Volunteering with ACA: Visitor Life

April 1, 2019
Kaley Amonett

In honor of National Volunteer Month, ACA spoke with volunteer visitors about the benefits of volunteering, their reasons for volunteering, and why you should volunteer too.

There’s nothing quite like camp. The sound of campers laughing and playing. The feel of the sun on your skin and the fresh air in your lungs. The quiet sense of peace that being at a place that feels like home brings you.

So when a career in camp ends, the loss of those experiences are palpable. As an American Camp Association (ACA) volunteer visitor, you don’t have to say goodbye to the camp life completely.

Volunteering as a visitor is a great way to stay connected to the camp community even after your summer camp career has ended. Being a visitor puts you back on camp grounds and into the camp environment.

Often, volunteers start with ACA the same way — as an associate visitor. Visitors and associate visitors play a vital role in ACA’s success — volunteers are necessary in order to conduct accreditation visits, which allow camps to become accredited or keep their accreditation. Without volunteer visitors, the ACA Accreditation Program would not be able to function as efficiently as it does now.

Being a volunteer benefits all camp professionals — not just those who no longer work in camp. One of the many perks of being a visitor is experiencing all the networking and learning that comes from working with others in the camp industry.

“I’ve gotten to visit a variety of different kinds of camps — from urban day camps to big association residential camps to rural trip and travel programs,” says visitor Michelle Campbell. “I love the different people I’ve met who all love camp and who love giving kids so many wonderful opportunities. Working with other ACA volunteers is also terrific because we all have such different experiences and knowledge bases. I’m always learning so much.”

Becoming a visitor can be beneficial for those working at camps that are accredited or seeking accreditation, because you become much more familiar with ACA standards.

“Understanding the ACA standards helped our camp to strengthen our policies and practices, and I knew that I wanted to be part of helping others through that process,” Campbell says of her reason for first becoming an associate visitor.

If you’ve been considering volunteering, take some advice from the people who have been in your shoes: do it.

“There are always a million reasons not to say ‘yes’ to volunteer opportunities. Coming from a context where I am the only full-time professional on-site, time is always a scarce resource,” says associate visitor and member of the ACA, Wisconsin standards committee Collin Grooms. “However, I have found that there is nearly always time to say ‘yes.’ There have been countless opportunities that have arisen for myself professionally and for my site simply because I put myself in situations where I was able to meet other people while working toward an ACA goal or project.”

Special thanks to the ACA visitors who contributed their thoughts and input to this blog — Michelle Campbell, Chris Fife, Collin Grooms, Victoria Longleather, Byron Lutz, Candice Olson, Yatiel Owens, Rebecca Pechinski, and Anne Weinberg

Kaley Belakovich is the communications specialist for the American Camp Association.