Resource Library

I was sitting in our chapel benches surrounded by towering pines as I listened to our leadership director, Dave Irwin, give his Sunday chapel talk in late July of 2016 at YMCA Camp Belknap, a traditional, nonprofit, overnight summer camp for boys.

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“Without Camplify? Gosh, I don’t know where we would be.”

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“Can I talk to you for a minute?” It’s a simple question that in the blink of an eye can send the receiver on an emotional roller coaster. Take a moment and slowly read the following list. Pretend each one of these people is asking you that question. Notice your initial emotional reaction.

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ACA’s 5-Year Impact Study entered its third and final phase in fall 2018. This means that we are well on our way to understanding the lasting impacts of camp and how camp experiences prepare young people for their college, career, and adult lives. By the time you read this, we will have data from current campers and their parents or caregivers, former campers, new staff, and staff who have worked at camp for several years, all of which helps tell a story not only of the benefits of attending camp, but the specific ways camp experiences foster these outcomes. 

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Forget camp as you know it, because the world is changing faster than camp professionals are holding their ground. Forget camp’s unique combination of community living away from home in a beautiful natural setting with a recreational premise. Forget its proven power to accelerate youth development. This 160-year-old concept has a bleak future if current trends continue unchecked. In the coming decades, I predict these seven revolutions.

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Over the last 30 years, I have not only been a camp director and owner but have also worked in the role of providing professional risk management education within the camp, youth development, and education fields. My clients have included universities, municipalities, private schools, camps, recreation, and nonprofit organizations. In addition to writing, providing educational workshops, training camp staff, etc., I am often hired to evaluate policies and procedures, as well as advise and provide an expert opinion for insurance and legal professionals when accidents happen at camps.

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Camp taught me about the power of the environment — not just the natural world where we romp and roam, but the broad community support and child-centricity of programming and purpose. As a psychologist, I learned that individual symptoms often bloom in the absence of the very things that make camp experiences so powerful, and so crucial to foster and sustain.

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The year was 1918.

World War I was winding down overseas, the Spanish flu epidemic was raging across the globe, and Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. It was also the year Storer Camps was founded on Stony Lake in Jackson County, Michigan, as the summer camp location for the YMCA of Greater Toledo.

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On Being a Mentor
Published Date: 2019-09-01

Two of my professional mentors recently passed away after horrific battles with cancer. Their funerals gave me pause to reflect on the deeply profound impact they each had on who I am today, both personally and professionally. One of these mentors was responsible for inviting me into the camp profession and encouraged me to build my professional camp education and become an active American Camp Association (ACA) volunteer leader. He shared many insights that I wouldn’t have otherwise known and helped me recognize and understand my blind spots.

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It was three years ago when I first wrote about the increasing levels of anxiety that camp directors were seeing in their staff (Ditter, 2016). At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta had been reporting that anxiety in children ages 13–18 was at a 40-year high (CDC, 2011). In a survey conducted by the American Camp Association’s Healthy Camps Committee after the summer of 2015, camp directors indicated that anxiety was their number one concern when it came to staff (Gaston, 2015).

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