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Seeking a reason for the present.

"Why?"

You work with and raise children. You remember the stage of inquisitiveness - the stage of wanting to know. The stage of knowing that if that question is asked, attention and conversation usually follow.

But why are you in the camp business? What value holds you there? Is it financially rewarding? Is it fun? Does it make a difference? Why? Does it give you a sense of accomplishment? Why? Do you like to be outdoors? Why? Why are you in the camp business?

Pondering One's Significance

My staff is probably tired of hearing me talk about the summer I visited the Grand Canyon. As I stood near the edge looking at the bottom, I imagined all the changes that occurred to the land and topography over time. And I saw what remained. Then I thought about all the stresses I brought with me to the edge and realized that almost none of those worries would stand the test of time. My short life span seemed so insignificant when I looked in front of me at the results of the ages. And surely the worries of the current month were less than a speck of dust.

The next night I went to an observatory in Flagstaff and looked through the telescope used to discover Pluto in 1948. The telescope was focused on a star cluster that is outside of the Milky Way galaxy. This view made even my Grand Canyon experience pale by comparison. Outside our galaxy!

Experiences like these cause one to ponder the significance and accomplishments of life (heavy, eh?). When you stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, when you ponder the heavens, when you come to the end of your time on earth, what will matter? What difference will you have made? Will that difference be measured in the kind of car you owned? The neighborhood in which you lived? Or the lives you touched? Why have you chosen to do what you do?

Many of us chose the camp industry because the experiences we had in camp as children changed our lives forever. They gave us the resilience to withstand peer pressures and the confidence to survive the effects of a divorce or the death of a parent or sibling. They provided the recognition that we had skills that others needed.

Benefiting Youth

As you prepare yourself and your staff for the summer season, define again why you do what you do. Staff providing support services, staff providing program services, all staff need to understand the powerful effect they will have on the lives of children - for good or for ill. Whether the meal is served exactly at noon or the requisition is filled out exactly as we wished is far less important than the feedback given to campers and staff that helps them succeed.

In the January 1998 issue of Parks and Recreation magazine, Bev Driver writes about the benefits approach to leisure and benefits-based management. A growing number of marketers, leisure service delivery organizations, utilized benefits-based management to identify benefits to participation. How can we manage the camp experience to achieve benefits? The first way is to answer the question "why?" Why are we in the business? What do we want to accomplish? what are the benefits to campers?

The second step is to develop activities that accomplish the benefits we identify. As we become better in articulating the benefits of the camp experience for ourselves and translating those benefits into language parents and the public can understand, we will gain the recognition we deserve. This recognition will define the important role camp can play in addressing the needs of youth in our society.

Listen to these young people:

* "For all of those times that someone was there for me . . . thank you. For all those times I was led astray and someone always managed to find me, no matter how lost I was . . . thank you. For all the times I dug myself deeper, someone was always there to help me build up the steps again . . . thank you." (Excerpted from the Fall 1997 issue of "Network News.")

* "This is the first time I ever heard the birds sing. The only sounds I hear at home are the sounds of traffic, police sirens, and guns."

Why are you in the camp business?

Margery M. Scanlin is ACA's division director of member and camp services. She served as interim executive vice president from October 1997 to February 1998.
COPYRIGHT 1998 American Camping Association
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Title Annotation:reason for being in the camp industry
Author:Scanlin, Margery M.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1998
Words:742
Previous Article:1997 annual report.
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