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Tip: Camps

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Dear Parents, ...about camp...

Submitted By: Peg Smith, CEO, American Camping Association

Dear Parents,


Welcome! Welcome to the joy of being a camp parent. The greatest gifts that parents can give their children are independence and resiliency, and by choosing to send your child to camp, you have given both.


By choosing to send your child to camp, you are placing them in an intentional environment designed specifically to help develop the life skills needed to be a successful and competent adult - skills like self-confidence, leadership, and empathy. Your child will have the opportunity to develop new interests and authentic relationships with mentors and peers - experiences that truly last a lifetime.

Through the camp experience, your child will become a member of a wonderful community - a community where character is built and civility toward each other is nurtured. In a world where interactions with other people have become increasingly impersonal, the ability to relate to another human being - to understand that the world is bigger and more complex than a Facebook profile page - is paramount.


Tomorrow's leaders will not be those who can type or text with lightning speed, they will be those who can have a face-to-face conversation and articulate their thoughts, ideas, and values. Tomorrow's leaders will be able to relate globally and find common ground with people who are vastly different from themselves - people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Tomorrow's leaders will be made and educated by experiences like camp.


Camp is one of the oldest and finest community-based experiential education and development models in America. With concerns about summer learning loss, it's important for families to know that camp truly is a classroom without walls - providing fun designed around intentional programming.


Research tells us that involvement in intentional programs during summer months can help stem the natural summer learning loss that occurs when children are out of school. For 150 years, camp has been the natural extension of traditional education - an intentional, expanded learning environment that provides enrichment and a hands-on experiential education like no other.


Camp is the continuation and expansion of a traditional education. It focuses on the whole child - providing physical, social, and developmental growth, all of which are precursors to academic achievement. Camp is an equal opportunity life-changer and provides hands-on experiences that allow all children, even those who struggle in traditional educational settings, to feel successful and have a sense of accomplishment.


As the parent of a camper, you will notice amazing changes in your child. You will see growth and maturity and confidence when your camper returns home. As a camp parent, I watched my son after he returned from summer camp with wonder. It was obvious that remarkable growth was underway. He was engaged, giving, and confident.


It was then that I "got it" from the parent perspective. Simply viewing camp as a fun experience was somehow to miss the point - it's more than that. Camp is a place where children have their mental, personal, emotional, and physical needs nurtured. Where they learn to get along with others, to take safe risks, to deal with conflict in a constructive way that encourages them to be creative, to explore and discover, to learn by actively doing, to try - and sometimes to fail and try again. In the camp community, I find what I intuitively know as a parent - to be a positive, productive adult, one needs the opportunity to truly experience childhood. That is how genuine growth happens.


Congratulations on the decision to join the ranks of the camp parent. You have joined a contemporary tradition that is 150 years young - one that has strengthened the fabric of America and will continue to do so in the future.


Letters from My Campers

Submitted By: Stephen Wallace, M.S. Ed.

Huck Finn enjoyed a rare opportunity to attend his funeral and hear what folks had to say about him after he faked his death to escape the confines imposed by the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson - not to mention his abusive father, Pap. A recent near-death experience afforded me a similar chance to hear some feedback about my work with youth and families. Especially since it happened smack dab in the middle of the camp season.


There is no question that the deluge of cards, letters, e-mails, text messages, and Facebook posts provided an underpinning of support that helped keep my spirits high and recovery on track. That they comprised begrudging proof of an oft-repeated maxim of mine to decades of camp counselors - "Of all the mistakes you can make when working with kids, none is more consequential than underestimating how important you will be to the youth in your charge" - took me by surprise. As the mom of one of my campers said in an e-mail response to my surprise at the outpouring of support, "Clearly, you haven't been paying attention."

Letters from My Campers

I have a pile of letters stocked away in a nearby file drawer that demonstrate to camp directors and convince counselors that informal mentors, such as those who work at camp, are enormously powerful forces in the lives of their mentees.


These mentoring relationships need not be formal. While "matched" mentorships have long been shown to enhance school performance, improve relationships with parents and peers, reduce initiation of drug and alcohol use, and decrease incidents of youth violence, a Teens Today (2006) study conducted by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) found similarly encouraging results for young people with informal, or "natural," mentors, such as teachers and camp counselors.


According to more than 3,000 middle and high school students, these adults are some of the most important, influential people in their lives. And that influence shows up in some pretty substantial ways. For example, 46 percent of teens with a mentor reported a high "sense of self," versus 25 percent of teens without a mentor. High sense of self teens feel more positive about their own identity, growing independence, and relationships with peers than do teens with a low sense of self. Not insignificantly, they are also more likely to avoid alcohol and drug use.

Because of Camp

The hundreds (or more) messages I received during my recovery certainly contained proof of the efficacy of my service. But, moreover, they pointed to the incredibly powerful role that our camp, specifically our teen leadership program, has played in shaping campers' lives and preparing them for the future.


Camp has prepared me for college because it has repeatedly given me the opportunity to make new friends and deal (read: live) with a varied group of people. Camp has engendered in me a new sense of responsibility. Living with the younger campers helped teach me that it is not always about me, but about what I can do for others. Camp has also taught me to live away from my parents - I have gained independence and confidence from my years at camp. I also hope to bring to college the program's motto of "Work hard, play hard."
- Jason, age seventeen


I can't even begin to explain how much the program means to me. Primarily, it means family and togetherness. After that comes leadership. I don't think anybody can truly be a strong leader without a strong support system to keep them going. And that's exactly what the program is.
- Julie, age fifteen



To me, the program presents the chance to free myself from childhood and take steps into adulthood. I can become a more influential person in society through teaching and being a role model.
- Adam, age fourteen


Over the past four years, I have gained knowledge I normally would not be able to experience elsewhere. I have made lifelong friends, learned how to accept others, and have gained so much confidence. The opportunities offered at camp are unique and special. Camp has helped me to grow as a person.
- Tara, age seventeen


To me, the program means leadership and honesty, friendship and community. I think it means leadership because it trains teenagers to take control and be a leader and not a follower. It means honesty because you shouldn't steal or lie to your friends. It's where new friendships are formed.
- Greg, age fifteen


Because of Camp . . .® so much is possible.

Teens Today. (2006). Families: Guidelines for good family communication. SADD and Liberty Mutual Group. Boston: December 2006. Stephen Wallace, M.S. Ed., author of the book Reality Gap: Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex - What Parents Don't Know and Teens Aren't Telling, has broad experience as a school psychologist and motivational speaker. He serves as chairman and CEO of SADD, director of counseling and counselor training at the Cape Cod Sea Camps, and adjunct professor of psychology at Mount Ida College. For more information about Wallace's work, visit

© Summit Communications Management Corporation 2011 All Rights Reserved

The benefits of being outdoors, unplugging, and going away to camp

Submitted By: Sarah Camp

In this day and age the vast majority of children check their e-mail and Facebook daily. Every child has a cell phone and is constantly texting. Kid's headphones are in and their heads are down. The closest to nature that most kids get on a daily basis is the wallpaper on their computers. The generation growing up in the 21st century is quickly losing its connection with the amazing natural world that is all around. Many kids today barely know about the beautiful outdoor spaces our state has to offer, let alone have visited them.


The book, Last Child in the Woods, describes this problem as "Nature deficit disorder." Campaigns like America's Great Outdoors Initiative, and the No Child Left Indoors Act are working hard to fight this trend in today's youth. Outdoor Summer Camps are fighting to get kids back outside as well.


Imagine a place far away from the constant bombardment of technology, a place where you see wonder in the world immediately around you, not on the computer screen in front of you. Places like this exist. And they are not hard to find.


When was the last time you went a whole day without checking your phone, watching TV, or turning on your computer? Overnight outdoor camps give kids the chance to do just that. Sleep-away camps give children the opportunity to play, learn, and interact with the world in a place where technology is not available, so they get to focus on real interactions with the people and the environment around them. Kids meet new friends and develop genuine relationships with them, not just Internet or phone connections. Being in an outdoor setting without city distractions lets kids develop a wonder and respect for nature, which is becoming increasingly less common in our high tech world.


The friendships that are made and life lessons that are learned at summer camp, away from hustle bustle, high tech world we live in, help children grow-up strong, confident and open to a lifetime of new experiences.


It occurs to me that 13, 14, 15 are excellent years in which to send children to an overnight camp. These are the years of a normal separation from parents process and are also years when they need the most guidance. Chose your camp wisely and you will be benefitting from the fine counselors and counselors in training who love camp and want to impart the values and wonderful experiences they themselves found at the same ages.

Sarah Camp has been going to summer camp all her life. She says, "It has made me who I am. I have worked at Camp Unalayee for 8 years and have led each of their programs. After receiving my BA from UC Santa Cruz I spent much of my time leading science and outdoor education trips with Fieldguides Inc. as well as working with Unalayee."

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