Contributed by Carey Edgren - Indiana Overnight Director
As a parent, I find myself thinking a lot about the safety of my children. From baby-proofing the house with cabinet latches and plug covers, to choosing a safe and reliable car, and being aware of who they interact with at church and school and in the community.
So, as Summer Camp gets ready to kick off this week in Indiana and at Day Camps locations across the Midwest, and next week in Michigan, I realized I’m also helping a lot of other parents think through the same issues of safety as they send their kids to summer camp.
“What does SpringHill do to provide safety for campers?”
The question of safety is very broad and can be broken into categories of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual safety, and we know that the safety of their children is often the number one concern for parents. The truth is, it is for us at SpringHill, too. We know that we cannot accomplish our mission if we are not first providing a safe environment for all kids.
Here are some processes we have in place and how they address these areas:
Our first line of defense is our extremely low camper to staff ratio. Typically, for every 2 or 3 campers there is one staff member on site. This allows us to demand of our staff that no camper is ever left alone. I contrast this with my experience as a camper at a camp in New York where there was 3 hours a day when we were “free” to do as we wished. During those three hours we saw no staff members, and our counselor did not even stay in the same cabin at night with us. By lowering our ratios and increasing our expectations we instantly lower our campers’ risk in all areas.
We address the area of physical safety with a multi-tiered approach. On the ground level, all of our staff is trained in basic first aid and illness awareness. They are able to respond to minor issues as well as spot potential sicknesses that campers tend to hide. In addition, all leadership staff are trained and certified by the Red Cross or American Heart Association in First Aid and CPR. This means that about a quarter of staff have this training and are always spread out around camp. Finally, our Health Services staff are top notch college students majoring in health sciences (most seeking nursing degrees) as well as volunteer Registered Nurses and physicians, and an on-call doctor who also makes regular visits to camp.
Because of the nature of camp, the environment and activities present some inherent risk, however, we take a number of steps to reduce the risk and keep kids safe. Our High Adventure activities are all inspected annually at the opening of the season to ensure they are safe for usage by an outside authority,Experiential Systems Inc. Our trained staff also inspect all of the activities and equipment we use on a daily basis. All activities that are done on or in the water require a lifejacket, and our lifeguards are fully trained and certified by the Red Cross. There are many rigorous standards we must meet in order to have Red Cross lifeguards, ESI Certified High Adventure areas as well as to maintain accreditation by the American Camping Association. If you would like more information about these standards please check out the ACA’s website.
Obviously this is just a snapshot of a much larger, and more intricate system with which we strive to ensure the safety of every camper. We are constantly looking to improve and grow in all areas of our camp, however this area receives consistent attention. We truly view the safety of campers as part of our mission and imperative in being able to present the message of Christ.
We'd love to hear how your experience at SpringHill has impacted your life. Whether it was an experience from this past summer or you're reflecting back on years ago we always encourage sharing of how God is working through SpringHill.