After finding a camp, meet with the camp director and ask:
Watching my son after he returned from summer camp
was the first hint that remarkable growth was under way. He was
engaged, giving and confident. Viewing the camp experience as a
respite from the real world is somehow to miss the point-it is the
real world-simply getting dirty, trying to pull harder so your team
wins, finding the friend you always wished for, being yourself-it's
the time of your life and the promise of the future.
As a parent, I constantly ask, where do children have
their mental, personal, emotional and physical needs nurtured?
Where will they learn to get along with others, to take safe risks,
to deal with conflict in a constructive way that encourages them to
be creative, to explore and discover, to learn by actively doing,
to try-to fail and try again? Within the camp community, I find
what I intuitively know as a parent-to be a positive, productive
adult, one needs the opportunity truly to experience childhood.
That is how one grows.
Camps enjoy the chance to work their magic with all of our
children: the gifted athlete, the budding musician, the curious
naturalist, the first-time camper and the child with a disability.
The idea that camp is for every child isn't just a pipe dream-it's
a reality. And it's one that parents and children celebrate and the
American Camp Association supports by promoting safe, fun and
developmentally appropriate experiences within the nurturing camp
Is camp quantifiable? Maybe not-but as a parent, I can
only react with extreme pleasure as my son displays those acts of
kindness and generosity of spirit that follow so naturally from his
time at camp. His chance to develop and grow was marked by constant
changes-our camps meet those challenges every day of every session
and that's why doing what we do becomes so vital.
Camp is about firsts-a campfire outdoors, leading a pony,
catching a frog, enjoying the evening stories and being
chosen-chosen to be part of a community that values each child and
his or her special gifts. It's about making memories and honoring
the traditions of those who have come before.
We love what we do at the American Camp Association, for
every child and every family, every camp staff director and
counselor. The bar couldn't be higher for us, knowing that our
goals and standards are the ones that support the highest aims of
the camp community-safe environments; caring, competent adult role
models; healthy activities and learning experiences; service to the
community and the environment; and opportunities for leadership and
Throwing the doors wide open to allow generations of
children and families to enjoy the value of experiential learning
and growth, a path to self-esteem and independence is what camp is
all about. From urban and rural settings to international camp
opportunities, we revel in watching children discover their place
in the world-making a difference is truly what makes the
Peg L. Smith is chief executive officer at the American Camp Association.
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