“We may have come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I review ACA’s enrollment and business data (see page 44), I think of this quote by MLK. The ACA camp community is more alike than different — we are in the same boat. Yes, we may have different affiliations and even different tax statuses, but at the end of the day, we share more in common than not.

During the last decade of tremendous economic upheaval, the ACA camp community has fared fairly well as compared to others in similar businesses. When talking to the media, I have always said that the last things parents cut from their budget are those that promote their child’s well-being. That has been true for the camp community for the last century and a half; whether facing wars, depressions, terrorism, or health threats, kids have continued to go to camp.

If you consider what the camp community saw as challenges 150 years ago, many are the same, including challenges to the summer months, finances, and family priorities. I have often read ACA board minutes from twenty, thirty, and forty years ago and find the similarities remarkable, especially the undying passion to serve children, youth, and families.

I believe it is our ability to accept our differences and promote our shared assets that make us a durable community that continues to resonate with many parents.

Yet, there is a new challenge we share that is presenting us with a new landscape — the changing social and ethnic demographic. We also share the reality that we are not yet penetrating that new emerging marketplace. In this case, we are more “unlike” the community at large than the same. This truth threatens future generations from receiving the immeasurable benefits of a camp experience. This truth threatens our financial health to continue to serve tomorrow.

I have no doubt that we will once again be more alike than not and come together as a community using our energy and expertise to tackle a challenge worthy of our time and energy — serving more children and youth of all social, cultural, and economic groups!

We urge our campers to focus on and use their strengths. We, as a camp community, need to celebrate our tenacity, recognize our shared strengths, and move into the future.

Originally published in the March/April 2014 Camping Magazine.