Q&A with Tom Holland

with American Camp Association CEO Tom Holland

Written by: Pat James

Designed by: Hamza Butler

When it comes to summer camp, children don’t focus on much other than swimming, making friends and taking part in camp activities. But for parents, it’s hard not to think about the money coming out of their wallet.

Most camps in the United States offer scholarships as a way to help cut those costs. Staff writer Pat James spoke with Tom Holland,
the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association, about the benefits of camp scholarships and how they can help both parents and children.

Q: What was the purpose of the camp scholarship when it was originally designed?

A: In general, there are over 13,000 camps in the country and most of them have some sort of camp scholarship program — also sometimes called a campership.
… Most programs around the country offer some sort of financial aid program to campers. I think the goal of any program that has that offering is to make sure this opportunity of camp is available
to all children who want to take part in it, no matter their financial background.

Q: How influential are those donors and sponsors?

A: Oh, my gosh, they’re amazingly influential. Many donors take to individual camp programs around the country. That’s one way donors give. They go directly to the camp to give back to that camp so they can run their program. That is super specific on what the donor’s gift goes to. When they give to ACA, it’s really an open-ended gift toward a camp experience. That camp experience might be a residential camp program or it might be a day camp experience. It’s something that’s a little bit wider in reach, but what we can assure them is a child will have the experience of camp — camp being defined as a day camp experience, as a sports camp experience or as a residential camp experience, staying over night for some period of time at a camp.

Q: How much of the costs of camp do scholarships cover?

A: A wide range. You have programs that cover from about 5 percent to 100 percent of tuition. Some programs even offer gear and travel, those extra things they even pay for. You can probably go to more than 100 percent, because there’s extra add-ons — trying to get to the site, the gear a camper might need, like boots, a backpack or water bottles.

Q: How do camp scholarships help add to the diversity of camps?

A: It’s one of those pieces that really help with the diversity of the environment. … It opens up doors to children of all backgrounds to have this opportunity. That first step of the demographic piece is economic diversity — that’s what it really is addressing, making sure there is a layer of economic diversity throughout programs. From that, it trickles down to other diversity. The demographics that exist in camps are definitely made richer through these types of programs.

Q: When there is an application process, what’s it like?

A: It varies across the board by what folks are looking for, but usually the application for a child (focuses on) their interest in the program. A lot of camp directors want to make sure the match is right. There is a camp experience for each child, and they want to make sure the child wants to take part in their program.

Q: What should parents be aware of when applying for a camp scholarship?

A: I think the biggest part is making sure the camp is the right fit for their child. There are over 13,000 camps in the country, and there’s a camp for every child and every budget. So parents should really look to match with the programs that are going to be the best for their child. That’s where they need to start and then look into the financial aid offered by that camp, because in most cases they will be offering financial aid, and see if that match is right.