No Fear

I love the fact that, when I explain what I do, I still have people ask me, “That’s year-round?” But I also get mad, not at the person who asked the question, but at our own industry. Why have we not communicated fully what it is we do and what it takes to do it? Only through this will we attract future camping executives and people of desire and vision. Don’t be afraid to educate everyone on what we do and the service we provide in shaping the future leaders and influencers. How important it is to have places where people can come for safety, unconditional care, unconditional acceptance and fun…

Strong Action Leads To Unexpected Successes

Need another example? Well, earlier in my camping career, I read a fantastic book, The Disney Way: Harnessing the management secrets of Disney in your company, by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson. The book was published in 1999 and spoke about using the philosophy of “Dream, Believe, Dare and Do” to shape your company’s vision, goals and, most importantly, culture. The book had a profound effect on me.

I read the book in hopes of shaping an effective management plan for my new job, executive director of Camp Kern.

On the spur of the moment, I did something I had never done before (or after as it turns out); I wrote the authors to thank them for the book and told them a little about my situation and goals. I included a list of questions and asked them, if they had the time to answer a few of them and include any notes they might have handy that they thought might help me in my new job.

To my utter amazement, the authors responded and, eventually, came to our offices to personally lead a retreat with our staff – teaching us to set dream goals and how to achieve them.

I directly attribute all our recent success to this book, the authors’ help and my team’s willingness to set ambitious dream goals and then go after them. From work culture and customer service to facility dreams, we are a different camp now than we were four years ago.

Here’s how that success breaks out in terms of raw numbers:

• We have increased retention of campers from 29 percent in 2001-2002 to 77 percent in 2005-2006

• Conferencing and group retention rates went from 34 percent in 2001-2002 to 94 percent in 2005-2006.

Our success has earned us a mention in the new Disney Way: Revised and Updated being published this fall, but more importantly, a little success has a way of leading to more success, bigger dream goals, bigger results.

So, don’t be afraid to dream the dream you want. Believe you can make it happen. Put forward the effort. Dare yourself to face your fear. And, make it happen.

We know better than anyone how fast a year goes by, so do it. Do it now.

Jeff Merhige is Executive Director of YMCA Camp Kern, Dayton YMCA, in Dayton, Ohio. He can be reached via e-mail at

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  2. Off-Season Prep
  3. Universally Direct
  4. Summer’s End
  5. The Ultimate Survivor

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