Why it’s in Camp’s DNA to be a Beacon After Community Crisis

I’m blown away by community and national responses to crisis. When there’s a natural disaster or widespread community trauma, people want to help! Some actually take vacation days to drive across the country and clean up debris or rebuild cities.

Peg Smith quoteCaring individuals around the world are also financially generous during a crisis. For example, following the horrific 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma that killed 25, injured more than 300, and destroyed 1,100 homes and 2 schools, 3 solid days of national media attention led to—not “fundraising”—but what one executive called “fund-catching.” Best estimates put donations at over $100 million. (Source)

While the saying “many hands make light work” is indisputably true, there’s still a limit to what most of us can do when it comes to offering face to face emotional care to victims, especially when those victims are children.

That’s why camps are perfectly equipped to do what they do best—care for kids—when community violence or natural disasters leave children floundering with fear, loss, anxiety and confusion—or worse: when they have been uprooted, displaced, injured or victimized in the crisis.

5 Resources Camps Have That Enable Impromptu Community Aid: [Tweet this]

  • Spaces, programs, and caring professionals dedicated to and already approved for the care of children
  • Processes in place to facilitate logistics of impromptu programs
  • Pre-established partnerships or networks to funnel donations toward camperships or recruit volunteers to help
  • Environments that naturally heal (play, nature, creativity, camaraderie, joy), away from the troubled area
  • Access to resources to help children with trauma

American Camp Association’s CEO, Peg Smith, recently highlighted one such camp that sprang up in the wake of the recent violence and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Camp Manitowa, a retreat center and summer camp for 2nd-9th graders, located an hour south of St. Louis, used scholarship funds to bring 100 Ferguson youth to an impromptu camp.

Director Andy Brown was inspired to create #CampFerguson through an article which suggested the community could help children whose first day of school was delayed because of the crisis by providing activities. “I read that and thought, ‘Providing activities for kids when they are out of school is exactly what we do,’” he said.

Tension is ongoing in Ferguson and violence leaves long-lasting trauma. So Brown is fundraising to turn #CampFerguson into a bi-annual retreat for over 150 students all living in Ferguson and have scheduled the next retreat for April 3-5, 2015. (Donate here, or promote this fundraiser to your network.)

Many other ongoing camps and clinics have been established to address the trauma children in violent neighborhoods live with. One such program, conducted by YMCA of Metro Chicago in association with the Adler School of Professional Psychology, hosts an Urban Warriors program that pairs military veterans from the nation’s last two wars with youths in Chicago’s under-served neighborhoods.

In increasingly tumultuous times, undoubtedly camps are and will continue to be, to quote Peg Smith, “champions for a peaceful future.” It’s in their DNA.

As always, we’re proud to be associated with the camp champs who share our concern for America’s children.

Thank you for letting us be a part of the generosity of spirit that characterizes this industry!

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About Gina Calvert

Gina Calvert is the Senior Marketing Writer for ACTIVE Network, providing marketing and business resources for active lifestyle organizations across a range of markets, including government, nonprofits, camps, schools and endurance events, for more than six years.