It doesn’t have to be summer for children who have attended the same camp to get together. In fact, during the so-called “off-season” (when camp is not in session), many summer camps will hold reunions to allow kids a chance to catch up with one another in a fun setting.
Adults might be most familiar with high school reunions – which occur once every five or ten years (long past being a student); however, annual camp reunions or other related social gatherings are often geared to kids who have attended camp the previous summer and perhaps plan on going back for the next. This is not to say there aren’t long-term camp alumni reunions geared mainly toward adults who attended camp long ago (which we will address reunions of this type in another article).
While some day camps will hold off-season reunions or other social gatherings, residential camps will typically be most apt to promote and host such events given the nature of an overnight camp being more of a continuous “home away from home” where campers and counselors may have spent upwards of 8 weeks together as an extended family. Likewise, residential camps may attract campers from all over the country (or world), whereas campers who attend day camps typically live in the same or adjacent neighborhoods and see one another regularly in school during off-season. Nonetheless, day camp reunions provide an opportunity for kids who may have spent considerable time together during the course of the summer to assemble in the context of their “camp family” which shares a common bond away from school.
Although it varies from camp to camp, reunions may incorporate: a meal or snacks (such as an ice cream social), a photo slideshow or short video, as well as fun games, activities and camp traditions which allow campers to interact with one another and re-establish bonds created during the course of the previous summer. Sometimes small prizes, mementos, and other memorabilia are awarded during reunions to reflect achievements. Often times, previous or future counselors who live the area where the reunion takes place may attend the event. Most of all, reunions are meant to be a shared fun experience for campers while camp is not in session.
It is also possible to see an “open house” run in conjunction with an annual reunion to allow future or prospective campers to gain a first hand experience of the social fabric which binds the camp community together.
If a residential camp has several different main locations across the country where campers reside, there might be several reunions located in different cities. Not all camps hold reunions, so you might want to contact your camp’s director to inquire as to whether your camp holds a reunion or any other sort of off-season gathering; however, if they do, chances are you’ll be informed of the date, location, and other pertinent details.
There are invariably a number of different locations your camp might have information published about itself on the internet: on one extreme, there is your camp’s official website where you have complete autonomy and control. On the other extreme, there are locations where information might appear about your camp which is completely beyond your control … such as user submitted review sites. Somewhere in the middle of these extremes, your camp might be listed within several specialty niche directories (i.e. campchannel.com, camppage.com, etc.). You may also find articles about your camp which appear inside online newspapers, magazines, and trade publications. It is possible you might not even be aware of all the various nooks and crannies information has surfaced on the web about your camp. In some cases, you might be able to easily update such information; however, in other instances you might be left with very little recourse.
The purpose of this article is to focus on sites which are typically under your control to some extent: in particular, web directories for summer camps. Given that information on the web can “live forever”, you might come across info about your camp on a directory site which is severely outdated or perhaps no longer applicable / relevant to your camp’s current program (i.e. – dates, rates, programs, etc.). Most camp directories will likely seek to maintain accurate information about all of it’s member camps, so there is in all likelihood a method provided to update your camp’s individual listing.
There is normally a link found on most camp directories specifically intended for Camp Directors which will typically provide details about how to update your listing. It is important to keep in mind that specialized camp directories operate differently in so far as how they’re setup in terms of: data structure, listing options, what information can be included within the listing, how specific fields are displayed, limits on the number of selections which can be denoted, what information can be displayed, whether multi-media elements can be included, free or paid, etc. So, while you might have a desire to simply email a fact sheet with all of your marketing material to all directories in hopes they’ll simply make the necessary modifications for you, it is important to understand that most directories don’t process info in such a way and more than likely will ask that you follow their specific procedure. So, it is ultimately up to you, as an authorized representative of your camp, to visit each directory individually in order to submit your information and be sure it is included appropriately according to the parameters of the respective website’s “way of doing things”.
For this reason (and others), it is recommended that you start a spreadsheet of all directory locations your camp might be listed and include the following columns (at a minimum):
If you maintain a paid listing, you may also want to also include columns for:
Obviously, there are many other columns you can opt to include which might assist you in managing your camp’s online presence within the directory space.
While you might be aware of several directory sites under which your camp appears, it is very possible there might be some which you are unaware. To help discover sites which might not be readily apparent, it is suggested that you perform at least a minimal “audit” to determine the extent to which information associated with your camp might be present on the web. Even spending an hour or two searching your camp’s exact name on your favorite search engine will likely reveal much useful information. TIP: if your camp’s actual name is somewhat generic (i.e. “Volleyball Camp”), it might be necessary to include a more specific identifier in your audit searches such as the city your camp resides (i.e. “Volleyball Camp Portland, OR”) in order to be able to better reveal information on the web about your camp.
In the course of your audit, try to harvest and include within your spreadsheet as much information as possible under the suggested column names listed above. It is up to you whether you’d like to update your directory listings “as you go”, or simply compile the information at first then go back and address each directory individually. Regardless, having this consolidated information will assist you in the near term and ultimately into the future … since invariably there will be a minimum of SOME information which changes about your camp which will need to be updated in subsequent seasons. Similarly, having such a spreadsheet to hand off to a new camp director can prove to be an invaluable peice of informatin in the case of staff turnover within your camp.
While looking through camp directory sites, one very common theme you might encounter is the case of a previous camp director or staff member having used their contact information – especially, their specific email address within your listing. Obviously, situations will vary from camp to camp; however, the summer camp market in general does reflect a relatively moderate to high degree of turnover at the senior staff level over the long term. So, it’s very possible you may have inherited the task of updating 6-12 different directory sites which currently reflect the old director’s email and other contact information. This is actually a relatively common issue if the camp or respective staff member made it a policy to utilize an individual’s email address (email@example.com) vs. that of “role” email address (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.). The use of a “role” email address can reduce a lot of such issues related to turnover … since you can simply leave “email@example.com” in place throughout the web and simply internally route all email destined to firstname.lastname@example.org -> email@example.com (or whomever if Jane no longer works at camp in the future).
Another common issue relates to replacing an antiquated logo, video clips, or photos which might display campers or staff from several years ago (who are now much older), or who might be engaged in activities which are no longer offered or perhaps under a different set of safety regulations which might now require more stringent safeguards. So, it is important to keep track of your camp’s images and videos which appear on directories and be sure to evaluate their present day suitability and/or effectiveness.
While there are certainly many individual issues, perhaps the most important aspect of maintaining an organized and consolidated inventory of your camp’s presence on directory sites is ultimately being able to present camp families with accurate, up-to-date, and non-conflicting information about your camp.
If you haven’t already done so, please take a few minutes to update your camp’s listing on the Camp Channel.