As camping professionals we know the value of camp. We attend educational events, hear from parents and campers every day, and run quality programs year after year. I do not need to preach to the choir on the benefits of camp, we know them. What we don’t always know is how to present that message to parents and potential campers. When we lack a clear voice, our message can get lost in translation.
During the fall of 2008, when the economy began a major decline, I spoke with the parents of one camper who were concerned about how to spend wisely their hard-earned dollars. I was amazed that they, like many other campers’ parents, were more able to state the value of camp than I was. They understood its worth and were making plans months in advance to ensure that their child would continue the development that had been started at camp. This was a defining moment in my so-far brief camping career.
This concept was developed into a letter to all of our camp families with a simple suggestion: Talk with your children about their camp experience. Based on what that dialogue, parents could decide whether the expense was worthwhile. If they felt that camp failed to achieve its stated goals—all campers got was a really cool recreation week—they could save their money or use it elsewhere. But if campers told stories about making new friends, learning responsibilities and about nature, appreciating independence, and overcoming challenges, camping’s worth would be revealed. Within weeks we began receiving the highest level of registrations ever for our fall season.
Based upon this experience, I applied the same reflection to each of my personal and work-related organizations, including ACA. Why did I continue to pay annual dues to be a member of each one? I began to figure out what was really important. I realized that involvement in ACA had helped me develop a career, had provided a network of like-minded peers who were passionate about what they do, and had also given me numerous learning opportunities.
Through 13 years in the ACA Texoma section I have attended numerous education events, served on conference committees, served on the board, and now chair the leadership council. Some of the faces around us have changed, but the passion for our work remains strong. ACA Texoma gives members chances to be heard by peers, make long-lasting network connections, and to attend valuable educational opportunities. But is that enough?
ACA Texoma is entering an exciting new stage, a time when we can give to our membership even more of what they want and need. ACA Texoma should be more than an association that sends you a plaque stating that you are an accredited camp, more than the sponsor of an annual conference. Your Leadership Council needs your feedback. We need to know what it is that drives each of you, and what ACA can do to help fan the fire of your passion for this vocation.
Recently, your Local Council of Leaders met in our annual retreat. We spent much of our time brainstorming and thinking of ways in which we could all help make ACA Texoma stronger and more meaningful. Based partly on your feedback from the Relationship Survey and from our 20/20 Vision we identified areas that ACA Texoma can begin to foster partnerships with families, communities, and of course our members.
As exciting as the possibilities for our section are, it will not be as successful without your support and help. The time to get involved is here. If you are interested in shaping the future of ACA Texoma please fill out the Volunteer survey.
We tell campers that participating in the camp experience is essential if they want to have a meaningful time. Participation in ACA works the same. By being active in ACA, we strengthen our voice and provide a better understanding of what camp can accomplish in the life of a child.
But, of course, I am preaching to the choir.
In the spirit of camp,
Tim Huchton, Chair, Texoma Leadership Council