During this Season of Giving and in honor of #GivingTuesday, we're reflecting on how much camps and camp communities do to help children gain an understanding of what it means to "give back." Many have even been successful in getting camper families onboard to help support important causes. At this time of year many families of new campers are in the process of making decisions between finalist camps. They're lookng at a whole host of programmatic and cultural aspects of "fit" and they're increasingly interested in what life skills and positive values campers take away at the end of their camp experiences.
One type of life skill and positive value that can fly beneath everyone's radar is really important in life: Giving Back. Knowing how to pay it forward or make a difference in the lives of others has such a positive impact on the how children participate in their families, schools and communities! That’s why we’re shining the light on the significant amount of giving back that is camp-inspired and camp driven. Because camps create a tremendous sense of belonging for children, camp experiences help children define and redefine what it truly means to be a contributing member of a community. Inspired by strong role models and authentic opportunities, campers and camp staff are frequently motivated to make a difference for others. It would be impossible to describe or to quantify all the volunteer projects that camps are actively working on here in New England. Volunteering as a camp and engaging in community service provides authentic opportunities for children to contribute to their camp world and often the much larger world outside. This instills critically important life lessons in community service and volunteerism. Whether it’s called “giving back”, “paying it forward”, or “making a difference”, campers experience how meaningful and rewarding it can be to give, to contribute and to be part of a greater good. They leave camp with both the skills and the desire to volunteer in the future—at school, at work, and in life.
Service projects, providing help, or raising dollars for camp are significant—they provide the teachable moment for campers. Lessons in community service happen the very same way camps teach everything—by doing and through hands-on experience. Experiential learning in community service compels campers to grow up to be good citizens. As with the other lessons taught, camps make helping and volunteering fun—so fun and rewarding that campers get hooked. Camps are proud to send children back from camp ready to contribute in new and significant ways, and hooked on helping.
Here, we profile three camp-inspired volunteer and community service efforts that happened in and around New England, each in a different state. These are just a few examples of how camps and camper families give back. These are three examples of hundreds of giving back efforts led by ACA Accredited camps around the region.
A special event called CAMP WISHLIST was held in Westport, CT on Saturday afternoon, April 25th, from 1-6pm. The store raised proceeds from camp sales for a cause near and dear to our hearts—The Camp Champions Celebration, which raises funds to provide camperships for children-in-need. Susie Klau of Westport, a long-time sponsor of Camp Champions, and the owners of WISHLIST worked hard to create an event that would allow camp families and campers to give back by supporting Camp Champions. Susie says that she's inspired to give back to make camperships possible for children-in-need because:
“Camp was the greatest gift my parents could have ever given me as a young child. I still take the experience of my many years as a camper every where I go in life today. The friendships, living experiences, life experiences, wilderness experiences and so much more will never compare to the ones I had at camp. Camp is truly the place for adolescents to build a solid foundation for a fruitful young adult life."
Camp Champions Committee member, Emily Courtiss, Director of ACA Accredited Camp Vega in Fayette, ME was also on hand to help and to answer questions about Camp Champions.
At ACA Accredited Camp Sunshine in Casco, ME, our 2014 Camp Champion Anna Gould, has founded a camp that during each week-long session depends upon 85 volunteers to work directly with campers who have life-threatening illnesses and their families. That’s 85 teen and adult volunteers each week for thirty weeks of the year—a total of 2,550—including a number of volunteers from ACA Accredited camps nearby. Once people young or old have volunteered at Camp Sunshine, they return multiple times—sometimes with friends from college or a faith community, other times with friends, family members or neighbors. In equally large numbers volunteers raise the funds that keep Camp Sunshine free for participants. With polar plunges, corporate philanthropy, pumpkin festivals and many more initiatives an inspired corps of volunteers raises the funding that makes Camp Sunshine free for its participants. Volunteer power is everywhere to ensure that this is the case. Camp Sunshine's cause is so compelling and its leader, Anna Gould, so dynamic, the volunteers are not the only ones who return summer after summer. Campers and their families also return in future years to pay it forward to other families.
At ACA Accredited Camps Wing and Lapham of Crossroads for Kids, headquartered in Duxbury, MA, the C5 Teen Leadership Program weaves together community service projects, financial literacy programs, college readiness workshops, and leadership skill building. C5 stands for: character driven, community focused, challenge ready, college bound, and committed to a better future. This five year program starts its 8th graders with a three week camp experience including monthly community and group learning experiences and 30 hours of community service. It culminates senior year in high school in a one week community leadership experience designed to show how decisions are made and needs are met in the communities where campers live as well as a service learning trip during April vacation. Seniors join the camp staffs at Camp Wing or Camp Mitton as Junior Staff members and school year programming includes continued opportunities to meet community leaders and legislators, college access and preparedness programming and career exploration seminars. In five years of volunteering and contributing, C5 Teen Leadership program strives to send participants off to college know considerably more about themselves as leaders and volunteers. This Boston Globe column featured the unique way C5 is preparing young people for responsible adulthood by providing authentic community service and other volunteer experiences. Crossroads for Kids received the 2015 Eleanor P. Eells Award for program excellence from the national ACA.
Photo Credits: Camp Chewonki, Wiscasset, ME, WISHLIST (Susie Klau photo), Camp Sunshine Volunteers at the Camp Champions Celebration (Alan Dines Photo), & Crossroads for Kids