Resource Library

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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The year was 1918.

World War I was winding down overseas, the Spanish flu epidemic was raging across the globe, and Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. It was also the year Storer Camps was founded on Stony Lake in Jackson County, Michigan, as the summer camp location for the YMCA of Greater Toledo.

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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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Presented by ACA, Illinois and Women in Camping, the Women in Camp Summit is a three-day professional development event of networking, discussion, and learning designed specifically for female-identifying individuals who work in or in support of camp. This year’s Women in Camp Summit takes place November 4–6 in St. Charles, Illinois.


Camping Magazine asked several of the summit organizers to weigh in on the reasons behind the Women in Camp Summit and the opportunities the event represents:

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Most of the time we encourage one another to think outside the box. In the case of major donor relationships in the camp environment, I encourage you to think squarely within it! The box is the period between the beginning of camp and the day your campers leave. It is when the eight months of precamp effort is palpable and alive, and activities best narrate program impact. Seeing, smelling, tasting, and observing campers and staff in action is more powerful than any video or choreographed home/office visit.

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Resource Roundup for Camp Professionals
Published Date: 2019-08-30

Parents traditionally look to teachers, school counselors, and religious leaders for guidance and resources about raising kids. Typically, parents wouldn’t think to seek resources and guidance from summer camp professionals. It’s time to take seriously our important role in partnering with parents by sharing resources about child development, youth trends, and best practices when working with young people.

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