For a country where all are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we sure do have to put up with a plethora of rules and regulations. In my ten years as a camp director, I’ve seen the regulations regarding overnight camps skyrocket. This year I will have 100 girls and 60 staff members at camp all week. Think about that – a 6 to 10 ratio! Why? There is now a requirement that I give a two-hour break to all staff members every day. I know, I know, that sounds reasonable enough; but this is an all-volunteer camp. These adults have volunteered their time 24 hours a day (because incidents at camp don’t stop when the lights go out), and they expect to be busy running programs, watching on the beachfront, helping with crafts, going on hikes, etc. None of us expects to sit lazily under a tree or take a nap in our cabins for two hours. And mealtimes and recreational time don’t count as breaks. I’m turning away girls because I have to house staff in order to satisfy this rule.
Don’t get me wrong, I love our volunteers, but I’d love to welcome more girls to the joys of camp.
And paperwork! You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork that has to be done to become a volunteer. In addition to a lengthy application and three references who submit very detailed analyses of each volunteer, everyone has to do a background check through our Girl Scout Council, a state and federal fingerprint check, and a child protective services background check. The theory is that one will catch what another misses. Add to all of that the number of trainings required in order to run any type of program, and I’m surprised the volunteers don’t go running in the other direction.
Believe me, I know that our top priority is the safety of the girls, and I’m all for that. But as Director, all of this paperwork is killing me. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the medical information we are required to obtain, each piece carefully documented and signed by a physician. Something tells me that Lord Baden Powell and Juliette Gordon Lowe would have given up before they even got started if they were trying to take children camping today.
Let’s hope that all of the state, national, and Council requirements don’t steer others from stepping up as camp directors and volunteers. Imagine all of this plus the time and effort put into just the administration and operation of the camp itself – planning programs, unit and cabin assignments, scheduling all events for the week without conflicts, meal planning, evening activities, and much, much more. It’s a grueling and full-time job at times, and I often wonder why I continue doing it.
Then the most amazing thing happens. The time for camp arrives, and I see, often for the first time in a year, the wonderful volunteers I have come to love. After spending 24 hours unpacking, cleaning, organizing, and setting up for camp, we greet the campers, smiling, happy girls from ages six to thirteen. We work hard all week, but we have fun, too. From the first night scavenger hunt to the closing ceremony, the smiles and laughs far outweigh the frustrations. There is nothing else I would rather be doing each summer than spending it with this group. We are family, and as we all know, family stays together through good and bad, thick and thin, sun and rain (but, please, no rain)! So as the time grows near, and the first day of camp quickly approaches, I say let’s have s’more fun!
Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.