Dear Camp Director, Do You Know Your Value?

Nothing you do for children Garrison KeillorDear Camp Director,

Under the summer sun, amidst the laughter of children, and after unexpected tokens of gratitude or poignant stories of triumph that happen on your turf, you know that what you do is important. Life-changing, even.

But later–when you’re drowning in paperwork, juggling never-ending details, wrestling with new regulations, losing sleep over revenue, scrambling for time with your own family, and mourning the sea of sadness you witness in children’s lives–a tiny doubt can echo loudly:

 Does what I do matter? Am I making a difference?

I hope this will help you answer that question.

In a recent conversation I had with ACA’s CEO Tom Holland, he told me about the ACA’s goal to take a more national role in “helping camp earn its rightful seat at the table of education.”

He said this goal is predicated on the now-proven fact that camp builds skills that prepare kids for a successful adulthood. I know you already knew this, even before the largest research study of camper outcomes ever conducted in the United States came out. It told us—and more importantly, it told the world—that as a result of their camp experience, parents, campers, and camp staff independently report growth in areas such as:

  • Self-confidence
  • Independence
  • Making friends,
  • Exploring and learning new activities
  • Spirituality

So—unequivocably—YES, you’re making a measurable difference in the lives of campers.

Camp Counselor Outcomes

But Mr. Holland was perhaps even more passionate about another very important thing you do. He highlighted the counselor experience as equally important—maybe more so—in impacting the world. Young adults who served as counselors are more prepared for college, for life and for leadership than many of their peers.

“Where else,” he asks, “Can a 19-year old have full responsibility for 12 kids? There’s conflict management, listening, creatively keeping them busy, keeping them safe.”

As a former counselor himself, Mr. Holland knows from experience that counselors shape the world and the business world. In fact, he believes the camp industry is one of the greatest workforce development programs ever seen.

You’re doing that, Camp Director!

Let’s Maximize our Camp Message

I hate to ask you to do more when you’re already so busy impacting the world, but here’s the deal:

According to Mr. Holland, camp’s greatest advantage is related to what could be its greatest challenges:

  • How do we shine the light on the camp experience?
  • How do we articulate and prove the value of what you do?
  • How can we give more kids and young adults this experience in order to have an even greater effect?
  • How do we change the dialogue so that our message— Camp Changes People!—has a collective impact? 

There’s no one answer to these questions. But what I know for sure is that it starts with your inner dialogue. Our collective impact starts with you continuing to squash that still, small doubt as many times as it takes.

It’s you looking in the mirror and recognizing your own impact in your circle of influence. Being proud to say Camp Changed Me! in every channel you can, and, yes, asking for a seat at the table of education.

As Dr. Seuss said, “To the world you may be just one person but to one person, you may be the world.”

Camp Director, you mean the world to us! We believe in what you do–that’s why we create camp management software to make your job easier. So, in a small way, we get to take part in this big impact you have.

Thank you for that! And thank you for never giving in to that doubt!


Gina Calvert, on behalf of ACTIVE Network

P.S. Check out this ACA series of articles about the value of camp to get the language and data to promote camp in your marketing and remind yourself that you do, indeed, make a very big difference.