Resource Library

A Place to Share: Connections
Published Date: 2020-01-01

The ACA National Conference is about connections. There is an instant familiarity that connects the camp community. The overenthusiastic hellos when greeting old friends, the warm welcome when engaging firsttime attendees, and the common sense of purpose and camaraderie are welcome and comforting. Attending the conference feels a little bit like coming home. It is a place where we can connect and grow as camp professionals. A place where we can explore new ideas and new places, and where we can create connections with others who are supportive and encouraging.

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Dear Camp Director:

No doubt some of the greatest demands you face are attracting, motivating, and retaining summer staff. Among the challenges are aligning your counselors to mission and helping them to engage with peers and campers. But doing so will maximize you staff's power to positively affect young lives and help you meet your goals for a successful season.

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Unanswered emails. Requests (demands) for time off. Over-involved parents. What's the matter with young people today? Most likely nothing! We have more in common with this cohort of staff than one might think; their needs are just expressed differently. The way we view the world and the expectations we hold for others are heavily influenced by the population cohort to which we belong. For this and future staff recruiting seasons, we have an opportunity to communicate that we are in touch with the times and yet have a handle on timeless wisdom.

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For generations, the family was known throughout the area as masters of making the most amazing fudge. Taking days to prepare, fudge making was an event — and those lucky enough to receive some would savor it as long as they could. The fudge recipe was a heavily guarded family secret, traditionally passed down to just one relative in the next generation. The grandmother had been the last maker. When it was time to pass the torch, she brought the next family member in line to her kitchen for instruction and ceremoniously gave them the recipe.

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July’s Camp Kindness Day showcased the role that organized camping plays in promoting character traits that ultimately transcend June, July, and August, amplifying that what young people can learn during the summer — in so many ways — prepares them to grow into “socially minded, community-oriented” citizens (ACA, 2019a).

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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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