Year after year, I’m amazed at the breadth of knowledge camp professionals bring and share with each other at the ACA National Conference. New theories in child development, risk-management issues, effective hiring tactics, eco-friendly camp practices, exploration of unintentional biases — the list goes on. We all leave the conference more informed than when we arrived.

But more amazing still is the connection that sparks when camp people meet. Like the fireflies of summer attracted to one another’s light, camp people are drawn together. Connections are forged in the hallways and in between speaker sessions. Strangers become new friends, and old friends exchange warm greetings before picking up where they left off the year before.

ACA Eastern Region Director Vincent Irving is preparing for his sophomore visit to the national conference:

Last year I attended my first ACA National Conference. Faces in every hallway were covered with smiles and called out familiar greetings. It didn’t take me long to connect with those I’d spent months connecting with via Zoom. Likewise, it took just minutes to find personal connections with those I’d never spoken with prior to sharing a ride down an escalator. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals during the morning cafés. I hope to be able to share a cup of tea with even more new friends this year.

John Beitner, western region director at ACA, also remembers his first foray at the annual gathering: 

Like most young camp professionals attending their first ACA National Conference, I was blown away by the enormity of the event and the impressive number of people who have made camp a career. Thirty years later I can still recall that no matter how impressive their resume and list of accomplishments was, the ‘titans’ of the camp community were also incredibly approachable and generous with me. They were happy to share their experience, knowledge, and wisdom. I’m glad to see that this hasn’t changed over the years. It is a testimony of the welcoming and accepting community we have built — and these days I look forward to learning from the people who are earlier on in their careers!

Support for our mutual mission to empower the young and the young at heart through positive camp experiences is palpable in the air at the conference. No matter what direction one faces, which session one attends, or the breakroom one wanders into, one finds themselves in the presence of individuals dedicated to making lives better through camp. Camp people are purveyors of fun, caretakers of children’s dreams, and individuals always willing to lend a hand.

Kim Bruno, ACA’s director of business development knows this all too well.

I get to connect with many fabulous camp professionals and businesses at the ACA National Conference. We can’t build communities alone; as they say, “it takes a village.” I am reminded of a time I fell ill during a conference and how our camp community came together and supported me in a time of need. Our group of professionals, they are the most caring and loving people I know. I am thankful for each and every one of them.

So from one camp person (or four) to another, come to the 2023 ACA National Conference in Orlando, Florida, and feed your spirit with some great opportunities for learning and a lot of soul to soul communication.

Marcia Ellett is the editor in chief of ACA’s Camping Magazine.