UltraCamp executives Dan Ashley and Jason Payne believe in the positive influence of camp on the lives of children, youth, and adults, and they are committed to spreading that influence to as many campers as possible. That’s why they’ve created a nationwide camper scholarship program, the UltraCamp Foundation, which partners with ACA. ACA has always relied on partnerships for the capacity to distribute the Send a Child to Camp Fund, but the UltraCamp Foundation is unique in that it’s ACA’s first partner with a national reach. The UltraCamp Foundation, like other distribution partners, works only with ACA-accredited camps.
We recently caught up with Dan and Jason at their headquarters in Michigan and asked them a few questions about UltraCamp Foundation’s involvement in ACA’s national outreach initiative, the 20/20 Vision, and how the UltraCamp Foundation is helping send more deserving kids to camp each year.
Q: ACA’s 20/20 Vision is about a commitment to seeing at least 20 million children attending camp by the year 2020. And UltraCamp Foundation is making it easier to match kids with camp experiences. What’s the connection; why is sending kids to camp part of UltraCamp Foundation’s mission?
DAN: Well, going to camp is personal for me. I was a camper. I know what it did for me as a camper and as staff. As a camper, camp gave me all kinds of opportunities to explore and experience activities and cultures that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise — kids from different areas and neighborhoods and backgrounds and income levels. We were all thrown together in a cabin and encouraged to be friends and get along and work together. As a camp staff member, the responsibilities and leadership opportunities that you have as an emerging adult are really not comparable to any other job. And for me, it developed a sense of social responsibility and care for others — kids especially.
Q: How about you, Jason? Share a little of why you want to help send more young people to camp.
JASON: I also attended camp as both a camper and staff member, and I really enjoyed it. Working at camp, I liked having the opportunity to give back to the camp community and, as a counselor, take care of kids directly. It was just a really great experience! I fell in love with the camp experience and what it can do for kids. I even met my wife at camp. We were married in a church nearby the camp and held our reception in the very lodge where we met. It was the best benefit I reaped from camp!
From all of my experiences — I’m sure Dan agrees, and really, I think everybody who works here agrees — it’s a natural continuation to leverage the success of UltraCamp Foundation on behalf of sending kids to camp. Everybody should have a chance to experience camp.
Q: Tell us about how UltraCamp Foundation does that.
JASON: We’ve created the UltraCamp Foundation to begin sponsoring camps and give them the funds necessary to get kids to camp. This year we’ve partnered with the American Camp Association to provide scholarships to nine different camps. Over the next couple of years, we’ll be looking for additional partners to expand the program and reach as many camps as possible to try to get as many kids to camp that wouldn’t ordinarily have that opportunity. ACA’s 20/20 Vision really aligns well with our goals for the foundation.
Q: So the UltraCamp Foundation is its own nonprofit entity that accepts tax-deductible donations to send kids to camp?
Q: Can parents apply to the UltraCamp Foundation for money to send their children to camp?
JASON: No. We work exclusively with camps to support their efforts. They’re in a better position than we are to evaluate the needs of their constituents, so no, we don’t distribute money directly to campers in need.
Q: What’s the process a camp director should follow to be considered for an UltraCamp Foundation scholarship?
DAN: To apply (we wanted to make the process as easy as possible), camp directors just go to http://foundation.ultracamp.com  and fill out a very short survey about their camp. It takes about fifteen minutes. They provide us with a copy of their brochure and that’s it!
Q: You require eligible camps to reduce their fees for worthy campers, and parents have to pay something. What is your reasoning behind that?
JASON: Yes, we require camps to discount their fees by one-third for scholarship recipients. Really, this just helps us weed out camps who are seeking grant money to increase their profit margin. And yes, we also require the parents or guardians to contribute something, as determined by the camp, for the fees. It’s just been our experience — our camp experience — that has taught us the personal investment of camper families helps foster appreciation for the opportunity to attend camp.
Q: Tell us about the selection process. Once camps have applied at the