We’ve recently returned from the annual American Camp Association (ACA) National Conference and I’m in that post-confernece glow — energized and excited by seeing old friends, making new ones, and learning new things!
Our regional conferences (Virginias Conference) are always stimulating and offer equally compelling information only at a more intimate level and pace because it’s smaller. And that’s great, I love it because it is on a more personal scale.
But what’s great about the national conference is seeing people from all over the country — some of whom we’ve known for years and always look forward to seeing again — and just really being immersed in all things camp with a slew of other camp aficionados.
You know how it is at conferences — new ideas, great vendors, collaboration, brainstorming, networking, problem solving and hearing about how others approach similar questions that we’re faced with at Camp Alleghany. So it’s just a fabulous time to grow professionally and get even more jazzed about the upcoming camp season.
The conference sessions were excellent as always. The tough thing was that there were too many to choose from! It’s hard to pick which ones to attend because they all sound so great. So we divided to conquer, with Taylor focusing on programmatic sessions, Garrett on food and facilities ones, Sam on the business administration front, Bonnie on risk management, and I do a big assortment of sessions!
And of course the fact that the conference was in Orlando, Florida this year was pretty nice — the weather was great, which we really got to enjoy prior to the conference when our family enjoyed Disney World for a few days.
Down to work
Some of my favorite speakers were there: Michael Brandwein, who’s great with both business and camp/leadership development; Kim Aycock, who I’ve written about before; Susan Fee, who is excellent on motivation, conflict-resoluton, and other issues related to work and staff; Scott Arizala, who I mentioned from the Virginias Conference; Michelle Cummings, Bob Ditter, Jenn Selke and more…
Because we feel we have — and are determined to keep — the best camp staff anywhere, we’re constantly in a process of staff and professional development around management, motivation, creativity, methodology, etc. So we were on the hunt for more of that at the conference and Taylor and I are confident that we got many wonderful staff training ideas to keep our process fresh and relatable to each generation of counselors.
Garrett, on the other hand, was the foodie! He learned a lot of up-to-date information on camp dining, from menu planning and types of food for optimal eating and nutrition to best kitchen practices. We joked that he “ate his way” through the conference!
I even stepped into the conference role again with a friend of mine, Kim Betts, who works at Cheley Colorado Camps, but used to work right up the road from me at Camp Horizons. We ran an early morning session on raising your kids while working at camp. We had a pretty good turnout despite the 7am start time! It was an informal sharing session and we had a wonderful time getting to know the other parents who came to share.
I feel like I’m getting the hang of this being a parent at camp thing — many camps are run by families — after having Mason at camp for three years. I may have even more to share next year after juggling a newborn and a toddler and a nanny and a camp. Thank heavens for grandparents at camp, too!
The exhibit hall of vendors is one of our favorite things about the conference! If you look on our Facebook Page you’ll see some photos of us with our favorite vendors.
And who doesn’t love shopping? We placed a few orders and got some ideas for new things that we’re considering — games to offer, snacks, different equipment, clothing items, and more. We’re always excited to get ideas from this part of the conference and then make some decisions about which ideas we’re actually going to implement. So stay tuned for new stuff!
With our baby due in just about eight weeks, these are the last few months with “just Mason,” which is definitely a precious time to cherish. We’re thrilled about the new baby, but you know what I mean, it’s nice to treasure the one-on-one time while we can. So Mason and Matt came along for the first part of the trip and we took him to Disney World. We loved it, he loved it and we all made great memories.
Not that it was entirely easy to be very pregnant and so on the go prior to and at the conference, as well as being gone for ten days, but I tried to look at all the walking and all the stimulation as a very positive thing — exercise and mental agility!
And with my mom and dad joining us for the Disney vacation as well as the conference, it was nice to have family along as a counterpoint to all the activity (and then to enjoy some family time of our own). After all, when most folks are vacationing — the summer — we’re running camp. So sometimes the winter is when we get our best getaways in. We enjoyed it.
Next year the conference is in New Orleans. I’d like to laissez les bond temps rouler so I’m not sure we’ll bring Mason and Baby Shreckhise for all that. But maybe Matt and I will try to make a little trip out of it 🙂
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls