father abandoned the family, his mother faced health issues creating a nomadic home life, and school and reading were a constant challenge. He has recounted childhood stories of being fearful, shoeless and hungry. Against all odds, this young boy grew up to possess a passion for nature, an ongoing sense of humor, and a deep understanding of the human spirit.
How could this transformation happen? Camp! Due to the kindness of others, he received a sponsorship to spend part of his summer at camp. For two weeks each summer, this young boy could forget any worries. He vividly remembers riding the bus to camp, sleeping in a cabin in the woods, warm oatmeal for breakfast, and spending his days swimming, canoeing or playing. Camp didn’t just give him the opportunity to play; it also taught him how to live with others. He remembers going toe-to-toe with a cabin mate and learning about compromise. Like the pieces of a patchwork quilt, these pieces of camp created, nurtured and helped shape his growing spirit.
At 83, this same young boy claimed a successful life journey. He was an avid preserver of all things nature. His sustained affinity to nature has influenced two generations. His children and grandchildren possess his spirit of play and reverence for nature. He was thankful for the camp that, in the smallest moments, gave him a warm bowl of oatmeal and a place to grow; and, I am thankful for my father’s ongoing legacy.