The American Camp Association: Advocating for Camps in Good Times and Bad

July 2020

Dear friends,

Our world has changed in unimaginable ways. This pandemic has presented incredible challenges to all of us. Those camps that have opened this season have faced tremendous obstacles, with capacity limits and operational hardships never experienced before. You have become frontline workers, putting yourselves on the line to care for your campers, your staff, and their families.

Many more camps wish they could have been with you but were not permitted to open or faced regulations that effectively kept the doors shut. Many camps have found ways to show their love and support by pivoting to innovate online gatherings and activities, local small group meetings, and more. Each of us, in our own ways, has cared for our campers, staff, and our beloved camp communities.

I am in awe of the work all of you have done this summer in the midst of these incredible challenges. I have never been prouder to be a part of this community of camp professionals, nor have I ever been prouder of our association. The American Camp Association has helped us navigate this unimaginable crisis together and has provided us with tools to chart a course through these rough waters.

Starting in March, knowing that our state and local regulators faced an unparalleled community health crisis and likely wouldn’t have time to consider how camps might operate safely through this pandemic, ACA, with the support of YMCA of the USA and other funding partners, commissioned the convening of an expert panel of doctors and public health experts to produce the Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc. Field Guide. Many states, counties, and municipalities have used that guide as a template for operational best practices this summer. For camps that were able to open this summer, the Field Guide project likely made it possible. The Field Guide will continue to be updated as we plan for next summer and beyond.

ACA has been hailed by other youth-serving organizations and foundations as a leader during this crisis. We have worked with our advocacy team in Washington, DC, to provide camps with access to the support they will need to get through these trying times. We lobbied successfully to alter the funding available to summer seasonal businesses by changing the Paycheck Protection Program lending formula, effectively doubling the amount that camps could borrow on terms that will likely make the entire loan forgivable. We have communicated that camps have been more economically impacted by this crisis than any other sector and are working to secure more government support so camps will be able to survive to serve generations of children for the next 100 years.

ACA also continues to advance the goals of our Strategic Plan, working to increase diversity and inclusion at our camps and to provide every child access to life-changing camp experiences. We know that immersive camp experiences teach social-emotional learning and build grit, resilience, and critical skills, and every child should benefit from this. ACA is working with potential funding partners to advance this equitable goal.

Children’s lives and learning will continue to be disrupted until this pandemic has abated. ACA will work to provide resources for camps to partner with school districts to support children and families when they can’t be in school. While this crisis has fractured our model of mostly summer-focused engagement, it has also provided us the opportunity to add value throughout the year. We will help camps find ways to expand their traditional programs and create new ones.

ACA is here for you, to support you and help you though this challenging time. But we also need your help through prioritizing your ACA dues and donations, even as you must carefully manage your resources. Your investment in ACA has never paid greater returns, and we will continue to work together every day to advocate for our field and for the power and impact of life-changing camp experiences for all children.

In this period of uncertainty, we are stronger when we put our resources together to advance our cause. We are profoundly grateful for all you do and will continue to work hard to support you.

Scott Brody
ACA National Board Chair
Owner/Director Camps Kenwood & Evergreen in Wilmot, NH