Last week I attended the American Camp Association’s Virginias Fall Conference. It’s a semi-annual meeting for Virginians and West Virginians in the Association, usually held in October and January. The location changes around, and this time it was at the Skelton 4-H Conference Center in Wirtz, VA (outside of Roanoke on Smith Mountain Lake).
It was a gorgeous location for one of my favorite gatherings of the year, a chance for me to totally nerd-out on anything and everything camp related.
For me, professional development is one of the most exciting aspects of my job. I love learning about anything camp-related, specifically how I can improve things at Alleghany. Hearing how other directors handle things, develop their camp, introduce new ideas and programs all becomes food for thought as we continue to develop Ghany.
And I love sharing things we’ve done that might help other camps out (like my presentation — which I’ll tell you about next week).
But I also love the camaraderie.
Friendship, friendship, just the perfect blend-ship
I’ve made several friends through our local chapter and truly enjoy seeing them. It’s really fun being around a lot of other camp people too. We just get each other. It’s like any industry — doctors like to talk to other doctors, teachers to teachers, artists to artists and yes, camp directors to camp directors. It just so wonderful to feed off of the shared knowledge and challenges and opportunities. (See what I mean about nerding out?)
The theme for this fall was Risk Management, a topic I initially found less than exciting. But actually, it turned out to be totally compelling.
Our opening keynote speaker was a woman named Ann McCollum, a risk management specialist. She set the tone for seeing this topic as essential to good camp planning — anticipating scenarios, or imagining even small, unexpected challenges, can help things run smoothly no matter what comes your way. This is critical to being a top-notch camp, with all your systems in order.
The other break-out sessions took the topic further, making it even more engaging and interesting.
I went to one of Ann’s on how to train your staff to be risk managers at camp (or just how to be more aware), and another one on the top nine ways to reduce injury and illness at camp. This was was very helpful, and if we didn’t already do all nine of those things, we sure will now! The guy who did the presentation, Barry Garst, was very engaging, fun, and funny. The session was lively and he kept us interested and entertained.
Then of course I had my own session that I led — you’ll just have to tune in to the blog next week to hear about that!
Connecting and creating
They also create space for a couple of open style meetings — an ACA business meeting that we all attend, and then separate “cracker barrel” meetings for independent camps (that’s us), day camps, association camps, and camps with special needs. In our independent camps meeting we talked about marketing and advertising, and if camp fairs are really worth it any more, as well as paper advertizing. Those are interesting topics in an era of social media, blogs, and Youtube!
Throw in a couple meals, some fun and games, and door prizes, and there you have an ACA Virginias conference! 🙂
I’ll never get tired of this opportunity to keep Camp Alleghany fresh, my skills and knowledge up-to-date, my contacts with other directors and professionals alive, and get to have a nice long ride in the car with my dad, nerding out together on the whole thing!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls