FRIDAYS WITH FRANKY! What Do Those Directors Do the Rest of the Year?
Hi Everyone, it’s Franky, the WeHaKee camp dog! I often hear people ask Maggie and Bob “What do you do the rest of the year”, suggesting there must not be much to do once the summer is over. They often share a few tidbits about off-season camper recruiting, fund raising and agonizing over t-shirt designs for next summer. Their response usually satisfies the inquisitor, but leaves me wanting to say more, to educate them a bit about all that they do in their often misunderstood endeavor.
Providing the optimal camp experience is all about creating a community. There is infrastructure, education, health care, housing, sanitation and safety. These tangibles are bound with thick strands of love, support and encouragement that weave their way through all aspects of the camp ensuring that each camper can experience an unconditional sense of belonging. In any given day, their tasks may span from listening to a parent describe how a child is having difficulty coping with a recent family death to arranging to have the septic tanks pumped. Dull has faded from their vocabulary!
At WeHaKee campers come together to swim, play tennis, dance, sketch and paint while making new friends from all around. They sing silly songs, eat countless meals together, play each day until they are exhausted, curl up in their bunks giggling themselves to sleep and share their tears when they depart for home. Throughout all this, most are happily unaware that they are also building their self-confidence, becoming independent and strong, and developing a resiliency that will carry them through the life challenges they will too soon face. They are unaware and presumably unconcerned, because they are just having so much FUN! But that does not occur without substantial efforts during the off-season – a.k.a., the rest of the year!
Maggie and Bob work diligently during the months between each summer evaluating the past season to confirm what went well and where they can improve; encouraging the campers to return next summer while persuading new families to entrust their children to WeHaKee; expanding and redeveloping the program to keep it fresh, relevant and fun; seeking, screening, assembling a new camp staff and preparing for their training so they will deliver the finely-tuned program safely and enthusiastically; finagling the finances to pay the bills promptly; overseeing the maintenance of the facilities to ensure that they remain safe and ready; writing and securing grants, soliciting donations, completing annual campaigns to keep the camp in the black; reviewing and adjusting the risk management and emergency response plan – preparing for the worst and hoping for the best; reviewing the mission, philosophy and strategic plans to maintain the directors’ focus; and many other somewhat more mundane, but significantly important tasks and responsibilities. Any leftover scraps of time are spent in professional development exploring such topics as trends in youth development, current health care issues of adolescents, creating sustainable facilities to name a few.
At times it seems unfortunate that they often do not see the impact they have on the WeHaKee campers. One might say they plant the seeds, but miss the harvest. I think they feel a remarkable satisfaction however, knowing they have created the opportunity… the community where each camper has grown and developed a bit more than they might have if they had not come to camp for the summer. It is the sprout breaking through to the sun, to push the metaphor. I only wish I could spin that into an answer that would capture all that Maggie and Bob do in the camping profession… the rest of the year!