Supporting your summer camp staff

Keeping Summer Camp Staff Going Strong

We are always looking for new ways to support our staff members.  Here are two quick ideas:


Pen Pals

We spend so much time with email and text messaging these days, we forgot how special we can make people feel with a good old fashioned piece of snail mail.

Why not ask people to write letters to individual staff members.  Give these names and job descriptions to people outside your camp who would like to support your summer.

Examples of the people to ask are:  women’s groups at church, parents of staff members (have them write to someone other than their own child), parents of campers, agency employees, board members, etc.  These words of encouragement go along way in making staff members feel supported and appreciated.  It may be hard to find enough letter writers for every member of your staff so why not ask your volunteers to write at 5 - 10 letters.  They can spread them out over the summer so it is not a big job all at once.

Praise Board

Place a bulletin board in a prominent place at camp like your staff lounge.  Place short letters of praise for individual staff members on it.  Make sure that these are specific to something you have recently witnessed or been told about and not just general statements like “so-and-so did a great job today”.

This is an excellent way to praise creativity, good decision making, going the extra mile, dealing well with difficult situations (this is why you may not want your praise board where campers would see it).  Staff will truly appreciate seeing their name on the board, will be recognized by you and their peers, and will work hard to get their name on the board!  You may also want to have all staff members contribute to this board.

Happy Supporting!

What are you doing this summer to offer your staff some extra help?

Foolproof idea for getting more campers this summer


You can get more summer camp campers in your bunks this summer at the cost of… an email and some time.

In Ontario the first week of the camp season has passed and I think there is a great opportunity for you to fill up some more beds this summer.   Assuming that you have 1 week sessions (more likely most of you have 2 week sessions - send this email next week) I think you could tap into the excitement that the first session generated to get you more campers.   What I propose is this…

Send all campers that have just returned home this email (using Mail Merge so it says “Hi Clarisse, ….” or whatever his/her name is):

Hey _____________

We hope you had a great week at camp last week (if not please email or call me [give # and email])

To say thank you for a great week we would like to offer you 15% off another week at camp this summer.   If you have any friends who heard all of your great stories and now want to come to Camp _________  they can have the 15% off as well.

Your coupon code is 2010-asdfasfw.   Make sure your friends that sign up use the same code.

We hope to see you back at camp this summer!



What have you done at your camp to fill the extra spots left in the summer?

There is Great Hope for the Future


I am currently sitting on a train travelling from Montreal to Toronto following several days of training we were privileged to run for Camp Ouareau, an all-girls residential camp in the breathtaking Laurentian Mountains of Quebec.

As all camping professionals know, the issues facing children and teens today are staggering.  The stress and pressures our young people confront every day combined with  cultural changes that have left so many of them in a 'virtual' haze have stolen their childhoods and made them grow up all too soon.  As the two of us spent time preparing for our training sessions, the enormity of the task we all face once again took front and centre stage in my mind.  My thoughts were clouded with concerns, wondering where our future generations are headed, hoping against hope that is not too late.

And then I met the The Leadership Team of Ouareau.  For two very intense and long days, we chewed over issues such as body image, media stereotypes, nature deficit disorder, and dozens more.  The level of their knowledge on the topics - astounding. The heart with which they approached their training - remarkable.

This group of women, university students or recent graduates, seasoned travellers and camp veterans are working from sunrise past sunset, day in and day out to prepare for the hundreds of girls who will be in their care this summer.  They are developing lessons, activities, programmes, even menus with sensitivity and creative zeal.  This connected supportive team with decades of combined camp experience is eager to begin another summer, another season where they will provide their campers with a safe, exciting,  experiential learning adventure focused on making each person feel valued and important and building the self-esteem of every child and staff member. And they are doing it with great joy.

The more time I spent with them, the more I began to relax.  The clouds began to lift and the worries to disappear.  For not only did they fill me with confidence, they helped me to remember they are only one of thousands of leadership teams across the country and around the world who are currently focusing their energy on preparation for the arrival of their own campers.

This summer, the women of Ouareau celebrate their 90th year.  We congratulate the Raill Family - Jacqui, Don, Gabrielle, Morgan and Chad - and all their staff and alumni on their 'almost-century' long dedication to providing the best in camping.  We thank them for creating a phenomenally beautiful place where people of all ages feel welcomed, loved and cherished.

And we thank you too -- all of you -- for your endless work and tireless efforts to quite literallychange the world. Our children are indeed in very good hands.

We wish you all the most meaningful of leadership trainings and the most joyous of summers. We cannot wait to hear your stories!

So Sexy So Soon - CampHacker Interview with Jean Kilbourne

Stunned, angry, flabbergasted, determined, inspired - just a few of the feelings I had during the key note presentation of renowned author, speaker, and filmmaker, Jean Kilbourne.  A pioneer in the study of the image of women in advertising, she spoke to us on the last day of this year's Tri-State Conference about the graphic messages of sex and sexiness in the media and popular culture.  She walked us through graphic images found in magazines, showed clips from tv shows and youtube, and brought us face to face with the reality facing our campers today.  Her latest book, So Sexy So Soon, like her presentation, gives us concrete strategies and empowers us to educate our children, our staff, and ourselves so that we, too, can turn the world around.

In addition to hearing her speak, I had the privilege of interviewing her for CampHacker.  Studying her work for many years and knowing of her impressive history, I must admit I was quite intimidated.  I was even nervous sending the email to ask her for an interview.  To my delight, she was very accommodating and happy to take part.  Like us, she understands the great value found in a camp experience and is a huge supporter of what we all do.  Jean credits her own camp background with playing a significant role in her development. It was an honour to meet her.

For further information on what your camp can do to combat "the sexualized childhood", visit

We'd love to hear what you are doing now so our kids can just be kids.

4 Things Summer Camps Should Buy By The Roll

Summer camp purchasing is a little tricky.  We’re constantly pushing the line of using our imaginations to stretch out our budgets while striving for a great, safe programme.

There are many things that it makes sense to buy in bulk (duh.) but here are a 4 things that I made sure to buy every summer by the roll. Duct tape you shouldn’t buy by the roll - buy it by the box.

  1. 1/4” or 1/2” inch nylon rope. Great for creating clotheslines by cabins and tents (make sure you use eye hooks - knots around trees can damage the bark and weaken the tree, normal hooks can take out an eye during a wide game), yellow nylon rope can also help tying things down and keeping things secure.  Make sure you keep an old kitchen knife and a blow torch near the roll of rope to give you good, clean ends and prevent unravelling.   I heartly recommend mounting the rope roll inside the shop so that it doesn’t wander off and the site people can watch to know when to order more.

  2. 1” webbing -  a different colour every year.  Any camp with an adventure program (everyone of us, right?) can find great uses for webbing.   We used it to create belay stations at Cairn (the Christian summer camp we used to direct) for the climbing wall and zipline, and cut it into 12’ lengths so that every cabin and unit had a introduction game bag that included araccoon circle (download a free pdf of raccoon circle games from the master - Dr. Jim Cain).  I also learned a great trick from taking my Wilderness First Responder at Outward Bound - every back should have a 3m (12’) length of webbing so that you have gear to make a stretchers and splints on trip.  Plus… more Raccoon Circle games!
  3. Parachute cord (p-cord) - not white. Like both of the above p-cord can be used for many things: Creating bull-rings for adventure programming, as a lazy line for hauling belay lines up through shear-reduction devices, as a throw line for getting rope over a branch to hang your food away from bears on trip.
  4. Shop Towels  - the blue paper towels that you can buy at a big box hardware store are much better for use in the shop then the brown rolls or even grocery store paper towels.   Recommending buying paper products gets my inner environmentalist screeching but with these you have a better product and that means you will use less.

What have you bought a lot of for camp that made a huge difference?

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