From Peg

by Peg Smith, Chief Executive Officer

When we are confronted by significant challenges that leave us feeling uncomfortable and even angry, it is important to take a moment and pause. A moment of reflection can offer us the critical time needed to remember why we feel so passionate in the first place. It helps us understand why we are experiencing such deep emotions. People who have adopted the vision and mission of enriching and changing the lives of others can do nothing but experience immeasurable passion as they do that work.

Not only do challenges trigger our sensibilities, so do profound opportunities. Although we often focus on our difficulties, a moment of contemplation can allow possibilities to take the forefront.

I was taking a contemplative "respite" the other day and found myself remembering a long ago conversation with Marge Scanlin. It was nearly ten years ago when Marge and I were talking about the opportunity to create a research environment in ACA. We wanted to find a way to create a culture that could not only say, "Camp Gives Kids a World of Good," but demonstrate science-based evidence of such.

Since Marge and I (and many others) first imagined a new future for ACA, we have maximized two significant grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. to create a new and significant body of knowledge. At the same time, through generous funding from Markel Insurance, we have also demonstrated the camp community's commitment to camp safety. All of the new research has resulted in new programs and services that are now available to the camp community as well as others who are influencing the lives of children outside of school. In turn, we have taken this knowledge and developed a cause marketing strategy that succinctly articulates the value of the camp experience in ways that are advancing our business development, funds development, and educational partnership opportunities. We are not only at the table, but are at several tables.

Most recently, I was asked to participate in a meeting in Atlanta with the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC is most interested in how they might work with the youth development field to translate their messages to children, youth, and families. The CDC wants to partner with organizations that have science-based evidence of their value as well as the ability to translate meaningful lessons to children and their families so they might also help the CDC communicate to the same audiences. ACA and the camp community are recognized as a vital component in the lives of children and their families. We complement, contribute, and participate in the “village that is raising” children.

The influence of the work that has been accomplished by ACA and the camp community, particularly those camps who have participated in any number of research, survey, and best practice initiatives, is also being confirmed as we are now being received and welcomed into the Washington, D.C., community. Since the first of the year, in partnership with ACA's attorney, ICE MILLER LLP, I have an executive office in their corporate office in Washington D.C. I, and others, will be spending several weeks in D.C. each month taking advantage of the new proximity in order to access new and existing educational and policy partners. Given today's education reform environment, the timing couldn't be better.

We told ourselves ten years ago that we wanted to be more credible, visible, and viable. We are starting to hit benchmarks in each area. Maybe soon, people will no longer ask you what you do the "rest of the year."

Originally published in the 2010 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.

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