In 1988, I worked at a summer camp in the summer prior to my Junior year at Hiram College. It changed my life. That summer was the start of everything I am today. I met my wife at camp. My sons will grow up at camp. Today, I am the CEO of Camp Sloane YMCA, a place I call home. I cannot put into words how happy I am to be a part of the Sloane family and to engage in all the great work we do here. I am grateful to the people who encouraged me back then to get into the camping field. I have the best job ever.
One of the things I love about this work and probably THE reason I do this job is because I change lives. Campers come to Camp Sloane where they can no longer spend hours in front of a screen. We find that once campers are "unplugged" from technology, are free from the pressures of school and making their way in the camp setting without mom or dad to lead the way, they are able to form more meaningful relationships with their peers. They learn to live in a community setting. They gain a greater sense of independence and higher self esteem.
The skills they learn here have a life outside of camp as well. There is evidence that kids who go to camp are twice as successful at college than their peers who did not attend camp. I am sure that success follows them when they leave college too. I have also been hearing more and more how employers are seeking applicants who have attended or worked at a summer camp.
One of my more important jobs each year is to review financial aid applications for camp. The applications often tell stories of families and children enduring serious hardships - job loss, divorce, grandparents having to raising their grandchildren, parents on deployment overseas - often in harm's way (we have a military families program here at Sloane), one or both parents passing away and more. Every application says, in one way or another, "this child needs camp." I agree.
Here's the rub: not everyone can afford to go to camp. I never want to have to tell a child that he or she cannot attend Camp Sloane because they don't have the means to pay the camp tuition. Here at Camp Sloane, we underwrite over $150,000 in camp financial assistance each year. 1 in 5 Campers at Sloane receives financial aid to come to camp. That's a lot of lives changed.
So, I need your help. On July 11th, I will be going device free for the day - no smartphone, tablet or computer. The purpose for my device free day is to raise money for Camp Sloane so that we can serve every child who wants or needs a camp experience, regardless of their ability to pay.
I hope that you'll sponsor me in this endeavor by making a donation to our "Drop your Phone for Camp Sloane" campaign. You can even join me in taking the pledge to drop your devices on July 11, 2015. Thanks, in advance, for your help with this important campaign.
In the Spirit of Camping,
-Paul "Bear" Bryant