From The Field – Wendy Berliner, November 2019
November 21, 2019
Camp is in my blood! A second-generation camper, I started at Camp Matoaka in Maine when I was 10 years old. For 6 summers, I loved everything about it… the sports, the lake, the songs and, mostly, the friendships! There’s nothing better than a camp friend. Not wanting the Matoaka Magic to end, I continued on as a CIT, Junior Counselor and Counselor, teaching waterski and serving as a Bunk Counselor.
When I graduated from college, I thought I had to “grow up” and “get a real job.”
I went to Law School and practiced law for 12 years. No summer went by, however, when I didn’t venture up to East Pond to relive the Matoaka Matoaka Magic.
As mentioned, there’s nothing like a camp friend. Luckily for me, my camp friends became the new owners of Matoaka and invited me to work with them. I was credulous – “Camp isn’t a career!” I was married with 2 kids and a mortgage. I couldn’t exactly be the Waterski Instructor anymore. But, I took a chance, became a “Recovering Attorney,” and went back to camp… this time, with two little kids (ages 2 and 5) in tow, as the Assistant Director, working year-round, full-time. That was September of 2009 and I’ve never looked back.
The first summer I was back at camp, we were being visited for our accreditation. As a “Recovering Lawyer,” I dove right into the accreditation process in the Fall. I loved it! I found the Standards fascinating and I loved combing through our camp’s policies and procedures. I was lucky… Matoaka had been accredited for a long time and our policies and procedures are always current and forward-thinking. The perfectionist in me created binders of each Standard Section and I had all of the paperwork ready for our Visit. The Visit, simply, was fun! It was a great day. It was a day for us to show off our camp and the great things we were doing. I was hooked and didn’t want to wait 3 years for my next Accreditation Visit. So, I signed on to become a Visitor with ACA, New England.
Over the years, I’ve visited myriad camps… for-profit, traditional camps, faith-based camps, agency camps, etc. Each Visit has given me new perspective of the great work we are doing in New England.
Accreditation is important. This peer-review of a camp’s operations and programs holds camps to a high standard. It holds us responsible for the safety and well-being of our campers.
It’s a daunting task, but the rewards are evident in the camper’s faces. My biggest joy of being a Visitor is helping a camp through the Accreditation process for the first time. I love to share my knowledge and experience with them as they standardize the great work they are already doing.
Eventually, I joined the Standards Committee and now serve at its Chair. I have been elected to serve on ACA, New England’s Board of Directors. I am humbled by this position and will work tirelessly so that a quality camp experience is available to all. Camp has changed my life and the lives of my own children. I’d like to give that to countless others.
This past week, we celebrated National Camp Day… but in my world, every day is Camp Day. I live 10 months for 2.
Wendy Berliner is the Chair of the Standards Committee of ACA, New England, has been a Visitor for 5 years, and has been involved in local and national non-profit and community leadership for decades.