A few years ago, a leader in the Foundation asked Deborah and me, “Considering the Foundation’s legacy work in mental health and wellness, how will you contribute to this work during your time in leadership?” Two thoughts came to us. First, how might we support church leaders to break the stigma and help their congregations understand mental health as an illness? Second, what if camps required mental health training for all summer counselors, as they currently require sexual abuse awareness training.
We’ve made progress on both fronts, and I’m excited to tell you about recent efforts we’ve made to increase mental wellness in the camping industry.
Deborah and I discussed how we might initiate a nationwide requirement for mental health training, and the answer seemed simple enough. Let’s get all of the national association leaders together at Laity Lodge and facilitate a robust conversation and strategy for the camping industry.
For two years, we tracked down the camps most open to mental wellness, and we learned there are three essential groups that provide best practices for camps across the nation: the American Camping Association, the Christian Camp and Conference Association, and Alliance for Camp Health (formerly American Camp Nurses). I was surprised that this was the first time these three organization leaders have attended a gathering like this. Along with executives from each group, we were joined by camp leaders from across the nation.
I was pleased to learn that, according to this group, LLYC is already leading the way for other camps around the country. Since the pandemic, more and more in the camping industry are recognizing the importance of mental wellness. Steven Harrison, our new staff writer, has an article explaining the issue on page 27. I encourage you to read the article and pray for our leadership in this most important work.
Deborah and I learned that just in Texas, there are over 140 youth camps affiliated with ACA or CCCA, employing thousands of college students each summer. LLYC and LLFC alone hire over 300. With numbers like that, mental health training could be a catalytic opportunity. Imagine if every seasonal staffer in Texas receives mental wellness training to support their relationships with campers for the summer. Now, imagine training summer camp counselors throughout the country. We might change an entire generation’s view of mental health and wellness!
In the meantime, we can’t wait to see the current generation of guests in the Canyon very soon. Session 1 starts June 5 for LLYC and Family Camp. Lodge summer guests arrive on June 9. It’s going to be a great summer.