Giving the Gift of Camp

Give the Gift of 4-H Camp

Giving the Gift of Camp

This holiday season, consider giving experiences, rather than more stuff.  Give the gift of 4-H Camp with a tax deductible donation to our Hilltop Fund!  Ready to make a difference right now?

The Twelve Days of Giving the Gift of 4-H Camp

For the first four days, remember that the 4-H's stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health, and each of these is exemplified at 4-H Camp!

Giving the Gift: Head Giving the Gift of Camp: Heart
Giving the Gift of Camp: Hands Giving the Gift of Camp: Health

Head:  Camp is a great place for children to develop confidence and self-esteem. Abby attended camp this summer, and after her week of camp, her parent’s told us, “I’m so happy she's learning to be a leader in such a comforting gradual way as she's shy and never sought to be a leader before this, so this training is a huge benefit. Some camps throw them into leading too fast, this way is gradual to make a shy kid comfortable as a leader.”

Heart:  While we all have the chance to make friends every day, camp is a unique place because camp counselors are highly trained at facilitating friendships!Research from the American Camp Association stated “Camp counselors, unlike teachers, view their primary role as one of facilitating friendships and positive experiences. They are also trained to help campers build social skills. At most camp programs, counselors participate in up to a week of training prior to the summer [ed. 4-H Camp Bristol Hills mandates a full week of staff training before each season]. Sessions include exercises in communication, leadership, and team building, during which counselors are trained to lead “ice-breakers” that help campers get to know one another and connect. Making friends is an important part of the camp experience, and with the help of their counselors, children learn and practice their friend-making skills. Given that camp programs emphasize forming new friendships and rekindling old friendships, the finding that children felt their social skills improved as a result of camp supports the hypothesis of this study and anecdotal testimonials. Not surprisingly, all campers (100%) reported making new friends at camp, with 99% of campers’ parents (132/133) reporting the same.

Hands: When was the last time your child went outside and played in the great outdoors and came back with their hands dirty, with great stories to tell?It’s a natural thing for kids to be outside and playing, but all too often, TV and the internet become the babysitters of the modern era.Camp gives kids a chance to do what comes naturally.Explore, get your hands on the earth, and have fun doing it!If you've read The Last Child in the Woods, you're familiar with the term "nature-deficit disorder." In our technologically savvy generation, kids just aren't getting enough time to play outside, and that has now been linked to attention disorders, depression, and obesity. Kids who play outside grow in their character development: they become more adventurous, more self-motivated, and they are better able to understand and assess risk.

Health:  Physical exercise, fresh clean air, and a ready supply of healthy, nutritious food that kids will actually enjoy are all factors that help make camp a great place for kids to live life a little healthier.During the school year, students spend most of their time sitting at desks, told not to move, not to run, and to stay in line.By the time summer rolls around, those kids have a lot of energy pent up inside, and they are ready to RUN with the WIND!4-H Camp Bristol Hills is specifically designed to give campers time to run and play with lots of physical activity including swimming, hiking, sports, high ropes course, sports, and much more!A study of Day Camps in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine studied more than 1000 campers at summer day camps and reported “Outside of regular school, summer day camps are the largest setting where kids can be physically active. According to the results, more than 70% of boys and girls at day camps (aged 5-12) are getting over the recommended amount of 60 minutes per day of vigorous physical activity. Project those findings into the residential summer camp environment and imagine what type of results would be seen. Clearly, the majority of young people who attend summer camp are experiencing vigorous amounts of physical activity each day.”

As we head into the next four days of giving, we dive into the positive youth development Essential Elements" within 4-H Programs.  At camp, these are known affectionately as the BigM, which stands for Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery.  

Giving the Gift of 4-H Camp: Belonging Giving the Gift of 4-H Camp: Independence
Giving the Gift of Camp: Generosity Giving the Gift of Camp: Mastery

Belongingness:  Youth need to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in the group. This “fellowship” has always been an important part of a 4-H experience. 4-H gives youth the opportunity to feel physically and emotionally safe while actively participating in a group. Current research emphasizes the importance for youth to have opportunities for positive relationships with adults other than parents. This research suggests that a sense of belonging may be the single most powerful positive ingredient we can add into the lives of children and youth.At 4-H Camp Bristol Hills, campers from all walks of life, backgrounds, socioeconomic status’s have a chance to shed all of the labels and just enjoy being a kid.A parent told us at the end of her daughter’s week at camp, “She had a wonderful time!She has an expressive language disorder but everyone was very patient and kind with her!Thank you so much!”.Being accepted for who you are, without judgement, is one of the reasons why 4-H Camp is often a place where kids can “let their hair down” and be true to themselves.

Independence:  One of the biggest benefits of camp is the chance to experience a bit of independence from Mom and Dad, in a safe, structured environment.For many campers, their week at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills is their first time away from family, making decisions for themselves. One parent told us that “I believe that fostering a child's independence is extremely valuable. When a parent feels supported and that their child will be safe and enjoy it, it is more likely to happen. I felt that way about 4-H Camp and my daughter loved it. She will be back next year!”.Independence is one of the most commonly cited benefits of the camp experience on our evaluations from camp families.Other parents have told us “My kids both loved camp!It was their first time being away from home and they are ready to sign up again!” and another simply said “It’s a great experience for thekids to be independent (and to give their parent’s a week alone!”.That one made us laugh!

Generosity:  In a bulletin about the value of Generosity, developed by Arizona’s Cooperative Extension, the following research was cited: “Generosity is the opportunity to value and practice service to others (Kress, 2004). It is the process of losing oneself in service to the greater good. In that service, young people can gain a broader view of the needs of the world around them. Generous individuals are described as good problem solvers, have meaningful socialrelationships,andshow better work performance (Frisch, 2000).It is important for youth to move beyond their individual self-interest and to be committed to the well-being of a larger group (Sherrod, Flanagan, & Youniss, 2002).”For example, at 4-H Camp, campers are actively engaged in developing a brand new camp community every week. Campers participate in group activities, help out camp with camp-wide capers (ie. picking up down branches for campfires, combing the villages for litter and garbage, watering the plants, etc), share the workload of setting and clearing tables in the dining hall, and more.

Mastery:  Campers have opportunities to learn real world skills that will impact them throughout their lives. Aiden came to camp to live and play in a rustic outdoors environment.After a brief transition period and some acclimating, he made himself at home in our cabins, lodges, fields, and forests.Throughout the week he could be seen laughing and smiling with new friends from across the state.As a NYC resident who traveled by bus several hours to Ontario county, camp was unlike anything he had ever experienced.We are incredibly proud of his strength and growth here at camp this summer. At the very end of the week as kids from NYC were piling into their bus, Aiden was asked how his week was.His response, with tears in his eyes, is the reason why camp can be such an impactful and special place: “I learned how to swim.”It was obvious to everyone there that Gold was able to make incredible strides in his personal independence, skills, confidence, and love of life outdoors.This new skill set will serve him for the rest of his life.

On the home stretch, with four days left in our season of giving, we must not forget a few other benefits embedded in the camp experience.  Namely, a chance to unplug, interact with people who may not be exactly like us, getting a great value for your dollar, and, of course, campfires!

Giving the Gift of 4-H Camp: Unplugged
Giving the Gift of 4-H Camp: Diversity
Giving the Gift of 4-H Camp: Affordable Giving the Gift of 4-H Camp: Campfires

Chance to Unplug:  While campers may disagree with us on this, we think their parents will understand us when we say that putting down the cell phone, the laptop, and whatever other electronics they “can’t live without” is actually a good thing!Matt Pines, Camp Director for a Teen camp in Maine, was quoted in an article on the benefits of disconnecting from electronics, stating “There is a sense of urgency created by phone access that introduces a level of stress that just isn’t good for anyone. Kids with continual smartphone contact frequently wonder what they might be missing, and ‘have the constant feeling that someone needs you.’ Being at camp, away from technology, interrupts that sense.Pines also points to the fact that the absence of a phone creates space for kids – space to daydream, as well as space in conversations. A lull, without a phone to look at, teaches youngsters how to navigate interaction, Pines says. Downtime, without a phone, also teaches teenagers “how to be with their self,” he says. That time, used for simply thinking, “can spark creativity.”Finally, Pines says that by putting away phones and eliminating access to the internet, campers are far more likely to take risks and consider consequences of their actions. “Being ‘social media-free’ means there’s no forum for judging,” he says.

Diversity:  4-H Camp Bristol Hills is, in many ways, a great melting pot!Not for fundue, but for PEOPLE!Campers come from all over!We’ve got campers from China, Germany, Italy and others.And through our partnership with the Disney Corporation, we are able to bring 75 youth each summer from Rochester and New York City to spend a week in the fresh air of camp.But diversity goes beyond that.We’re also home to campers and staff that vary in terms of socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and disability.We actively partner with the Ontario ARC to provide enriching summer camp experiences for youth on the autism spectrum.The ARC reports that “The Summer Day Camp gives children with unique needs an opportunity to create lasting memories and build new friendships within a supportive environment. Campers improve their social, communication and physical skills and have access to fun and educational activities including archery, beading, cooking, arts & crafts, fishing, geocaching, swimming, rocketry and woodworking. Trained staff from Ontario ARC, including a special education teacher, provide on-site support to campers.”

Affordable. We strive to create a camp experience that is within the reach of all in our community.We work efficiently to make the most of the resources that we have, and constantly strive to partner with community agencies to make our programs, staff and facilities stronger.Examples of these partnerships have included Cornell University and the variety of student interns that have been with us over the years to provide unique programming, cutting edge research, and positive staff development.We have also worked with Disney Corporation to provide campership funding for youth in urban communities, the Ontario ARC to provide summer camp for teens with autism, the United Way’s Day of Caring, and Lowes Community Heroes programs for facility improvements, the New York Kitchen and Thompson Hospital for top-tier program facilitation, Honeoye CORAL program for construction of a variety of storage cabins around camp, and much more.And yet, while we work as hard as we can to be affordable to all,we are all too aware that the summer camp experience is still a difficult financial burden for some in our community.With this in mind, our Hilltop Fund has been developed to provide a channel to help donors connect with families in financial need.Contributions to our Hilltop Fund have risen steadily over the years, and in 2018, we were able to provide financial support for 154 youth to attend camp.In a post-campership survey conducted in the fall of 2017, approximately 50% of respondents reported that without campership support from the Hilltop, their child wouldn’t have had any sort of summer camp experience.

Campfires:  Come on!Who doesn’t love the roaring crackle of a campfire?Or the yummy gooey happiness that we know as the roasted marshmallow!  Sit back, relax, and know that your contribution to the 4-H Camp Bristol Hills Hilltop Fund will bring this ooey gooey summer tradition to someone who might not otherwise have this opportunity!

Ready to make a difference right now?

Last updated July 26, 2019