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A Message from the President of the Board

March 21, 2020

Not What I Expected 

It was the 2016 ACA, New England Conference, and I had just gotten done asking all of you to support ACA, New England. Betsy Kelder approached me and asked, “Would you consider being the ACA, New England President?” It was not what I expected but something I felt honored to do.

In 2018, I was having lunch with Bette Bussel, a woman whom I have admired ever since I started as a camping professional, and she said, “I am going to retire, and we need to start planning now.” It was not what I expected to have to do, but it was the vision and foresight that was needed.

When I lost the love of my life suddenly three months ago, I turned around, and my friends from ACA, New England were there. It was not what I expected but everything I needed.

Last week, I looked ahead to my final Conference as president, and it became evident that we could not have an in-person Conference. The staff and volunteers committed themselves to creating a virtual conference within a week. It was not what I expected but what needed to be done.

We get so accustomed to the rhythm of our life.  We feel like we know what is coming next.  Summers come and summers go with a predictable pattern, a reassuring flow. So, when our world changes in a radical way, when we venture into something completely new and foreign to what we know, it is unnerving. We need to let go of everything we imagined was going to happen and open ourselves to the possibility of what we can do.

When it comes to the unexpected, there is no one better to have by your side than camp people. Camp people have the most experience and skill when it comes to dealing with the impossible and coming up with the most creative of solutions.  As I watch the ACA, New England volunteers and staff work around the clock to create a virtual conference, and as I see Bette and the board struggle to find solutions to what feel like overwhelming challenges, I can’t help but feel reassured. This is camping professionals at their best; rolling with the most extreme of circumstances, staying positive and working hard.

While the last days of my presidency at ACA, New England is not what I expected, the overall experience of being deeply involved in this organization has surpassed my greatest expectations. Bette has built something that is bigger than a conference, bigger than an association of professionals, something much greater than the sum of its parts.  She has built a powerful community of extraordinary people who believe passionately in what we do and who have the courage and grit to carry on despite extraordinary challenges. I have great hope and faith in our future as I turn the presidency over to Betsy Kelder, a skilled leader who is passionate about camping and the community we serve. Please stand with ACA, New England as we navigate the future just as ACA, New England stands with all of you whatever the future holds.

With Deep Gratitude,

Shannon Donovan-Monti

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