Camp Builds Powerful Advocacy

June 19, 2017
Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO

Last month, twelve camp directors gathered with staff from the YMCA, American Camp Association (ACA), and the Foundation for Jewish Camp in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA) of 2017, international cultural exchange through camp experiences, equitable access to forest lands, preservation of tax deductibility of charitable gifts, and expansion of the child care tax credit to residential camp tuition.

CPIA — House Resolution 695 — is sponsored by Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Mike Bishop (R-MI), and there are forty-five co-sponsors. A companion Senate Bill, S.705, is sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and has two co-sponsors:  Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). This bill is presently being considered in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. 

During this day of advocacy, camp professionals and staff met with more than twenty senators and congressmen and their staff from across the political spectrum. In a time of considerable political divisiveness, this event was a welcomed bipartisan effort to strengthen camp experiences for all American children, youth, and adults.

It is exciting that the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Executive Branch are filled with career staffers, elected and appointed officials who are former campers, former staff, camp parents, and advocates for American camp. There are passionate champions for camp experiences for all children across the political spectrum. 

As camp professionals, we must remember that the boys and girls we are mentoring today at camp will be leading our cities and our nation in the decades to come. At camp, they are learning timeless lessons of leadership, collaboration, problem-solving, communication, creative thinking, and altruism. Camp experiences teach them to listen respectfully, consider diverse opinions, contribute more than they receive, and act kindly toward each other. I felt pleased to hear legislative leaders in our congressional briefings comment that their camp experiences really helped prepare them for government service. 

Your influence deeply affects the lives of your campers and staff, and the effects last a lifetime. At the conclusion of the congressional briefing we hosted at the US Capitol, I watched in awe as Anne Derber, CEO of YMCA Camp Manitowish and ACA National Board Member, looked her former Manitowish staffer — now Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) — in the eye and asked him to please ensure that CPIA made it to the floor of the House for a vote. Two weeks later, the Speaker made good on his word, and H.R.695 unanimously passed the House of Representatives. We hope that the US Senate will move swiftly to consider the companion Senate bill, S.705, and send it unanimously to the President for his signature. 

Each summer, Congress recesses for the month of August. Legislators are home visiting constituents and taking vacation with their families. Please consider inviting members of your own congressional delegation to visit your camp this summer during the August recess. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share your program with them and to help them reconnect to the powerful and essential outcomes of camp experiences first-hand. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the camp professionals who generously participated in this inaugural Camp on the Hill event, as well as our partners at the YMCA and Foundation for Jewish Camp.  We look forward to offering more advocacy opportunities and resources to ACA camp professionals in the near future.  We are striving to provide more proactive government relations strategies that support the strengthening of the field of Camp and assist you in advocating personally for camp experiences.  

Photo: Representatives from ACA, the YMCA, and Foundation for Jewish Camp at the Capitol Building for Camp on the Hill Day.