ACA CEO Responds to a Recent Blog in Huffington Post

The following letter was sent by ACA CEO Peg Smith to Dr. Peggy Drexler in response to her blog post in Friday’s Huffington Post.

Dear Dr. Drexler,

I read your blog post with great dismay.  While I appreciate the right one has to share an opinion, (although I do disagree with your premise, but more on that later),  I was very troubled by the inaccuracy of your research.

The prominence to broadly share your opinion gives you the privilege of great influence. It is my hope that those with such influence would be mindful to support their opinions with carefully considered research.

First, your source of data is a private referral service.  The American Camp Association® (ACA), on the other hand, is a professional nonprofit organization and a leading authority in child and youth development for the camp community and those serving children in expanded learning environments. We have worked with the camp community for over 100 years.

To that point, let me share some data that, if considered, might have influenced not only your opinion but what I consider your careless influence on others.

  1. Each year more than 11 million children and adults attend camp in the U.S. (projected from 2010 ACA Camp Compensations and Benefits Report)
  2. Average weekly fees at ACA accredited camps (2010 ACA Business Operations Report
    1. Day camp = $304 (as low as $194)
    2. Overnight camp = $690 (as low as $425)
  3. 90 percent of ACA-accredited camps offer some form of financial assistance to over one million children who are from economically deprived families, have special medical needs, or special situations that might preclude them from attending camp. (2012 ACA Business Operations Report)
  4. Campers often have choice in what they choose to do at camp, and most camps offer a range of structured and unstructured activity.
  5. Kids are physically active at camp – on average, between three to five hours in intense physical activity, and unlike kids at home, 74 percent of camps do not allow campers to use personal electronic devices at any time while at camp. Kids when going to school and at home spend an average of seven hours a day in front of a screen.
  6. According to ACA’s 2005 Directions: Youth Outcomes of the Camp Experience
    1. Camp helps build self-confidence and self-esteem
    2. Camp is a safe environment
    3. Camp is a place to build social skills and make friends

I have spent over thirty years in the field of child and youth development.  I have raised two boys.  In that time, I have witnessed the demise of play; the radius of play shrink to less than (on average) 500 feet; the time spent in front of a screen instead of outdoors triple; and the impact on the health and welfare of our children and youth suffer.  In my humble opinion, the camp experience may be one of the last oases left for young people to experience the rite of passage – childhood.

To suggest the cost of camp is typically $2600 a week or an unworthy environment for young people, in my opinion, was careless.  In fact, people with influence should be serving as champions for such opportunities for our children.  Our children need 21st century skills including creativity, communication, and collaboration skills – all of these skills are nurtured at camp.  Our children have been given the legacy to save the planet while being deprived access to the out-of-doors – access which is still nurtured at camp.  Our children will be less healthy than their parents in great part because of a lack of physical activity – physical activity which is still nurtured at camp.

The camp experience is over 150 years old.  Millions of Americans have gone to camp; many are our leaders in business, as well as local, state, and federal government including our educational institutions.  Many citizens across the country feel as I do about the value of the camp experience.   No doubt you have heard many of our voices the past several days.  It is my hope that should you decide to write an opinion piece on the camp experience in the future, you will consider using ACA as a resource for needed research.

Sincerely,

Peg Smith

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