FEYC Director Message
- Written by Nick Miller
S ummer camp 2019 is done and in the books, and I have to tell you, it’s summers like this that make me so incredibly proud to be an Elk. We set new records for attendance, we implemented several new programs for our campers, we improved new programs from last year and we finally reinstated ongoing training for our youngest staff. I am amazed at the passion and drive of the Elks of Florida to never rest on past accomplishments but to always strive to do more for our kids. Here are some more details about what you’ve accomplished this past summer.S ummer camp 2019 is done and in the books, and I have to tell you, it’s summers like this that make me so incredibly proud to be an Elk. We set new records for attendance, we implemented several new programs for our campers, we improved new programs from last year and we finally reinstated ongoing training for our youngest staff. I am amazed at the passion and drive of the Elks of Florida to never rest on past accomplishments but to always strive to do more for our kids. Here are some more details about what you’ve accomplished this past summer.
With your efforts in your local areas, we filled 2,338 beds this past summer. For those keeping track with us, that means we filled all but 14 beds. This is a new record for us (we filled all but 17 last year), and it was a huge accomplishment considering we originally booked all beds around April 1 but had nearly 400 cancellations (they called to cancel) and 59 campers who just didn’t show up. Those 59 no-shows are the hardest to manage. When this happens, our staff only has a few hours to reach families on the waiting list and get those beds filled. Jen Miller, our registrar, came in every Sunday this past summer to manage this. She was integral in filling the empty beds.
As for programming, Elliott Gilbert and Krys Ragland worked tirelessly from the end of summer camp 2018 through the start of summer camp 2019. First, they focused on fine-tuning the way our staff and campers eat. They worked with Chef Cliff to introduce a menu that would provide more meals made from scratch right at FEYC and they worked with him to secure family-style eating. Next, they redesigned our nightly debriefs with the campers to be much more engaging. We introduced debriefs in summer camp 2018, but after evaluating the results, we were not satisfied with the level of engagement our typical counselors were able to achieve on their own. So, Elliott and Krys devised a way to provide additional training to our trackers and assistant trackers and allow those 16 individuals to each debrief three cabins at a time. It was a huge scheduling challenge, but I’m excited to say that the results from this past summer were an order of magnitude better than those of 2018.
Speaking of training, we decided that it was finally time to get our counselors-in-training (CITs) the additional training that their title implies. This was another huge hurdle for us. To begin, we had to find someone who could take our goals and develop appropriate, engaging lesson plans. This person also had to be able to implement those plans, do individual one-on-one checkups with each CIT during the week and create weekend activities. Further, we would have to work all this in while not interfering with the daily work that our CITs do with our campers. It was a major undertaking for Elliott, Krys and eventually Madelyn Martin, who we hired as our CIT Director. I was prepared for the first summer of implementation to be a work in progress. However, as a former high school teacher, I have to tell you how incredibly impressed I was with this program’s first year. These three worked together to pull off a great win for the Elks, and I know that it will show in the future performance of all the CITs who participated.
Gearing up for summer camp 2020, we are looking to solidify this year’s past gains and further improve the programs in place. I would also like to remind you all that registration for campers begins Nov. 1, 2019! Applications will again be available from our website, floridaelks.org/camp. We are trying something new this year. We are providing the six Elks National Foundation camper scholarships for each lodge to your district’s representative on the FEYC Board of Directors. Your District Director will then provide the information for these scholarships to each lodge. If you have any questions with camper enrollment, please begin with that same District Director. They will have information specific to your area and can best answer your questions.
As always, anyone signing up for camp will need an Elk’s name and member number to apply. There are two main reasons for this. First, in order for us to remain a private camp – and trust me, I’ve been in the public system, we do not want to go that route – we must have a Florida Elk sponsor every camper. Please remember, sponsoring a child does not mean you must pay for that child. If the family cannot pay and your lodge cannot pay, then I’d ask that you request that the camper be camp sponsored, which leads to the next reason. This is a major opportunity for you to receive recognition, appreciation and potentially members from your community. How incredible would it be if every family in your area sung the praises of your lodge because you were the ones who helped their kids get to camp? I don’t want these parents calling the camp to get approval to go. I want them to look to you as the single reason why their child attended camp. Whether it was because you sponsored them, you sponsored and paid for them, or you simply sponsored them and got the camp to pay for them, I want the person in the limelight to be you!
I can barely contain my excitement for where we go from here, and I hope you feel the same. You are changing the lives of children every day. So, again, thank you for all you do as Elks.
Nick Miller, Director
Florida Elks Youth Camp