Welcome Message from our New Executive Director, Michele Rowcliffe


I’m here!  Thank you to the dozens of people I have connected with so far for providing such a warm welcome as I made my way to Lexington, Massachusetts.  Everyone I have met has been so helpful and supportive, lending a hand and filling me in on important information along the way.  A huge thank you to Bette. She has already made this transition so comfortable and rewarding. I have some incredible shoes to fill.

A little about me…I have been in the camping industry for over 25 years.  I began my career out of college as a Youth Director at my neighborhood YMCA in western NY.  I then moved to the YMCA of Greater Rochester in 1997 where I worked for over 20 years in a number of camping and leadership roles.  I have two decades of operational experience at residential camps, as well as in-depth knowledge of day camp operations and administration in a variety of settings; public parks, facility backyards and stand-alone properties.  I was a charter member of the YMCA of the USA Camping Cabinet, chairing the Data & Analytics committee. Later, I chaired that Professional Development committee.  Working at a Partner YMCA, I was involved in numerous camp consultations around the country, allowing me to witness the impact of camping, delivered in so many different ways.

The last few weeks have flown by so quickly.  It has been incredibly exciting to meet so many smart, passionate leaders in the New England camping industry.  While I am learning about differences in current regulations, policies, and licensing throughout the six states we serve, the love and passion for camping and the populations we serve is palpable.  I have already seen so much drive and determination to provide resources and support, and I am thrilled to be surrounded by this company and community.

We all know 2020 has been completely unpredictable.  I have seen camps and program centers create amazing engagement opportunities in the most creative ways.  As we all wait for further guidance heading into 2021, please know ACA, New England is by your side.  Our communities need us now more than ever.  The New England team is continuously reevaluating our priorities to meet the needs and wants of our membership.  Whether it is professional development, connecting you with like camps, or encouragement at the end of the telephone, we look forward to working with you.

I sincerely hope the summer of 2021 allows for more camping, in every capacity.  I personally look forward to a summer of travel, meeting you and visiting our beautiful camps and program centers throughout New England.  In the meantime, please feel free to give me a call.  I am hoping to connect with as many of your as possible and learn about all you do.  Keep up the fantastic work and let’s prepare for an incredible 2021!

Michele Rowcliffe
Executive Director
American Camp Association, New England

Read More

Important Accreditation Information - Fall 2020


An email went out last week letting all camps know of some important Accreditation Information.  In the event you did not receive this information, below are some of the key points.  Questions?  Reach out to Elizabeth

Bridging – Moving From v2012 to v2019 Standards – From now through January 2022, we will be bridging all currently accredited camps to the standards of the APG v.2019.  This means all camps will be using the 2019 Version of the APG. Bridging does not affect a camps visited in 2019 or change a camp’s next expected site visit.  Your next visit year will stay as scheduled.  Our goal is for all camps to be operating on the same set of standards.  We are looking at a target date of 2022 to have all camps switched over to allow camps to budget the time in a way that works best for each camp.

Camps will have several resources available for guidance and opportunities to connect with trained accreditation volunteers for standards-related questions.  We will be communicating directly with camps that have not had a site visit with the APG v.2019 on process details beginning in late September.

All New England camps that do not yet have a copy of the 2019 Accreditation Guide, please complete the following survey to receive your Guide.

APG v.2019 – At this time, there are no planned changes to the Accreditation Process Guide (APG) v.2019 (released November 2019). This includes no changes of mandatory standards. Most of the ACA standards are broad, allowing for the diverse community of camps to apply the intent and meet compliance based upon their unique operation. The standards allow for a camp to change and grow its operation and, when needed, change how it complies with the standards. We are committed to providing educational resources to help you navigate how standards apply, at the time of and beyond a site-visit.

Accreditation Process Workshops – You will have three options for an Accreditation Process Workshop in the 2020-2021 season in New England!  We will be offering:

    • In person courses (with Social Distancing in place)
    • Virtual courses to be attended ‘live’ via Zoom
    • Blended Learning option  

If you or someone at your camp/program would like to take a workshop, please see our Educational Opportunities at the ACA New England website.  The class schedule will be posted in the next few weeks.   

Is your information up to date?  Lastly this year has been full of changes, and it’s possible our records may not be accurate.  We want to ensure the appropriate person receives information and continued services.  Please contact Elizabeth to update or verify any of the following information if it has changed:

  • ACA Primary Contact
  • Standards Contact
  • Contact email / phone number

Read More

Post-Summer Letter from the President


Wow, 2020...not the year we were all expecting when the clock struck midnight on January 1st.  In January, we were coming into the final stages of the strategic planning process, searching for a new Executive Director to replace a New England institution, Bette Bussel, and preparing for the 99th annual New England Camp Conference.

In March, our Association changed on a dime to meet the needs of camps and the moment. The Conference moved to virtual in under three weeks, and Bette and her team set to work supporting camps, and all six states, to advocate for the opening of the camping industry.  

Now, here we are at the end of August, still so many questions and unknowns, and yet, ACA, New England has not stopped working for you.  The staff are meeting bi-weekly with all the state association presidents and crafting a regionwide plan to get states to release guidance for 2021 far earlier, and embark on a campaign so parents and lawmakers understand the importance of the camp experience for children and the economy.  

If working to support the industry wasn’t enough, we are also in a momentous time for the Association.  Bette’s last day as the Executive Director was August 28th.  2 months shy of 30 years at the helm, she is retiring.  We express our gratitude for her leadership and guidance for 30 years, and especially in these last 6 months. Pleas know, there will be a few opportunities to celebrate Bette over the next 9-12 months, and an opportunity to honor her legacy.  

Monday, August 31st is Michele Rowcliffe’s first official day as our Executive Director. However, Michele has been working with Bette for the last 2 months to start meeting people and understanding the ACA, New England landscape. She is ready lead us through what is sure to be a hard year with insight and dedication. 

Camp will continue in 2021 stronger than ever; because we put children first, and families understand the importance of the experience children receive in our programs.  And let’s not forget that we will celebrate our 100th conference!  It’s the longest running camp conference in the country from the region that gave birth to the industry. And we’re confident it’s New England cams that will lead the industry into this next chapter with strength.

Please reach out to us if you need anything.  The role of ACA, New England is to support our industry, and we know that there is a great need for that this year. 

Betsy Kelder
Board President
American Camp Association, New England

Read More

MA Camps - Extending Summer?


The Massachusetts Department of Health requested our help in spreading the word concerning the following, recent announcement for Recreational Camps in Massachusetts:

Extension of the Summer Season for Recreational Camps for Children

CONTACTS:    Steven F. Hughes, Director (617) 624-5757, or David T. Williams, Senior Analyst (781) 774-6612

DATE:              August 3, 2020

Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recently announced that school districts may delay school openings up to September 16th for the 2020-2021 school year to provide additional time to prepare for the reopening of schools.

In accordance with the June 1st through September 30th summer operational period for licensed recreational camps for children, the Department of Public Health advises camp operators licensed in 2020 to communicate with their local licensing entity (Board of Health/Health Department) regarding the possible extension of recreational camp operations during August and September.

Should you have questions, information, requests, etc. regarding the DPH message or anything camp, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Read More

Town Halls for Strategic Plan


You're Invited!


As many of you know, ACA, New England has been engaged in strategic planning throughout this past year. Today, we're inviting you to learn about and weigh in on our work. The Board, staff and strategic planning committee partnered with Strategy Matters to craft an updated blueprint for furthering ACA, New England’s mission while maintaining New England’s traditional place as a leader in the camp community.

On August 6th and September 11th, we are hosting virtual Town Hall meetings to introduce the plan, solicit feedback and engage with members and stakeholders regarding the path forward. Please register to join us for either meeting and help shape future of camp in New England.



Read More

Brewster Day Camp Keeps Serving Families on the Cape


Dan Michel, Brewster Day CampBack in February, schools in MA were starting to face the reality of COVID. Brewster Day Camp operates at The Family Schools (Brewster, MA) and is part of the same parent organization. Because of this structure, Dan Michel, Director of Brewster Day Camp, and the whole camp team had an early insight into the obstacles and considerations COVID-19 might present for camps in the coming months.

The BDC team began looking ahead to the summer. Ultimately, given the geographically diverse makeup of the campers and staff and the additional logistical hurdles of meeting all the state’s guidance, BDC decided to suspend normal operations for the 2020 camp season. 

Michel said, “Our mission is ‘To Support Children and Families with Courage, Hope, Good Spirit & Peace’. And so our team immediately began brainstorming ways to continue to serve that mission even though camp wasn’t operating as normal.” That meant not only figuring out a way to serve the campers and families they normally work with, but the team also was looking for an avenue to provide opportunities for their staff.

Being a day camp, many BDC campers and staff are local. The only thing missing was camp operating to connect them everyday. That didn’t change the need for families to have reliable childcare from a trusted source. Staff too were left with a gap in their summer where camp used to live.

Dan and his team saw this as an opportunity, “We had families with a need and access to people who could help fulfill that need.” Thus, Brewster Day Camp launched a new initiative. They’re connecting BDC families in need of childcare with available BDC staff this summer through a dedicated Summer 2020 Childcare List. 

Michel reached out to counselors who fit four specific criteria to see if they’d be interested in taking part in this program. Counselors must have successfully completed BDC’s hiring process and training program. They must have completed a prior contractual agreement with BDC in good standing and must be eligible for rehire in the same position or promotion with BDC. 

Families interested in connecting with staff from BDC on this list sign an agreement. The families understand that this isn’t direct, childcare service BDC is providing, but rather a connection to trusted BDC contacts. Once a family signs the agreement, they receive a list of BDC staff who’ve elected to participate. The list includes a headshot, contact information and some basic biographical information on each person to ensure they’re reaching out to folks who look like a good fit. 

With the list in hand, families can reach out to BDC staff and arrange childcare independent of whether BDC is operating at the moment or not. Staff are free to elect where and when they will take these opportunities. 

While still in the nascent stages, it’s innovative ideas like BDC’s Childcare Service Agreement that will help some families on Cape Cod stay connected with camp while also providing the childcare that so many families need.

When asked if this is a one-time special service this summer or something that will continue, Michel said, “I could certainly see us continuing this program. It’s an overall value-add for the camp, the counselor and the families we serve.” 

If you have questions about BDC’s program or are interested in starting a similar program and want to hear more about how BDC got up and running, Dan at Brewster Day Camp is happy to connect,

Read More


Posted  | by Bette Bussel |

We have learned a lot about summer camp during this pandemic – from the joy it brings to young people, to the comfort it brings to parents, to providing 1st time jobs to counselors and for being the economic engine for the surrounding community.  I believe that the camp industry may in fact be among the hardest hit by the COVID crisis, but we are determined to survive, thrive and come back roaring in 2021.  For now, an explanation as it relates to 2020…

I cannot begin to tell you how many calls I have received from anguished parents asking, “Why isn’t my kids’ camp open?”  Kids love camp.  And parents love what camp does for their kids – from offering them a safe haven in which they can grow, become independent and develop lifelong friendships to just being a place to have fun.   Let’s not underestimate the importance of having fun when you’re young. We believe that kids need fun.  We believe that kids need camp, and we don’t believe that you will find a Governor in any New England state who does not agree with that. Yet, at the same time, the state’s reopening committees made the regulations so difficult, opening became nearly impossible. 

So, what happened? As with all industries, the New England region did not have a standardized approach to opening. Each state government created their own rules and regulations, and some were simply untenable for camps to work with.  It truly became a case of “Too Much, Too Late.”  Camps begin preparations for the summer back in the fall of the previous year. The additional guidance, requirements and restrictions put forth by the states proved to be too much and too late for many camps to take on so late in the season.

For example, here’s a peek at a sample of what camps learned they would need to change just weeks prior to their originally scheduled opening dates:

  • Avoid activities that involve singing, cheering or yelling (Maine)
  • Residential camps are not permitted to operate (CT)
  • Nasal swab testing requirements: 3 per staff member and 2-3 per camper (NH)
  • Field trips not permitted (MA)
  • 14 feet between all groups (RI)
  • Daily health checks for all staff and campers upon arrival (VT)

So, to answer the question, “what happened?” – this is what happened. Without enough time and available resources for camps to fully comply with all their states requirements, most camps were forced to make the impossible decisions to suspend their normal operations this summer.  I am sad to say that currently less than 10% of overnight camps in New England are open for business.   Day camps are at about 50% but of course far from normal operation.  The economic damage from camps being unable to open is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  And this does not include the economic ripple effect on communities that are home to camps and depend on their restaurant, shop or Inn revenue from camps and parents visiting camps. 

There’s only one word for it all – devastating.

After all, the camp industry is formidable.  Some national facts:

There are 15,000 year-round and summer camps in the U.S.
There are 26 million campers annually
Camps employ 1.2 million staff
Gross revenues exceed $20 billion
This results in extended economic impact of $26 billion

The pandemic has resulted in:
the loss of $16 billion
19.5 million young people will not be served
More than 900,000 jobs are lost
$4.4 billion in lost wages

Yes. This uniquely New England and American industry is under existential threat   But please don’t give up on us.  Camp will be back.  Camp has survived for more than 150 years and we will be around for another 150.  If the pandemic has had any positive effect, it has certainly reminded us all of how beloved and important camp is.   

See you next year and that’s a promise.


Read More

ACA, New England Names Next Executive Director


Lexington, MA—The Board of Directors of the American Camp Association, New England is pleased to announce that it has selected Michele Rowcliffe to serve as the Association’s next Executive Director. After a comprehensive, national search process, Ms. Rowcliffe emerged as the search committee’s unanimous selection from a talented, highly competitive pool of candidates.

“We are thrilled to welcome Michele to ACA, New England.  Her experience as a professional and thought leader in camping will be a tremendous asset to the Association and our member camps and professionals as we navigate the future of camping.  We are excited to have such a passionate advocate for camping and strategic leader take the helm.  We are fortunate to have had a passionate and respected leader in camping for nearly 30 years and appreciate all that Bette Bussel has done to advance our work all these years,” said Betsy Kelder, President of the Association’s Board of Directors.

Ms. Rowcliffe joins the American Camp Association, New England from the YMCA of Greater Rochester, where she has served as Vice President of Camping Services since 2015 and was a member of the senior leadership team. An accomplished 25-year camping industry leader, Ms. Rowcliffe was responsible for the successful leadership of Camp Cory and Camp Gorham. During her time at the camps, she developed and executed strategic plans for both businesses. In addition, she has overseen campaign planning, soliciting philanthropic investment for capital development, facility enhancement, and the annual fund. In her capacity as Vice President, she served as the key liaison between the executive directors of the camp boards and the Association Office.

A member of the YMCA of the USA Overnight Camping Cabinet since 2015, Ms. Rowcliffe has performed a volunteer leadership role as Co-Chair of the Data and Analytics Committee (2016-2018) and Chair of the Staff Development Committee (2018-present). Ms. Rowcliffe holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Sociology from the State University College at Geneseo and has been a member of the American Camp Association since 1997. Ms. Rowcliffe will begin her new role on August 31st and will succeed Ms. Bette Bussel who has served as Executive Director since 1990. Conley Search Group of Boston, Massachusetts, led the search process that culminated in Ms. Rowcliffe’s appointment.

The American Camp Association, New England is a community of camp professionals who, for more than one hundred years, have joined together to share knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. ACA, New England accredits nearly 400 day and overnight summer camps in the six New England states.

Read More

Is Family Camp Your 2020 Alternative?


Is Family Camp Your 2020 Alternative?

NOTE: This article was originally published on the Waldo Photos blog.

Between business and school closures, stay-at-home orders, and full-blown quarantines, it’s normal to feel a bit stressed and restless these days. While restrictions are slowly being lifted, some camps have decided to suspend their regular operations and pivot towards alternative programs this summer such as family camps — summer camp for the entire family! From what we’ve found, family camp still provides a safe, equally rewarding alternative to keep your summer going.

Quick link: Get Waldo for your family camp here.

A remedy for ‘cabin fever’

Summer camp has always been a great way to make memories for the kids, so why not get Mom and Dad in on that action too?

These past few months have left many families aching for a getaway. However, vacations can be a logistical nightmare because of restrictions — and some of our favorite go-to destinations might remain closed for a while.

A family camp can be a literal breath of fresh air for families who have been under stay-at-home orders these past couple of months. Who would have guessed that the cure for cabin fever would be an actual cabin?

The great outdoors, campfires, and a break from the hustle could be just what the doctor ordered.

Limiting exposure

There might still be a little bit of hesitance to get out and socialize, and that’s understandable. That’s why a family camp could be a safe choice. It has the ability to limit the potential exposure of its attendees.

For example, let’s say in a typical summer camp there are 100 attendees all coming from 100 separate families. That could result in a lot of contact and potential for exposure. However, with a family camp there might be four members attending from 25 different families. The headcount would still be 100, but the result is fewer separate clusters gathering.

Utilizing current space

Opting for family-style summer camp can be a quick pivot for camps. With some tweaks and accommodations, the facilities for a typical camp can still largely be used.

Families would naturally be separated into their own cabins, and safe distancing could still be maintained between the different family units during mealtimes and for the restrooms. Options might include assigned tables with an appropriate amount of distance set up between the tables. Recreational activities could be planned to rotate so that fewer families are in the same place at the same time.

Bonding time

If relationship growth is a goal, family camps might be the perfect way to help with that. They offer a chance to leave all those pesky smart devices behind and get recharged by spending time with loved ones. The stress of everyday life isn’t at the forefront during camp — it’s all about the activities and memories being made together.

Memories captured with Waldo

While smartphones have made it easy to take photos at all the big events, sometimes they can be a burden and inhibit parents and children from simply indulging in the experience with their family.

Why not live the moment?

The cool thing is, with a Waldo-fied family camp, the whole family can put their phones away for once! The memories captured by camp photographers are sent directly to the families, allowing parents to focus on experiencing camp and growing closer as a family.

The process is simple: Families simply submit a photo of each family member via the Waldo app or Selfie Station, and then let Waldo do the work of sorting through all the camp photos using AI-powered facial recognition technology. All the photos their family members appear in are automatically ready to view when they get home from camp — without sorting through thousands of other camp photos.

Invite families with eye-catching Waldograms

Ready to get the word out for your family camp? Waldo has you covered.

Waldograms for Business provides you the ability to reach out to all your families directly. Upload your contacts via CSV and bulk send personalized Waldogram invites in just a few simple clicks. On top of that, you can enjoy a discounted commercial rate for your Waldograms. The more you send, the less you spend!

Enjoy a safe summer!

The most important part of camp this year is still safety, so no matter how your 2020 summer camp outlook is looking, all of us from ACA, New England and Waldo want to wish you a safe, happy, lively summer. 

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy your summer!

Read More

Letter from Bette


Dear New England,

For over 150 years, camp in New England has been an annual tradition, but today’s unprecedented circumstances bring new challenges and considerations. The ACA, New England leadership and staff have been in daily conversation regarding what’s new, what we’ve learned, and how we can continue to support our members and camps. 

Camp is an integral piece of a young person’s development. It’s still one of the best opportunities for children and young adults to develop soft skills, gain confidence and independence, make friends and grow. The health and safety of campers and staff is always the main priority for summer camps, and 2020 is forcing each of us to reflect longer and harder at how we can continue to offer camp programs and maintain the best interests for those within our communities.

Over the past few weeks, some camps have made announcements regarding their plans for the upcoming summer, and more camps will be facing these tough calls in the days and weeks ahead. Between state and local government regulations and resources from the ACA, CDC and others offering professional insight, camps have a lot to process before deciding what path best suits them.

We’ve been talking with camp owners, directors, and staff. We’ve engaged state associations, government representatives and countless other stakeholders in the camp community. Every camp is working towards what’s best for their unique circumstances. No two camps are the same, but all camps share one thing right now; 2020 will be a different summer. 

Recently, there’s been a lot of conversation in the news and online about what’s the right call for camps. Some camps feel the need to suspend programs. Other camps are looking to provide virtual alternatives, and some camps feel confident they can safely operate amidst new circumstances and guidelines. These might be the most difficult decisions, both personally and professionally we have ever faced, and I encourage all of us to remember that each camp is earnestly trying to do what’s right for their organization and families.

In my 29 years with the American Camp Association, New England, I have never seen a summer like the one we’re approaching. In that time however, I have seen a community of camp professionals dedicated to providing safe, healthy camp opportunities for people of all ages. I have seen people work together to tackle common challenges and lift each other up when the chips seem down. Continue to talk, share and reach out to one another and to ACA, New England as you move down the road. As a community, I’m confident we can harness that collective passion, expertise, and support for one another to face any uncertainty that may lie ahead.

While not all camps will make the same decision, we need to remain a strong and collaborative community where we put aside our own opinions and support each other so camp will continue to thrive for another 150 years. 

Please be there for each other and know that we will be here for you.


Read More

Back to Top