Bad Girl, Good Business

Route 66 Installment #12: Summer Camp & Movie Night

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This installment (during “ENTERTAINMENT MONTH”) was originally going to be about reality TV and how it both reflects and impacts modern life.

BUT…then I went to summer camp.

Not exactly.  I taught a workshop at the Tri-State Camp Conference last week and the final day’s keynote and my experiences on the show floor itself gave me a whole new perspective (much like summer camp does for kids).

Atlantic City (where the conference was held) is also something of an entertainment mecca for adults, but we’ll save that for another type of blog.

When parents send their kids to summer camp, the decision is often based on wanting them to have new experiences, devoid of screen time.

Although the show floor was filled with all forms of entertainment (conventional and new; educational and just for fun), one of the most powerful moments of the show was the closing keynote by Nicole Newnham, an Oscar-Nominee and Emmy Winner and Producer and Director of Crip Camp.

The Power of Film

Inspired by Newnham’s talk, I immediately watched the movie itself. Having spent six weeks temporarily disabled, I could relate on some level to the message of the movie. I became very aware of how permanently disabled people are often treated in our society. It was funny, eye-opening, and inspiring.

It also reminded me of the power of community in raising awareness, changing perception, and making significant reforms in policies and how we treat other human beings. Summer camp can be that community.

The Power of Summer Camp

Five years ago (before I left the East Coast), I was very involved in marketing for a variety of summer programs (day camps, overnight camps, educational programs, etc.).

This “camp reunion” brought me back to a world I missed.

NOTE: The entire Tri-State event is produced by collaborative volunteers. I can’t begin to imagine a bank or major brand being able to do that with ease.

Because this blog and newsletter series (ROUTE 66)  is all about aging and what I’ve learned, the conference was especially powerful. Our experiences as children shape our adulthood.

Summer experiences can teach kids things they don’t learn through their academic lives. It’s an environment free of judgment and competition (except for the Color War, which is often called less violent names today like the Olympics).

Camp directors are committed to inclusion, kindness, taking safe risks, and trying new experiences. Entertainment and activities are old-school. Magic shows, games with balls, woodworking, lanyards, and crafts abound.

Although STEM-based games and even a kids’ version of the DiSC® assessment have made their way into camp experiences, the focus remains on:

  • Fun
  • Human empathy and connection
  • Nature
  • Community

I’m blessed that every year I get an opportunity to experience an adult version of summer camp and interact with people who have those four priorities as their mission.

Some trends and products, services, and people of note:

  1. Technology is usually not permitted at camp, but it’s making life easier for camp owners, directors, and parents.  School Bus Manager automated bus route planning (sort of like Waze for camp buses). Vanta Leagues is gamifying sports coaching. The Local Moms Network has built a community of mothers to discuss camps (and other topics).  eMed added a digital component to COVID-19 testing (and other health test management). And Take Flight Learning turned personality style assessments into a kid-friendly version to teach collaboration styles. Can’t wait to find out what type of bird I am and how to fly with my flock!
  2. Ship Camps is now revolutionizing the task of dragging trunks onto camp buses.
  3. I plan to order dog tags from LogoTags for my own company! Who says camps must have all the fun?
  4. My PB League is bringing pickleball to a whole new generation. And old fave activities are being reimagined by The Great DuBois, RhythetriX, ImpressArt, Maple Wood Shop, and Kirsch (a hypnogician and mentalist). Camp 4 Real focuses on physical education and nutrition. The giant pink ball below is the owner’s brainchild. Speaking of exercise, World Ninja Sport is a new take on the traditional jungle gym.
  5. And the amazing treats (from Scott’s Protein Balls) are gluten-free, plant-based, dairy-free, soy-free, and non-GMO. The best campers are healthy campers. I might order some for my own “mess hall.” Check out the other healthy foods I love. 

And, if you haven’t gotten enough of summer camp, here are some of the movies (the good, the bad, and the ugly) set out in the woods. (We’ll refrain from the horror flix.)

Next week, I’ll cover a world that’s pretty close to the polar opposite of the camp world. Reality TV now comprises close to 60% of all programming. ARGH!

But for now, I’ll simply bask in the glow of the campfire.

Please feel free to share your camp memories and learning in the comments!





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