Resource Library

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste" marks the beginning of a 1927 prose poem, "Desiderata," by American writer Max Ehrmann. A copy of this well-known piece, the Latin translation of which is "things wanted or needed," hangs in the reception area at Cape Cod Sea Camps and amplifies not only the sometimes-tumultuous nature of summer camp, but also, most likely, the process of getting there in the first place.

Why might that be the case?

Simply because of the sheer number of programmatic options for teens and young adults: potential campers and counselors, one and all.

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Embracing and Empowering Gen Z
Published Date: 2018-09-01

David Bryfman, PhD

As summer comes to an end, we bid farewell to our campers and counselors for another year. Without hesitation we tell them that we can’t wait to see them next summer. It is tragic to contemplate that some of our campers will not return next year because of senseless gun violence that permeates our country’s schools — and yet that is what many American youth claim is what scares them most in this world (Graf, 2018).

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Trends in camp business operations are altogether interesting and not interesting. Interesting because the business of camp is dynamic and evolving quickly to meet the demands of the 21st century, and not interesting because, by and large, the business of camp boils down to one thing: it depends. The 2018 Camp Business Operations Report included both interesting and not-all-that-interesting findings, mostly due to the fact that camps today are increasingly diverse, representing a wider range than ever before in size and financial scope.

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Many of us who grew up going to summer camp feel like it was the place we could most be ourselves. If we had the option, we would make it our second (or first) home.

You probably have a story about your favorite counselor who you looked up to, who helped you imagine the personality traits you wanted to have when you grew up and opened your mind to new experiences.

It makes sense that many campers continue on to become staff members, because they want to do what their most memorable role models did.

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As camp professionals we've got a lock on how to plan for, organize, and deliver high-quality summer learning programs for children and young adults. Amidst the rush of preparing our staff to be effective counselors of youth, establish meaningful mentoring relationships, and model such important constructs as sensitivity, positive risk-taking, conflict resolution, and leadership, we may unwittingly lose sight of the fact that one of the most seminal achievements of our work is creating communities — year after year.

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Running a camp is challenging. Running a camp in the United States, where violent events occupy the 24-hour news cycle, is even more difficult. There are so many risks and expectations to manage.

The emotional, physical, and financial impacts of violent events, such as the recent attacks in Parkland, Santa Fe, and the YouTube Headquarters, make the exposure top of mind for camp owners, directors, staff, and parents.

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I was at the end of a full day of training 300 group leaders (GLs) at the San Diego YMCA in early May 2018. I ended with a story that I hoped would portray a deeper sense of friendship that campers can develop in the emotionally safe, tech-free space of a typical camp. I was also trying to give those eager GLs a glimpse of the kind of impact they could have on some of the over 10,000 campers who would be coming through the San Diego County Y day and resident camp programs in the next several months.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2016), 8.5 percent of school-aged children are receiving specialized education services, not including those students with specific learning disabilities. Yet, in 2012, campers with disabilities represented only 3 percent of campers attending Jewish overnight camps (Laszlo Strategies, 2013). This implies that a large number of children are not benefiting from the life-enriching and joyful experience of overnight camp.

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Richard, a camper in the 1950s, recently returned to Camp Manito-wish YMCA where he spent five summers as a youth. The camp recently commemorated its 100th summer with a celebration for the ages, and while he enjoyed his nostalgic walk through camp immensely, Richard said the Paul Bunyan Breakfast resonated with him the most.

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