Gorgeous day at GV for an ACA Accreditation Visit!

Today was another perfect Gwynn Valley day! It was one of those mid-session days when everything feels ‘in the groove.’ Children and staff are feeling comfortable with the rhythm of camp; skill progression is evident everywhere as campers are halfway through their morning discoveries; and friendships in cabins and table families are really starting to blossom. Around camp today, everyone seemed at home in their activities, cabin groups, and in the dining hall!

Speaking of the dining hall, the food today was exceptional! Oatmeal, oatmeal toppings, fresh peaches, and crispy bacon made for a great start to the day. For lunch, we had pasta primavera with a farm-fresh pesto and summer veggies along with green salad and fruit salad. I’m sometimes amazed by how much pasta children can eat when accompanied by parmesan cheese, but I also know my table-mates were playing hard today and needed re-fueling! We had my all time favorite snack at the end of rest hour: homemade granola bars! Finally to round of the day, our kitchen team treated us to meatloaf, sweet corn, peas, carrots, rice, and blueberry cobbler for dessert! Because we don’t get dessert every night at camp, I think children (and adults!) enjoy the sweet treats even more.

Mountainsiders enjoyed their first full day of MS1B, diving into their mini adventures. As part of the Mountainside program, campers sample activity periods of rock climbing, mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, and earth skills over the first few days of the session. Later on, they choose one of these activities to specialize in for their 3 or 4 day adventure.

Riversiders were back in camp, taking the morning to unpack and unwind after 4 days of white water canoeing. This afternoon they took on the Challenge Course at the climbing tower, playing around on elements that are 30 feet in the air. Some campers have no fear while they’re so far from the ground, and others are shaking every moment they’re up there, but together they encourage each other, practice empathy with their partners, and move through the challenge together as a team. I was fortunate enough to watch a sweet moment as the group encouraged one particularly nervous camper to make the leap off the swing platform. I was touched by the way other Riversiders rallied to support their hesitant friend, reminding him that he was safe and that he could take on this challenge if he wanted to.

Young Leaders spent the day Rafting on the Chattooga River with guides from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. They are the only program in camp to go rafting and this is always such a popular day for our oldest GV campers! Even though these young adults are in many ways ready to take on the responsibilities and challenges of camp leadership, they are also still teens who crave adventure and exploration and play. The Young Leaders program offers the best of both worlds with opportunities to flex those leader-muscles mixed in with opportunities to play and relax and celebrate the simple joys of childhood all over again.

In administrative news today… after months preparing …  we hosted two American Camp Association (ACA) Accreditation visitors! Our visitors poured over all of our paperwork before arriving and then spent most of the day observing activities in action and visiting key areas around camp like cabins, the kitchen, the health care center, etc. The main purpose of the ACA accreditation program is to educate camp owners and directors about industry standards and best practices related to camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. There are  about 250 individual standards that cover Health and Wellness, Facilities, Program, Administration, Staff Training, and more! Tucked in among all of the above sections are Mandatory Standards that you cannot miss. We have to provide written and verbal evidence in meeting the standards, and of course, we are also responsible for ensuring policies are followed as part of the in-person visit. Through the accreditation process, visitors are looking into every nook and cranny of our organization via paper and in person. Camps are up for re-accreditation on a five year visit cycle with paperwork due in the between. This is a voluntary compliance and one we gladly take on to make camp a better place for campers and staff alike!

Our staff and campers did an amazing job today, going above and beyond on this important visit day. From campers answering questions about how program areas run to program leader interviews, this was really a chance for us to shine and show what a wonderful, intentional, safe, educational, and FUN program we run! After gathering mountains of paperwork throughout the winter and spring it was time to walk the talk and demonstrate all the great things we do here at GV. While I’m always a bit nervous leading up to the visit, I know how important this exercise is in creating the best possible place for children. We always grow and learn from the preparation that goes into the visits.

Tune in tomorrow for more GV news!