If You Go – You WILL Grow!

Central to our belief about summer camp is that if you go – you WILL grow! And what’s more, we believe the MORE you go – the MORE you will grow. One of the more unique aspects of the John Austin Cheley Foundation’s Campership Program is that it provides funding to a camper for ‘their full lifespan of camp’. To understand the value this provides, we are constantly seeking to know more about the impact that repeated camp experiences have upon the kids we support. Our own summer camp outcomes data tells us that JACF Campership participants experience significant growth during their time at camp (Figure 1). By collecting outcomes data from our campers and their parents at the end of the summer we are able to see exactly how camp has shaped the campers’ growth.

Figure 1: JACF Summer Camp Data Outcomes*


As we engage with our alumni more we will gain a broader understanding of how they have continued to be influenced by their experiences at camp after they have ended. In the meantime…

… a new study on the lasting impacts of summer camp experiences has recently been published.

This study, funded in part by the American Camp Association and published in the Journal of Leisure Research, is particularly interesting to us because the participants included were, like our alumni, individuals not currently engaged with the camp experience. As Cait Wilson, PhD (research associate, University of Utah) points out, it is clear that camp has a lasting and positive impact on youth development!

“The first key takeaway is that all camp experiences impact young people’s lives for the better. Former campers said they developed a lot of important outcomes like relationship skills, independence, and a willingness to try new things.”

The findings show that people who repeatedly attended camp reported increased development.

Wilson notes that “Repeated participation in summer camp, may impact how and in what ways young campers develop. Specifically, this study examines how two factors of behavioral loyalty, dosage (e.g., weeks at camp) and developmental progression (e.g., transitioning from camper to camp employee), are associated with youth development attributed to the camp experience. Campers categorized as core participants (i.e., those reporting higher dosage and further developmental progression) were compared to fringe participants (i.e., those who reported lower dosage of camp and less developmental progression). There were significant differences in development for core and fringe participants based on both dosage and developmental progression. Although both core and fringe participants benefited from camp, core participants reported greater development of measured outcomes such as relationship skills, appreciation for diversity, and self-identity.”

Figure 2: Table summarizing the results from the study**

This study also supports JACF’s commitment to funding residential summer camp experiences in particular because greater development was shown to occur at overnight camps. This is likely because of more dosage as a result of more contact hours  – 24 hours per day.

These findings offer insight into the benefits of repeated participation in residential summer camp and support JACF’s commitment to fund a camper for their ‘full lifespan of camp’.

In short, the investment that our organization and our supporters make in providing repeat opportunities for our campers to attend camp produces a GREATER RETURN.

If you would like to read the full journal article on this study, it can be purchased here.


* These are samples of a larger set of outcomes data collected from JACF campers in 2018

**Published in the American Camp Association’s Research 360 Blog – Feb, 2019

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