We could talk about the benefits of camp from now ’till the end of the summer.
But this month we’ll let the American Camp Association (ACA) do it for us.
Recently the ACA – an organization that educates leaders, ensures camp safety and accredits over 2,400 camps – created a short video. It ran in movie theaters across the country. Watch the video below:
In it, a number of celebrities highlighted their own camp experiences. Movie-goers learned that, because of camp…
Emma Roberts made lasting friendships with people she still keeps in touch with.
Hill Harper learned about self-esteem.
Lisa Loeb plays guitar.
Ashlan Gorse developed a personality. (Hey, that’s what she said.)
Lisa Raye turned out just fine.
And because of camp, actor Justin Chambers is sending his own kids to camp this summer.
For over a century, millions of other people have also been positively impacted by camp. For some, camp helped unearth a skill they never knew they had. Or fired a passion that is now their life’s work.
For others, camp built a lifetime of memories. Or introduced them to one lifelong friend.
Camp is many things to many people. It is what you make it – and what young peers and caring adults help you to be.
Because of camp, I am who I am today. And because of camp, I welcome you to join me in a summer experience that lasts forever.
In today’s hyper-fast, multi-tasking world, one of the great attractions of camp is tradition. Each camp passes down its own stories and lore. Campers appreciate that they’re enjoying some of the same activities, in the same way, as campers before them have done for generations.
But few people realize just how much history the camp industry embodies.
The first camp – called the Gunnery – was founded in 1861 in Washington, Connecticut. That’s right — camping is as old as the Civil War, and this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. Early campers enjoyed boating, fishing and trapping. It’s pretty impressive that two of those activities survive at camps, a century and a half later.
An 1876 camp was created to take “weakly boys” into the woods. We wouldn’t use those terms today – but camps still serve all kinds of children, in all kinds of ways. And we’re still in the woods.
The first YMCA camp was Dudley, in 1885. It’s still around – the longest continually operating camp in the United States. Scores of other camps date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
With over 100 camps – some dating back 100 years, welcoming scores of camping “generations” – Maine has long been one of camping’s most popular states.
Boasting crystal-clear lakes, pine forests, mountains and (don’t worry) moose, Maine is (like camping itself), “easy to get to, but very difficult to leave.”
Camping boomed nationally in the 1950s and 60s – along with much of post-war America. In 1948 the American Camping Association adopted Standards – the basis for ACA camp accreditation. There are currently 300 Standards for health, safety and programs. They’re recognized by courts and government regulators – a seal of approval for any camp to which parents entrust their most precious possessions.
The ACA was a pioneer in anti-discrimination resolutions. The first was adopted in 1950. Since then, the industry has continued to emphasize youth development. Camp directors constantly study research in areas like child and adolescent development, and risk prevention. They understand that positive experiences, strong relationships, challenging opportunities and solid personal values are vital to helping young people grow into healthy, caring and responsible adults.
Frederick W. Gunn and his wife Abigail might not have used terms like those 150 years ago, when they founded The Gunnery Camp. But they intuitively understood the many benefits that camping provided. All of us in this important industry proudly honor the traditions of the past.
My colleagues and I will not be here 150 years from now to carry them on.
But we’re confident our successors – and our camps – will.
Guest Blogger and former Maine camper and counselor
When I think about “camp songs,” I immediately think about singing around campfires, but each year at camp also has a distinct popular music soundtrack. Recently, campers weighed in on Twitter about the tunes that remind them of past summers and that got me thinking about what the United States and camp was like in the 1960s and 1970s.
Hadley Hury remembers You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1969) and Music Man and the Counselors’ Show from 1970. That’s also when Charlie Ziff was theatre director, Hadley was assistant director and Jay Newman had the job of radio director for The Fantastiks. 1969 was the year that campers watched the moonwalk on television in the theatre and there was lots of talk about some “big thing going on in some little town called Woodstock!”
Bobby Brickman says he has vivid memories that revolve around people who played lead roles in productions of Brigadoon in 1961, Carousel in 1963, and Bye Bye Birdie in 1963. It’s clear that for a very long time, camp has been the place to put creativity and passion into great performances!
Barbara Gough adds that when she hears the captivating bass line of “Reach Out of the Darkness” by Friend and Lover, she’s immediately transported back to 1968. Friend and Lover was a one hit wonder and their song ranked in the Top Ten during 1968 when Barbara says campers “danced to this playing on the jukebox in the Canteen all summer long!” The song embraced social change with lyrics like “I think it’s so groovy now, That people are finally getting together. . .Reach out in the darkness. . .And you may find a friend.”
Back then, while campers made friends and memories, things in the United States as a whole were not so peaceful. When students in California held a Selective Service sit-in, 3,000 of them were arrested and housed in the San Francisco 49ers’ old football stadium. A promo man got a sound truck and started broadcasting “Reach Out of the Darkness” towards the students. That’s what started the song’s rise up the charts—and why campers miles away listened to the hit that summer!
The historical events of those times grounded the more multicultural and open society we have today, but during the 1960s, many people felt uncertain as to what the future held. In 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, “Reach Out in the Darkness,” rocketed up the charts and like other big hits that year, captured the country’s changing mood. Songs that also ranked in 1968 include the Rascals’, “People Got to Be Free,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” James Brown’s “Say It Loud–I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and versions of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye.
Summer camp is always a microcosm of our world-at-large where campers practice and learn skills for negotiating the world, where assumptions can be challenged, and where diverse people find ways to celebrate community and appreciate each other. One great thing about camp is that for a few weeks, the world grows a little smaller and everyone listens to the same soundtrack. In a fast-paced and interconnected world, camp “sounds” like the perfect place for connecting with others and as Hadley says, every summer adds up to “good times for campers and staff.” It’s often only later that campers realize how much the experience has shaped them and the way they see the world–much like how hit songs can illuminate the past in retrospect. The music (and fashions) may change through the years, but the core camp experience is never goes out of date.
We’d love to hear about how your time at camp contributed to your understanding about others as well as what you’re looking forward to most this summer!
Thanks for the image Cre8iveDoodles ~*~ New Beginnings!
You’ve probably heard of “Road to Nowhere.” The new documentary film’s theme is that today’s emphasis on tutoring, lessons and packed-to-the-gills days and nights may not produce perfect, healthy, high-achieving kids. The result could be unhealthy, disengaged, stressed-out youth.
Fortunately, the road to nowhere branches off to summer camp.
Camp is the antidote to – even the “anti” – modern kid’s world. For most of the year, today’s youngsters live regimented lives. They’re told what to study, and when. They take “lessons” – music, sports, art, dance – and then rush off to the next activity. There’s so much on their plates, it’s no wonder they multi-task like CEOs.
Then they go to camp.
Suddenly – the moment they say goodbye to their parents, meet their counselors and cabin mates, unpack and head somewhere cool and green – their world changes.
They slow down. They breathe deeply. They get in touch with their inner kid.
Camp is a different environment entirely. The communal living, extended “slumber party” and emphasis on living and working as a group allows kids to really get to know each other. It’s 24/7 of the great (and not-always-so-great) moments with a group of peers.
This immersion enables youngsters to really get to know each other. It allows boys and girls to develop compassion and understanding for their friends’ strengths and weaknesses.
And it lets kids live in an environment where taking safe risks is okay. There is truly nothing like a friendship that develops – and blossoms —at camp.
The adults are, for the most part, younger than the teachers (and parents!) children are so familiar with in school.
Camp is a place where kids are allowed – even encouraged – to take safe risks. They encounter new situations – games, activities, relationships – without old patterns or preconceptions to fall back on. They’re not always protected – but they are well cared for, and strongly loved.
In that challenging, supportive – and de-stressed – environment, they grow.
At camp, kids march boldly down the road to somewhere.
Whether your Holiday Season has ended or is about to begin, summer camp season isn’t far away! In fact, on December 8th 2010, next year’s campers wore their camp shirts in numerous cities to mark the 200 Day Countdown To Summer. If you’ve never gone to camp, it may be difficult to understand what drives this passion for camp all year—but campers know that camp is contagious, FUN, and essential! The camp experience helps children develop into well-rounded adults in enormous and complex ways, and that’s really important—but having FUN and intense youthful experiences is how it all happens. That’s the brilliant combination of camp. The experience includes serious AND hilarious moments—often simultaneously! The whole experience is much like the two sides of a single coin, or the double-faced image of Janus, the Roman god who can see into the past and future at the same time—and the origin of the name for the first month—January.
The serious side of camp includes feeling part of a unique community, identity development and participating through the years to make irreplaceable memories. If you don’t understand why camp is such an important American institution, in 1998 Ira Glass and the This American Life radio program attempted to investigate the topic—#109 Notes on Camp. The program addresses why people who love camp say that non-camp people simply don’t understand what’s so amazing about camp and attempts to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between camp people and non-camp people!
It also highlights how fun, tradition, stories, community and being human are all part of identity development at camp. With his signature quirky style, Ira assembled more “truth is stranger than fiction tales,” where real campers tell stories of camp in days gone by and explain why the camp experience is so special. Hundreds of campers responded to his call for stories and the program shares a selection, so if you’re interested in history and interpreting American culture, you’ll find the reminiscences fascinating. Just remember that all camp experiences are not like the stories told—the point of the program is to illustrate the intensity of the experience! It ends with campers talking about becoming camp alumni and how their camp experiences won’t ever be forgotten.
As we all know, time passes and our camp years are limited by the fact that we’re only children once. It’s easy to feel briefly melancholy at year’s end as time waits for no one, but of course, December also means that the promise of a new year is around the corner! In January, we’d like to continue looking backwards and forwards while thinking about camp and we’d especially love to hear from camp alumni. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you at camp? How did camp contribute to your adult life? We’d like to hear about the memories you hold dear and close to your heart, or what you wish for campers next year? If you’re counting the days until camp starts, what are YOU planning?
For now, “Happy New Year” to everyone and let the countdown to Camp 2011 begin!
Summer Camp is a time of firsts. The first time you try to catch a ball with a lacrosse stick (and realize you can!). The first time you get on on water-skis. The first time you serve an ace in tennis. The first time you get up on stage in front of hundreds of kids your age. The first time you scale the climbing tower…trot with your very own horse…..Now that camp has ended for the summer, we thought we’d share some tales from camp. What have the kids taken home with them to last the next 9 months, until camp starts again?
Many families are surprised at the sheer amount of first-time experiences their kids have at summer camp. When Justin, a 12 year old who attended camp this year, was asked to list things he did for the first time at camp, he had quite the list. “I learned how to play guitar, archery, and golf,” he said. During our conversation, it also came out that he also learned new baseball skills and got to play tennis. He also experienced the camp evening programs for the first time, which he raved about as being “fun and creative.” Justin’s going to be talking to a lot of people about camp when he goes back to school. And what is he going to tell them? “I made a lot of new friends and tried a lot of new things. I had the best time!”
My own summer camp experiences – way back in the 80s – were largely defined by a feeling of the summer camp community diffusing at the end of the summer. Of course, we would often promise to write letters we never sent or make long distance calls our parents wouldn’t pay for, but when summer was over, camp was tucked firmly behind us for another year.
With today’s technology, however, the summer camp community can stay together all year, even when they return to the home cities, states and countries. We have an active Facebook community where current campers, families and alumni can connect, share stories and keep up to date with the staff and the current session. Much of the chatter is about how much everyone misses camp and wishes they were back on the lake, riding the horses, singing in the dining hall, etc. For those who’ve connected to Camp Laurel through Facebook and other new social networks (Twitter anyone?), the camp experience doesn’t end with teary good-byes in August. So when will we meet again?