Resource Library

Universal needs, tireless visionaries, transplanted ideas, unique character.

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We had a missing camper. I was seconds away from sending my staff to search the dark lake on a moonless night when I received the news that we’d found him. I made my way headlong toward the child. Thankfully, I was stopped by the head counselor before I could mess up one of the best pieces of camp counseling I had ever witnessed, coming from Carlos, a 16-year-old, first-year counselor-in-training.

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to make this week better for you,” said Carlos.

“It’s not your fault,” Jacob, the missing camper, mumbled.

“But it’s my job.”

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In one of her 2010 commentaries in Camping Magazine, former American Camp Association CEO Peg Smith reflected on her conversations with award-winning researcher Marge Scanlin nearly a decade earlier about establishing a strong research tradition in the ACA). She said, “We wanted to find a way to create a culture that could not only say, ‘Camp Gives Kids a World of Good,’ but demonstrate science-based evidence of such” (Smith, 2010). This contrasting desire for both anecdotes and evidence resonates with me.

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“Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is character.” — Warren Bennis, American scholar, organizational consultant, and author

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The Globalization of the Camp Movement
Published Date: 2010-09-01

In American history books, 1987 will be remembered as the "dark year" of the Reagan administration, with shadows cast by the Iran- Contra affair, the Unabomber, and detonation of an atomic weapon in Nevada. But in the annals of the American Camp Association (ACA), the National Conference in Washington, DC, proved to be like no other in the organization's history.

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This article is the first in a two-part series on fund-raising, and to learn even more about this subject, be sure to attend Ann Sheets and Posie Taylor’s session, The Development Doctors Are In, at the 2018 ACA National Conference in Orlando, Florida.

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So you have decided to spend your summer working with children, and living with them, too. While presenting more challenges than your typical summer job, you can have a powerful impact on the lives of your campers. Before the campers arrive, you are bombarded with information, ranging from your staff employee handbook to research on child development. Between the excitement of the summer and the potential information overload of staff training, it is easy to overlook a critical element of your training: you.

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A primary challenge for any business is recruiting and maintaining customers. In 2012, 27.2 percent of camps surveyed reported camper enrollment that was lower or at its lowest point compared to the previous five years (American Camp Association, 2013). While 59.7 percent of surveyed camps developed budgets expecting to operate below capacity in 2012 (American Camp Association, 2013), 31.7 percent reported that their enrollment was still less than 90 percent of their target.

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As I’m sure is true with many camps, we spent several weeks last October and November recruiting and visiting families in the major cities from which we draw campers. It is a fun and sometimes exhausting time of year — late nights, many new faces, camp events, reunions, and time away from home. Throughout the trip, I was struck by a pattern that has always been present but had escaped the focus of my attention: Many parents don’t know why they want to send their children to camp or what they expect their kids to get out of it.
 
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When Competition Is Just Right
Published Date: 2018-11-01

"I don't want my child to take part in this contest you've dreamed up," a visiting parent told me on the grounds of my camp. "I don't want him to lose. He's not good at this." She pointed out to the playing field where campers were practicing throwing bamboo spears, hurling rock ‘shot puts,' and leaping over high jump crossbars."

"It's called the 'Primitive Olympics,'" I explained. "Everyone is excited about it. Including your son."

She frowned out at the activity on the field. "But he can't do these things. He'll lose."

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