Moving Forward Together: July 2021

Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO
July 2021

You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight.
You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream.
You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life.
Nevertheless, in every flight, in every life, in every dream,
The print of the way you taught them will remain.
– Mother Teresa

Dear Friends:

I wish to express deep gratitude to each of you for your heroic leadership and nurturing care of millions of traumatized children, youth, and young adults this year. As we close our second COVID-19 summer, it seems appropriate to pause and reflect on the endured hardships and tragic losses as well as on our newfound courage, resilience, and gratitude — which have emboldened us to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. A grateful generation of campers and summer staff will always remember the way your 2021 camp programs infused light, hope, and joy into an otherwise turbulent and dark time.

The pandemic has demonstrated for parents, government officials, educators, and funders that there has never been a greater need for regular camp programs for all children and youth. Camp has proven to have a lasting effect on a young person’s psychosocial development, self-esteem, relationship skills, independence, leadership skills, values, and willingness to try new things (American Camp Association, 2005). Camp also enables young people to overcome a lack of connection to nature, which has been associated with higher rates of depression, attention disorders, and obesity (Louv, 2005). In this pandemic, young people have been isolated and traumatized, and growing evidence shows increasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder among various age groups (Rogers, Ha, & Ockey, 2021; Ma, et al, 2020). Kids have missed out on the social, emotional, and academic benefits of a normal school year and so many informal opportunities for peer-to-peer, in-person connections, family events, and recreational activities.

Just months before the pandemic began, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics published a consensus report and call to action describing the universal need for the lasting educational and developmental benefits of summertime experiences such as camp for all children and youth. The report also documented the detrimental impacts of inequitable availability and access to these programs for underserved families. The pandemic has exacerbated conditions for children and youth and underscored for government agencies and other funders how urgently high-quality camp experiences are needed as essential components of a child’s year-round learning landscape. Thanks to funding legislation such as the American Rescue Plan Act, camps will have greater opportunities to partner with teachers and local educational authorities to provide outdoor school programs over the next few years. All of this translates to greater public awareness of the value of camp experiences and reinforces our strategic goals — especially our work to advocate for children and youth and to advance the reach and relevance of camp by expanding equitable access to this vital developmental experience.

I also want to thank you for your generous support for ACA’s Annual Giving Campaign and for your extraordinary volunteer service to the field of camp. In these very challenging times, dues and program fees alone could not have supported the considerable expenses ACA has incurred in sustaining our critical COVID-19 response while maintaining our strategic initiatives. Thank you so much for investing your precious time, treasure, and talent in our collective work. Together we are moving forward and building a stronger field for tomorrow.

References

  • American Camp Association. (2005). Directions: Youth outcomes of the camp experience. ACA. Retrieved from ACAcamps.org/sites/default/files/resource_library/report-directions-youth-development-outcomes.pdf
  • Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
  • Ma, Z., Zhao, J., Li, Y., Chen, D., Wang, T., Zhang, Z., Chen, Z., Yu, Q., Jiang, J., Fan, F., & Liu, X. (2020, November 13). Mental health problems and correlates among 746 217 college students during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak in China. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 29, E181. doi: 10.1017/S2045796020000931
  • Rogers, A. A., Ha, T., & Ockey S. (2021, January). Adolescents perceived socio-emotional impact of COVID-19 and implications for mental health: Results from a US-based mixed-methods study. J Adolesc Health, 681(1): 43-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.09.039

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