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Because of Camp . . .™ — there are millions of powerful answers to this leading statement. We know that all participants — campers, counselors, supervisors, owners, and directors are changed by each camp experience. Even the most reluctant and unenthusiastic campers grow from the experience. Participants who "jump in feet first" gain even more, returning home with the ability to create stronger human relationships (they are more able to meet new people, speak their minds, and negotiate). Campers and staff return home with a new willingness to engage in human-powered activity (whether hiking to the top of a mountain, the end of a trail, or to breakfast). All participants gain a new understanding of their place in the environment (watching a tree sway in a wind storm, searching under a rock for crayfish, or gazing at the stars and wondering . . . ).
This is the time of year when many in camp have slowed down from the pace of the summer and have caught up with families and the details of life, which become less important during our intense camp experiences. Even our seasonal staff take moments to reflect. One camp where I worked had a great natural gift of a "clay pit." This was an exposed seam of clay in the bank of a small stream. Each week campers and staff would go and begin exploring this gift with their hands, squeezing and manipulating the clay. Eventually someone would give someone else a clay-covered pat on the back. Groups would leave the clay pit covered from head to toe in clay — off to the creek to recycle the clay and expose the campers underneath. One young woman remarked to me after a number of summers as a camp staff person that each year in the fall during a slow moment in class she would look down at her hands. She would be surprised to see that half of her fingernails were bright and fresh and the outer portion was still tinted gray — a reminder of her clay pit experiences all summer. That was when she would remember her campers, her staff colleagues, and begin planning for the next summer.
We are celebrating one hundred years as an Association — a group of people interested in the camp experience. In a variety of configurations, ACA has been encouraging participation in the camp experience, strengthening camps, and telling Because of Camp . . . ™ stories. While it is exciting to be a centenarian organization — we have no laurels to rest upon. We know that campers, staff, parents, and the world are changing quickly around us. The value of the camp experience is still an important contribution to the development of all participants, but we need to keep focused on the changing nature of potential participants.
I hope you dig deep into this issue of Camping Magazine. It is a great celebration of our 100 years. The articles and interviews provoke your thinking as we ponder the first ten years of the next century. Read closely, ask questions, and take the time to talk with your colleagues at camp and with parents to see where your camp will be going next.
We have challenged ourselves to serve twenty million campers by the year 2020. How does your camp need to change to meet that goal? ACA is asking itself (with your input) how to change to meet this goal. In 1905, Charles Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." That was an intriguing concept to me as a college student, and it has flavored all my "futuring" thoughts. The challenge today is that we will not be around to relive the past if we are not keenly aware of tomorrow. We must continually be aware of requests we are meeting and requests from those we don't serve yet, i.e., tomorrow's generation of campers, staff, and parents.
Originally published in the 2010 January/February issue of Camping Magazine.