Resource Library

Authors’ note: Based on a wide search of images on the web, we have chosen not to include photographs with this article in order to avoid furthering stereotypes or cultural appropriation.

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Traditions Old and New
Published Date: 2018-03-01

In the days and weeks leading up to opening day, I can hardly contain my excitement about being reunited with my favorite people on the planet. I can’t wait to see how much the campers have grown and matured and to hear about the experiences the staff had over the year. I look forward to the big annual events like the final camp show, the weekly traditions like colors and vespers, and even the ever-present bugle calls.

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Staff sign a contract, then inform you the week before camp begins that they won’t be coming after all. Or staff commit to working the entire season only to tell (not ask!) you they are leaving for six days to attend a family reunion. Does this sound painfully familiar? Unfortunately, in today’s world, signing on the dotted line for this generation of camp staff often means only a temporary commitment until something better comes along.

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Cathy’s story: “He looks like me but he sure don’t talk like me” was the comment I heard from an 11-year-old camper as he described his counselor who was black but from South Africa. In my early and admittedly failed attempts to mirror my staff to reflect my camper population, I did not understand what was most important to my campers and their parents — their identity — whether they were African American, Hmong, or Latino.

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In November 2012, my article, “Search Marketing on the Web — Drive New Camper Enrollment and Alternative Businesses,” appeared in Camping Magazine. Now, five-and-a-half years later, we revisit this topic for the first time. The 2012 article was a primer with basic strategies and some examples for camps. Based on my involvement with many camps from coast to coast over the past several years, following is a selection of updates that need addressing.

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“They threw you a curveball,” suggests a brave staff member, after thinking it over for a moment.

“Be sure you cover all your bases,” offers another.

Thanking them for getting the ball rolling, I record their responses on poster board. They have just replied to my initial question asking the group to come up with commonly used phrases that are derived from baseball.

“What else?” I ask, prompting the group to continue brainstorming.

Soon the conversation really starts to flow, with contributions from other participants now coming more quickly:

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Researchers have postulated that counselors express lowest perceived competency in their ability to develop camper relationships, handle conflict between campers, and feel limited in their ability to provide a safe camp environment (Wahl-Alexander, Howell & Donahue, 2016). These perceived limitations could directly impact not only camper attitudes, but the entire camp community. Fortunately, there are some simple communication strategies to assist counselors in their ability to create a positive experience for campers and promote a safe camp environment.

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The results of the 2017 Fall Camper Enrollment and Staff Recruitment Survey show that, in general, the camp industry had a great year. Growth in enrollment in camp programs remained steady in comparison to 2016, with a total of 77 percent of camp directors describing enrollment for summer 2017 as about the same or higher than last year (results from 2016 showed 78 percent of respondents with this response).

Type of Program - Percent of Camps

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The year was 1995. It was early September, and I was just barely back as camp director at Sherwood Forest. Our summer programs then were 12-day sessions — two for boys and two for girls referred by schools and organizations in St. Louis. Most of the kids were from underserved communities and low-income families. Despite the long relationships between Sherwood Forest and our referral partners, it was always a scramble in the spring to fill these four sessions.

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Money Wise: An Interview with Ron Lieber
Published Date: 2018-03-01

"We may not realize it, but children are hyperaware of money,” wrote Ron Lieber in his New York Times bestseller The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart about Money. That means money should be an important discussion point in every household, and Lieber, who also writes the “Your Money” column for the New York Times, can tell you that talking to kids about money goes beyond ensuring they understand basic financial behaviors.

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