I want to take a moment to reach out to you during these challenging times and remind you that the American Camp Association is here to support you as you work to plan for the summer through evolving guidance, information, and contingencies.
Camp Is a Beacon in the Storm
We are deeply inspired by the stories we are hearing about the way many camps are reaching out to their camper and staff families and engaging them with fun, virtual camp programs over Zoom and other technologies. Camp families are anticipating summer, and we have an opportunity to engage young people who are home from school and infuse some summer magic into everyone’s lives. These virtual programs (i.e., campfires, music, games, etc.) rekindle and build community by creating hope and happiness where there may be confusion and fear.
Stay Positive & Keep Planning for the Summer
We are in a dynamic situation and things are quickly evolving. While we can’t predict the future, there is currently no reason to believe with certainty that camp won’t happen this summer. Now is a time for patience, hope, and planning. Continue to watch for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and your state health department. Look to the resources that we are sharing with you every day, and consult with your peers and advisors, before making decisions that could have lasting impacts on your camp operations.
Over the decades, camps have confidently and flexibly dealt with communicable diseases, earthquakes, wildfires, and more. We do this through careful planning and the use of best-practices in crisis management. This is one of our core competencies as a field. The camp community has faced challenges in the past and we have emerged smarter, stronger, and called to work in the field of camp with a deeper sense of purpose. We will persevere; we will plan for camp and the millions of campers we collectively serve. While every generation has faced uncertainty and change, camp experiences are more important and strategically necessary for this generation to thrive in the years to come. As many industries communicate with anxious speculation, it is important for the camp community to role model self-certainty around what we know best — our camps, our campers, their families, and the importance of our camp community. Our youth and their families are counting on us.
Federal Recovery Funding for Camps
The camp community provides critical leadership for millions of families, and we at ACA are doing our best to advocate nationally for your programs and for financial assistance should it be needed. We have been assured, for example, that for-profit and nonprofit camps will be able to apply for federal Small Business Administration Coronavirus Disaster Relief Loans (PDF) through their individual states. The ACA advocacy team is also communicating with the White House and Congress, working hard on your behalf for greater relief for our field. Our advocates are in Congressional offices, at the White House, and working the halls of government on your behalf right now.
Focus on Summer Staffing
We know the recent decision by the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to pause cultural exchange visitor activity until May 12 may affect summer staffing. We encourage you to hire supplemental staff, in addition to continuing to patiently plan for cultural exchange visitors as they are able to participate. We are hopeful this pause will end as scheduled. Millions of American college students will likely now be spending the summer in the US, rather than abroad, and many who had hoped for internships (that might not now materialize) could be employed by summer camps.
Resources and Education for Camp Professionals
While some of ACA's in-person conferences and events have been canceled, we are offering a collaborative series of useful webinars and helpful new content resources regularly. Look for more information on our coronavirus web page and in our ACA Now e-newsletter each week.
Camp – Now More Than Ever
In challenging times like these, I am reminded of Albert Camus’s famous quote: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer . . .” As camp professionals, we are experts at building optimism and community in the face of fear and uncertainty. Our summer experiences teach resilience, determination, kindness, and teamwork. America needs all summer camp programs now more than ever before. Thank you for all you are doing to ensure that millions of children, teens, and adults have transformative camp experiences across our nation this summer in every way possible.
With Deep Gratitude and Admiration,