In American history books, 1987 will be remembered as the "dark year" of the Reagan administration, with shadows cast by the Iran- Contra affair, the Unabomber, and detonation of an atomic weapon in Nevada. But in the annals of the American Camp Association (ACA), the National Conference in Washington, DC, proved to be like no other in the organization's history. Armand Ball, executive director from 1974 until 1988, had conceived of the idea to reach out to the camping world and turned to Dick Chamberlain, ACA president, and Janet Adamson, president of the Canadian Camping Association (CCA), for their support. Chuck Ackenbom and Charles Butler were subsequently named as co-chairs of the conference, designated as the Second International Camping Congress.

Over 1,800 attendees from fifteen countries descended upon the Shoreham Hotel in March, 1987. The excitement in the opening session was palpable as First Lady Nancy Reagan addressed the gathering with previously unsurpassed security measures. Memories of her message of support for camp have faded, but her seemingly innocuous reference to her past camp experiences hit the national and international media and can still be found through Google: "I don't think that most people associate me with leeches, but I know how to get them off. I'm an expert at it." Also memorable was the appearance of the international troupe, Up with People, performing a full evening of high-energy, positive music.

Behind the scenes of the congress, however, another series of meetings had been convened by Dick Chamberlain and Janet Adamson. Each country present at the congress was asked to send one representative to discuss their various styles of camping and dreams for future international collaboration. The mood of that meeting was described later by Dick Chamberlain as a feeling of "electricity" in the air — and the group agreed to reconvene a second day to hear the report of a sub-committee headed by Terry Lucas of Venezuela. At the closing session of the congress, Tom Slater, a delegate from Australia, presented the declaration that a working group would be established, based on five articles of agreement, to:

  • Coordinate internationally in order to exchange news and information and facilitate bilateral and multilateral exchanges;
  • Evaluate the direction within two years;
  • Ask ACA to produce an international newsletter;
  • Ask ACA to facilitate an interaction among five or six delegates within twelve months to assess direction; and
  • Do these things under the name of the International Camping Fellowship (ICF).

He stated, "We must maintain this special chemistry in Washington. There is so much energy in this room — it has to be used! We cannot extinguish this flame of friendship, this hunger for peace, this excitement and commitment."

The ICF Is Formed

ACA agreed to fund two editions of a newsletter to establish lines of communication among those who attended the Washington conference. In July, following the congress, Armand Ball, Janet Adamson, Richard Chamberlain, and Jack Pearse met to discuss the next steps and to set a meeting the following year to discuss the establishment of an informal organization.

In the summer of 1988, Camp Tawingo in Ontario, Canada, hosted a group that would later become recognized as the founders of the ICF: Armand Ball, executive director of ACA; Dick Chamberlain, ACA president; Jack Pearse, vice president of CCA and vice president of the Association of Independent Camps (ACA member); Bill Bowker, president, and Don MacDowall, executive off icer of the Camping Association of Victoria, Australia; Bob Metcalfe, executive director of the YMCA National Center, Lakeside in England; Sako Tanaka, representing the National Camping Association of Japan (ACA member); and Teresa Lucas, Campamento Miranda in Venezuela. Dick Chamberlain was elected to be the first ICF chair and served in this role until 1994, followed by Jack Pearse, who served as chair until 2004. Jenny Bowker (Australia) was chair from 2004–2008, and Valery Kostin (USA/Russia) was elected in 2008. It was agreed that ICF would become a membership organization extending worldwide to promote international cooperation and understanding through organized camping.

The Butterfly

When several logo designs were submitted to the congress planning committee by a group of student artists to represent the theme of "Our Fragile World," there was no doubt that there was only one choice — a blue butterfly with a map of the world inscribed on its wings. And there was no doubt that the blue butterfly should also remain as the logo for the newly-formed ICF.

Earlier Milestones

It is important to recognize that the camp experience had taken root in various parts of the world early in the century. In 1936, the CCA was formed, and over time, provincial associations emerged across the country. Canadian camp professionals have valued their relationship with and the leadership of ACA to the present day. ACA from its early years has included members from Canada as part of the Ontario Camping Association. CCA's first president, Taylor Statten, also served as ACA's president in 1942.

In 1966, the Nat iona l Camping Association of Japan had been formed. YMCA and YWCA camps were established and still operate in Japan and in many other countries, and Pioneer Youth Camps in the Soviet Union had their origins in early scouting. International exchanges had been hosted for many decades before the 1987 International Camping Congress by youth organizations such as the YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, and 4-H. The YMCA, which has organized educational cultural programs since 1911, began operating a counselor exchange between the US and the Soviet Committee of Youth Organizations in 1975, and BUNAC and Camp America began cultural exchange programs in 1969–1970.

Jean McMullan, past ACA national president and consulting director for Alford Lake Camp in Maine, initiated one of the first camper exchanges between the Soviet Union and private camps, with twelve campers placed in three Maine camps in the summer of 1988. That same summer, American campers were hosted in camps in the USSR. Jean was recognized for this accomplishment by ACA in 1990 as the recipient of the first Abbott Fenn Druzhba Award. The Samantha Smith Worldpeace Camp was opened in Maine in 1989 by Jay and Karen Stager in memory of the Maine school girl who, in 1983, received a response from Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov to her letter expressing her hopes for world peace, traveled to the Soviet Union, and later died in a plane crash. With these foundations, the fledgling ICF would begin to provide a vehicle for coordination and communication among all types of camp programs around the world.

The Butterfly Takes Wing

With the birth of the ICF, global communications generated more possibilities for opportunities for professional sharing. In 1990, a financial windfall generated by adjusting dates of the ACA National Conference in Boston was diver ted for funding to bring the ICF Steering Committee and other international leaders, including a delegation of camp directors representing the Venezuelan Camping Association, to provide international programming at the conference. Valery Kostin became the first camp director from the Soviet Union to attend a major camp conference in North America. At a general session, Valery astounded the audience with his revelation that 45 percent of all Soviet children attend camp each summer and that there were more than 100,000 camps in the USSR at that time. In halting English, he expressed his sentiment of the importance of world understanding through camping. He presented to ACA the gift of a tapestry depicting Vladimir Lenin with a footnote that "Mr. Lenin . . . he is very famous in our country," which endeared him to those present. The Boston conference proved to be pivotal for relations between ACA and Russian camps.

ACA and Glasnost

The political and economic reforms of perestroika and subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union opened the doors for numerous exchanges between American and Russian camp professionals. In 1991, a delegation of four ACA members — Jack Pearse and Jane McCutcheon from Canada and Robert Lebby and Linda (Grier) Pulliam from the US — participated in a conference at Artek, a Young Pioneer Camp, now in Ukraine, which accommodated 5,000 children in ten sub-camps. Later that year, a delegation from ACA's National Board was hosted by Russian camps and in meetings with dignitaries.

In 1992, the ICF Steering Committee met at the Gorbachev Institute in Moscow, where Dick Chamberlain was invited to moderate the meeting while sitting in Gorbachev's chair. About thirty camp and youth development professionals gathered with the purpose of getting acquainted, supporting the creation of the Russian Camp Association, and inviting a Russian delegation to the 1993 International Camping Congress in Toronto. A high echelon member of President Yeltsin's cabinet was present, resulting in the funding of part-time staff in Moscow and St. Petersburg to support the rejuvenation of the camp movement and an unprecedented number of Russian attendees in Toronto.

The following February, the Camp and Children's Association of St. Petersburg hosted a camp director training course taught by Jack Murdock and Armand and Beverly Ball. Throughout the 1990s, American and Canadian camp directors and members of the ICF Steering Committee continued to visit Russia, providing guidance and resources as the Russian camp industry reeled from the economic changes in the country. Valery Kostin was primarily responsible for facilitating the professional exchanges and arranging for groups of Russian children to attend camps in the US, Canada, Australia, and other countries during those difficult years of political and social change in the former Soviet Union.

In 1995, a group of fifty Russian and Ukrainian camp directors attended ACA's National Conference in Orlando, Florida, which was preceded by a special training event under the leadership of Armand Ball and about ten other American and Canadian professionals. The dedication and perseverance of the Russian camp directors and staff during this decade was impressive — and the camp industry in Russia has largely recovered by now, although the number of camps has dropped to approximately 50,000 today. Russia no longer sends large delegations to ACA Conferences because professional educational opportunities abound in that country, but there continue to be Russian attendees each year because of the strong bonds with their North American colleagues.

Global Communications

Through the efforts of Armand Ball and Dick Chamberlain, ICF began to educate ACA about the global camp community. The numbers of international attendees at ACA conferences has increased steadily each year, along with the number of countries represented. Since 1997, Linda Grier Pulliam has served as the international coordinator for national conferences and handles inquiries throughout the year. Pre-conference tours were held in Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Colorado — providing an overview of American camps for international delegates. Don Cheley, the US representative to the ICF Steering Committee also acts as the international liaison to ACA's National Board. Information about events of camps and associations around the world is shared through a biannual newsletter and the Web site

Camping Congresses

For more than a quarter of a century, International Camping Congresses have provided a venue for sharing ideas, global communications, and cultural understanding. The 9th International Camping Congress, "Gateway for a Quality Life," will be held November 4–7, 2011, at the YMCA Wu Kwai Sha Youth Village in Hong Kong.

The Formation of Camp Associations

ICF has proven to be supportive and instrumental in the establishment of camp associations around the world. Even prior to the founding of ICF, Armand Ball addressed a group of camp directors in Victoria, Australia, which subsequently became the Camping Association of Victoria, joining the previously established Camping Association of South Australia. In 1996, the Australian Camps Association was formed. Australian study tours of US camps in 1988 and 2004 have continued an exchange of ideas. With the collective efforts of ICF and ACA, camp associations have been formed in Venezuela (1989), Russia (1993), Greece (1993), Malaysia (1995), Colombia (1996), Mexico (1996), Ukraine (1998), Hong Kong (2002), Mongolia (2002), and Turkey (2010). In 2005, the Asia-Oceania Camping Fellowship was formed, and in 2009, the European Camping Association was formed. Both of these organizations facilitate educational events and sharing of ideas for countries in smaller geographic areas with developing camp industries.

Global Resource Partners

With the proliferation of countries with camp associations, the past two International Camping Congresses have provided venues for gatherings of presidents and execut ives that have been well-received and resulted in on-going communications among camp associations' leadership. In Mexico in 2005, Peg Smith, CEO of ACA, affirmed the desire of ACA to serve as a "global resource partner," and this effort has been evident through sharing access to books and media through the ACA Bookstore, the ACA Web site Knowledge Center, ACA's e-Institute, research, and reduced rates for international memberships and national conference registrations. A gathering of camp association presidents and executives was also convened in Quebec City in 2008 by ICF founders Armand Ball and Dick Chamberlain to share each association's needs and resources that they could offer to other associations.

The initial instruction of ACA's Basic Camp Director Course in other countries was by Armand and Beverly Ball in Canada, Malaysia, Bermuda, Russia, Japan, and Venezuela. The Balls, along with Dick Chamberlain, Connie Coutellier, and Jack Murdock, further refined the course, now called the "International Camp Directors Course" (ICDC), for broader application, which they have conducted in Mexico and Quebec. In 2008, the ICDC course in Quebec provided a component to train additional ICDC trainers. Under the auspices of ICF and coordinated by Connie Coutellier, the ICDC course was offered in Australia, Colombia, and Russia in 2009 and 2010, with plans for four courses in Canada in the next two years.

As the camp industry develops in other countries and professionalism increases, the concern for risk management has escalated. While some countries have governmental and legislative oversight of camp operations, others operate with less outside scrutiny. From the late 1980s, some associations in other countries have taken ACA Standards as a starting point to develop standards indigenous to their own countries. In the mid-1990s, ACA discontinued the practice of accrediting camps outside the US because expense, cultural differences in application of the standards, and logistical challenges. The availability of ACA's Accreditation Process Guide, the e-Institute, and other risk management resources has provided references for development of culturally relevant best practices systems in other countries. As an example, the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, working with Linda and Richard Pulliam as private consultants, has used a variation of ACA Standards as an internal assessment tool for their five European camps. While not offering a designation of accreditation, this has enabled those camps to operate on a similar level of quality assurance as that of the ACA-Accredited Hole in the Wall Camps in the US.

The International Community Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of ACA

ICF now has members in thirty-three countries on six continents and contacts with twenty-three country, provincial, or multi-country camp associations. ACA has been enriched by relationships with camp professionals in these countries. While we have been privileged to share our resources with our international colleagues, we have also benefited greatly from the opportunities to learn from individuals and groups throughout the world. At the 2010 National Conference in Denver, nearly seventy delegates from fourteen countries were present to help ACA celebrate its 100th anniversary and the rich history of the camp movement — further affirmation of the power of globalization of the camp movement. The greatest value of identification with a movement larger than the boundaries of our own camps or associations lies in the opportunity for exchange of ideas and establishment of relationships. Fifteenyear- old James Simpson, an Australian camper who composed the theme song for the 6th International Camping Congress in Australia, "As the Butterf ly Flies," expressed in the chorus: "Let's celebrate how we differ; let's celebrate what we share. Let's show the world together that together we can care."

The International Community Celebrates 150 Years of Camp in the US

At the 2011 ACA National Conference in San Diego, the 150th anniversary of those first camp efforts by Connecticut's Frederick William Gunn in 1861 and the birth of modern organized camping will be celebrated. Certainly, it will be much more than an American celebration. It has been said that the organized camp experience and outdoor education have been the United States' gift to the world. The international camping community will join the celebrations and will not only wish ACA well, but will continue to benefit from its leadership in what has become a global movement.

Purpose of the ICF
From the beginning, the purpose of ICF has been to foster international understanding through the camp and outdoor experience. The objectives of the organization are:

  • To coordinate the exchange of news and information among individuals, camps, outdoor experiences, and organizations in different countries.
  • To encourage and facilitate bi-lateral and multi-lateral exchanges.
  • To stimulate efforts to achieve international understanding and global living, leadership, and ecological action through organized camping and outdoor experience.
  • To encourage the organization of regional and national camping associations.

International Camping Congresses

  • 1983 — Toronto, Canada (CCA)
  • 1987 — Washington, DC (ACA), "Our Fragile World"
  • 1994 — Toronto, Canada (ACA, CCA, and Ontario Camping Association), "Kumbayah"
  • 1997 — St. Petersburg, Russia (St. Petersburg and Russian Camping Associations), "Nevsky Forum"
  • 2000 — Tokyo, Japan (National Camping Association of Japan), "Creating a New Camping Culture"
  • 2003 — Melbourne, Australia (Australian Camping Association and Camping Association of Victoria), "Beneath the Southern Cross"
  • 2005 — Mexico City, Mexico (Asociacion Mexicana de Campamentos), "Preserve the Treasure, Enrich Young Lives"
  • 2008 — Quebec City, Canada (Association des camps du Québec), "In Living Colors"
  • 2011 — Hong Kong (Camping Association of Hong Kong), "Camping: Gateway to Quality Life"

Abbott Fenn Druzhba Award Recipients
The Abbot Fenn Druzba Award is an annual recognition of an individual, camp, or organization that has made a significant contribution to international camping. The award is endowed by Abbott Fenn, a long-standing member of ACA and former director of the Keewaydin Camps.

  • 1990 — Jean McMullan, US
  • 1999 — Artek International Children's Center, Ukraine
  • 2000 — Minoru Matsuda, Japan
  • 2001 — Armand Ball, US
  • 2002 — Bill Bowker (posthumously), Australia
  • 2003 — Charles Pantin/Hilda Carvallo, Venezuela
  • 2004 — Jack Pearse, Canada
  • 2006 — Irene Hooper, US
  • 2007 — Tetsuo Sakai, Japan
  • 2009 — Tamara Truskovskaya, Russia
  • 2010 — Dick Chamberlain, US

Linda Grier Pulliam was a camp director for twenty-seven years and has recently retired as executive of ACA, Virginias. She holds an M.S. Degree in Education, has served on the Steering Committee of ICF for the past fifteen years, and is the international coordinator for ACA. She may be contacted at linda.pulliam@ For more information about the International Camping Fellowship, visit