Resource Library

I remember the call clearly. It was in September about 10 years ago when my longtime camp friend and colleague, Dave Tager, called about the transition of leadership at the camp he and his wife, Shelley, had run for almost 25 years. Over the course of that time, Dave and Shelley had built their coed resident camp, now called Camp IHC, into a successful and highly reputable camp. After 25 years of being ultimately responsible for thousands of other people's children, Dave was ready to turn the reigns over to a talented young couple. As Dave said to me, "I love camp!

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The Legacy of Camp Monroe
Published Date: 2019-11-01

Summer 1994. I was 10, and my mom signed me up for the second four weeks at Camp Monroe. It was mid-season and everyone seemed to know each other. I was one of three Marylanders and the only person from Baltimore out of 500 people. Everyone I met had a totally different style and accent than me. Kids were from Long Island and Brooklyn. Staten Island kids’ entire way of being blew my fragile and somewhat southern mind. When I got to my bunk, it was clear that I was the youngest and the shortest (everyone was 11 because they didn’t have room for me in the 10-year-old bunks).

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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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The discussion of communicable illness in the camp environment often centers on the very significant issue of foodborne illness. Every summer significant cases of E. coli, salmonella, and others are spread through inappropriate handling of food. Similarly, every so often there are communicable illness outbreaks, such as the swine flu or Zika, that make national news and present problems for camps and their management.

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ACA’s Impact Study is a multiyear research project designed to identify the lasting impacts of camp from the perspectives of campers, staff, and parents. In the earliest stages of the project, we asked former campers, who are now between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, what they learned at camp and how they are using what they learned in their lives today, specifically at school and in their jobs. The research team identified 18 distinct outcomes from these conversations, each of which transfers to school and work in unique ways.

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Food Service Budgeting Basics
Published Date: 2019-09-01

Suppose you have a new board treasurer who wants to better understand your food service financials. Via your manager/director, he needs your food cost per camper, elaboration on the rise in your food expenditures over the past two or three years, and food price forecasts for the next fiscal year. What tools do you have to adequately calculate your food cost? Faced with these challenges, here are some tools I developed to help answer those questions and plan for upcoming food budgets.

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It’s Friday afternoon at the Belle Isle Summer Nature Camp, a day camp in Detroit, Michigan. As parents and younger siblings mill around the auditorium, a happy murmur of conversation is heard as campers proudly display the work they’ve done over the week of summer camp. Students show off the ceramic tiles they created earlier that week, now glazed and fired. Student journals, drawings, and other art cover the tables. One group of campers plays a video they created encouraging people to plant milkweed and native flowers for monarch butterflies.

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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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