Child Development

Why Camp: At the Alohas, We Meet You Where You Are

By The Aloha Team

An excited group of Lanakila campers gathered together listening to directions from a counselor.

In this blog series, we are focusing on the value of camp. This week, we share an important question prospective camp families often ask us and how we respond.

Why Camp: At the Alohas, We Meet You Where You Are

“What kind of camp are you? What do you specialize in?”

This is a question we hear often from prospective camp families interested in learning more about Aloha Foundation programs.

Responses from camps across the U.S. might include:

We’re a soccer camp.
We focus on STEM. (science, technology, engineering, and math)
We teach musical performance.
We’re a language camp.

Our answer is different.

What we specialize in is people.

Aloha programs are unique because we meet participants where they are and support them in reaching their personal goals. Our mission sums it up: we inspire people of all ages to become their best selves.

Ask a group of five campers in any Aloha program why they come to camp, and you’re likely to hear five different answers. One camper might want to learn outdoor skills. Another may want to perform in the show for the first time and another may be eager to dabble in as many activities as possible. A fourth may have had a challenging academic year and wish to focus on building new friendships. A fifth may want to let an aspect of their personality shine through in a new way, different from how they are in school.

The strength and beauty of our camp communities stems from these differences, and in how we work to support each individual’s needs.

This is a tall task! Without intentionally planning how to support such a wide variety of goals, our attempts would be less than successful. So how does Aloha create a community where every child (and adult!) can succeed, and what are the benefits?

1. Low Camper/Counselor Ratio

One of the distinguishing factors that allows us to provide this individualized focus is our low camper/counselor ratio—tent families, for example, have one counselor and three campers. In a small group like this, the counselor has the opportunity to get to know their campers on a deeper level and offer individualized attention and customized support.

The operating model some of our peer camps use—nine or ten campers in a bunk with two counselors—can work well for many children and young adults. We offer a different kind of experience and believe the variety of options available for families interested in summer camps is an asset.

2. Choice and Flexibility

Some children develop singular passions in their school and home lives, and know without a doubt they want to attend a summer camp focused on, for example, the arts or athletics. Others love a certain activity, say sailing…and they also enjoy pottery and playing the violin. Aloha Foundation programs give kids the choice to design their days and their summer—to determine how involved they want to be in a particular activity. If they want to go to archery every day and focus on mastering those skills in a structured way, they can. Or they can mix it up and have a more unstructured experience. Having the choice allows children to hone in on their real interests and explore new things.

Nothing puts a damper on an experience like discovering you don’t love lacrosse as much as you thought you did on day 2 of your two-week lacrosse camp. Aloha programs allow campers to set their own personalized goals, make choices, and adapt when needed.

3. Exploration and Discovery

The choices campers at the Alohas have give them the opportunity to try things they’ve never done before and discover new interests. At camp, a child may encounter firsts like summiting a mountain, turning their own bowl in woodshop, learning wilderness skills, enameling and making their own jewelry, performing solo or with a group, running in the Lake Morey Marathon (5 miles), learning to identify trees and flowers, hitting a bull’s eye in archery, landing a canoe at the dock, or writing their own song or play.

The freedom to experiment and explore teaches them skills that are relevant to their lives outside of camp and into adulthood, whether it’s at school, college, or in a first job. They practice being vulnerable and working past discomfort in trying something new. They experience what it’s like to persevere, fail, try again, and succeed at last. They encourage others, follow the examples of role models, and in return, learn the value of believing in themselves.

Camp experiences like Aloha can make all the difference for children and young adults as they grow and learn. We have heard the stories for over 100 years: how that Aloha confidence and determination, creativity, and love of teamwork strengthens people throughout their lives. And we look forward to adding new stories of success, joy, overcoming challenges, and making lifelong friends in 2024 and beyond!