In life we are accustomed to being categorized by type. Some categories are obvious: men and women, children and adults. Other categories are not as obvious but just as defining: Republicans and Democrats, Yankee fans and Yankee haters. Still others are even less obvious and more philosophical: those who view their glass of life as “half full” and those who view their glass as “half empty.” At camp, I find that we regularly break our staff into our own defining categories: those that attended camp and those that didn’t. (Full disclosure — I fall in the latter category.)

So, without doubt, categories and labels are ever present in our society. Sometimes a label can do well in describing a certain person; other times the label can serve as a stereotype that can be hard for a person to shake. Some labels should be embraced, while others can be an albatross. Whatever the case, the label can define who we are.

It is my belief that one label that most everyone reading this magazine embraces is that he or she is a “giver.” There are no “takers” among us. We live to give. This is demonstrated by the fact that, every summer:

  • We give of our life to instill certain values in youth.
  • We give our campers encouragement to try new things.
  • We give education to our staff members to grow their leadership ability and help them to understand the importance of giving as well.
  • We give our time to be the guardians to campers whose caregivers are many miles away.
  • We give all our participants opportunities to meet new friends and establish lifelong relationships.

It’s quite simple and very obvious: If you work at a camp, attend a camp, or are in anyway associated with camps — you are one who gives. And please know that this is a label to EMBRACE!

It is with this label in mind that I urge you to think of how you can give back to the American Camp Association as well. I give to the ACA because it is an organization that continually inspires me to give more and to give my best. As a nonprofit organization, ACA stands in our corner to serve as coach, confidant, and cheerleader.

As an organization, ACA has also earned the label of “giver.” Now we each have the opportunity to return the favor — and I encourage you to take it. It is our turn to be “givers” to ACA.

Tom Holland is the executive director of the Teton Valley Ranch Camp Education Foundation in Jackson, Wyoming. He is a member of the American Camp Association National Board of Directors and lives in Wyoming with his wife, Catherine, and their three children.

Originally published in the 2012 July/August Camping Magazine.