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Love is the Remedy

May 3 | What Different Can Do

As we wrap up What Different Can Do, our month-long focus on inclusion awareness, I find myself thinking about the words that Arthur Chen once wrote:

Diversity is a fact.
Equity is a choice.
Inclusion is an action.
Belonging is an outcome.

In many ways, Chen could be writing about Camp Southern Ground. As you know, our focus has always been on providing a safe place where children from diverse backgrounds would have a chance to fully participate without fear of being sidelined or completely excluded.

This focus on inclusion was the direct result of our founder’s experiences at summer camp himself. As a camper, Zac Brown treasured the opportunities he was given and it’s clear that he truly found Belonging as a result. The amazing thing is, now everyone who comes to Camp Southern Ground walks away feeling that strong sense of Belonging. That affirming feeling of being a part of something special, something bigger than yourself, one of our rallying calls in the dining hall comes directly out of Zac’s music. When I need to gather everyone’s attention I call out, “Love is…” and the whole room responds, “The Remedy!”

“Love Is… the Remedy!”

As we move out of Autism Awareness Month, we slide into Mental Health Awareness Month in May. I’ve been a Camp Director for the past 23 years, as well as an MSW who got my master’s degree in direct practice, mental health-focused social work back when Friends and Seinfeld were the hottest shows on TV (remember TV?). It was rare then to find an MSW or any mental health professional running a camp program. I saw it as a perfect fit, even back then because, as I’ve said for a long time, camp is therapeutic, but it’s not therapy. The outcomes that we see coming out of the camp program are supportive of overall well-being, not only for the children who come to camp, but also for the staff we hire to make the magic happen.

The American Camp Association has done an extraordinary job over the last two decades of promoting the idea that summer camp is not just the recreational, vacation get-away for kids that it was once advertised as. The truth is that summer camps started in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as an answer to the industrial revolution and the standardization of traditional public education. Kids needed a place where they could be CURIOUS, where they could develop FRIENDSHIP Skills, where they could learn about TEAMWORK and RESPONSIBILITY, and ultimately develop a sense of INDEPENDENCE. At Camp Southern Ground, we have developed our program around this 5-Character Culture because we believe that these are exactly what kids need to grow, to thrive, and to reach for their potential.

I’ve been blessed to be part of some extraordinary youth development programs over the years. While the prevalence of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed among the children and young adults we serve, I am happy to report that year after year I’ve watched young people grow in their ability to meet the challenges in front of them with increased skill and courage. Camp Southern Ground is in its sixth year of operation, and we are seeing these wonderful outcomes because we stand on the shoulders of many great programs and people who have come before us.

This summer we have hired an inspiring group of staff members from all over the U.S., and around the world. Our training begins in about two weeks, and we can’t wait! It is glorious work, and we are grateful for your willingness to engage with us. We are blessed with many kind and generous gifts throughout the year, that’s for sure. However, the greatest gift we receive, by far, is the faith and trust of the parents who send their children to come spend a week with us here at Camp Southern Ground! Thank you all.

Matty Cook
Camp Director
Camp Southern Ground