Creative Connection Fuels Virtual Camps

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June 1, 2020 by Allie Meador

The smell of toasted marshmallows. That pop when the firewood gets too hot and snaps during story time. The feeling of freedom as you place your oar in calm waters on the open lake.

Many would consider summer camp a right of passage. The friends, the experiences, the natural growth that comes from being on your own in a new location, away from your "hovering" parents. And the parents? They look forward to that cheerful, overly energetic counselor who, just for a moment, provides a quiet respite for 1-2 weeks, sometimes even three months!

aaron-burden-ufFIweqSPd4-unsplashWhat's The Issue?

While the CDC set safety guidelines for camps who decide to operate in-person this season, there are many affected who cannot continue planning uninterrupted due to their audience: children with auto-immune conditions or compromised immune systems. Celiac Disease, Juvenile Arthritis, Juvenile Diabetes, MS, Lupus, Thyroiditis, and IBD are just some of the conditions that keep many adults and children alike inside during times like these.

These aren't the only groups forced to pivot. We are seeing foster care organizations, nonprofits that support children and their families battling Cancer and many more changing the way they interact with the people they serve to keep them safe and healthy.

What Do I Tell My Team?

“Where there is a will, there is a way. If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it. Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door and keep it open.” —Pauline Kael

The quote above is a lived-in motto for many nonprofits on a daily basis. Don't let uncertainty make you question your ability as an establishment to come together creatively in difficult moments. Virtual camps might seem overwhelming, but with the plethora of resources online, you can find a solution for your operation.

As a nationwide leader in the camp industry for close to 25 years, the American Camp Association's blog provides the step-by-step guide to getting your team and yourself feeling like the tasks that lie ahead are more manageable than they may seem. Setting expectations with families, defining your camper, and the 3 "C's" to creating value are just a few of the in-depth topics discussed in the guide. The "real" talk throughout the blog will also motivate even the most skeptical.

As Master Yoda brilliantly said in the movie Star Wars: “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Wipe your mind completely of what you don’t know and instead, begin thinking about everything you do know. Having met thousands of camp directors throughout the years I have discovered there is one common bond and trait all directors have...the ability to create meaningful, interactive, new and fun experiences for children. —American Camp Association (ACA)

Connectivity Through In-Kind

With your virtual camp model finished and the volunteers who fit your new tech needs hired, it might feel like something's missing. The tangible satisfaction of human contact. While you might not be able to reach out and shake a parent's hand as they drop off their daughter for the first time or help a child get glue off their hand after making sock puppets, "creating meaningful, interactive, new and fun experiences" is your jam.

This summer, Special Love, a camp in Virginia is using their "Camp-in-a-Box" wish lists to interact with children completely online making connection and innovation the first priority. Campers ages 7-17 will have virtual sessions aided by the box filled with goodies and supplies to foster creative minds. Special Love wants to bring camp into each home and be there for families they serve when they cannot be there in-person.

By asking for in-kind donations from their donors, Special Love allocates their cash donations to paying staff, rent, bills and other allowances. Givers looking for ways to keep their summer donation going to their childhood camp finally have another option to get involved. A variety of adult socks, a few art supplies, and glue suddenly transform your Zoom sock puppet tutorial into an educational and tactical souvenir. Before you know it, your screen-sharing with 15 campers as you act out the sock puppet play of the year.

If you would like to help Special Love reach more children, take a look at their wish lists here: Special Love Campaigns. Or if you are ready to take your camp virtual, reach out and let us help you get started.


Topics: gifts-in-kind, campaign management, wish lists

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