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Training: The Serious Business Behind SeriousFun

Balloons dance in the wind—red, yellow, green. People share handshakes, high fives, and hugs. In the distance, a cheerful voice says ‘Welcome to camp! We’re so glad you are here.’ To the left, there is an organized pile of luggage and backpacks, each with a colored ribbon. To the right, there is a table set up for decorating name tags. And straight up the path are many welcoming faces, arms waving, encouraging each arrival to join the circle.

This may sound like the start of a beautiful camper arrival day, but instead it is the first day of staff and volunteer training. For SeriousFun camps and programs, the camper experience starts before any child even steps foot onsite. It starts with training, and training starts with the camp experience.

As the leading organization for medical specialty camps around the world, it takes more than 16,000 adults to provide safe and impactful residential camp experiences to children and their families each year. Each one of these adults must participate in an intensive, multi-day training program before camp begins. Staff and volunteers working as cabin counselors and activity leaders, as well as medical staff and volunteers, participate in core training, with additional training for activity leaders facilitating high-risk areas such as swimming and the ropes course.

DID YOU KNOW? Each year it takes more than 16,000 trained adults to provide safe and impactful residential camp experiences to children and their families.

In the months and weeks leading up to summer camp, the leadership teams are working hard to ensure that handbooks are up-to-date, training activities are intentional and experiential, and training sessions are covering critical topics, including emergency procedures, behavior support techniques, and practices for inclusive programming. Meanwhile, the medical teams are reviewing confidentiality procedures, personal care and proper lifting techniques, and inventorying medical supplies and first aid kits. They are preparing camper alert lists to give staff and volunteers the information they need to keep an observant eye on their campers and support their health-related needs.

This diligent preparation means every detail is covered— concerned parents will be put at ease on arrival day, homesick campers will be quickly introduced to new friends, and no camp tradition will be overlooked. Every camper will get full, nutritious meals regardless of any dietary restrictions, program areas will be set up to meet the unique abilities of the incoming campers, and every flashlight will be checked to make sure it is in full working order. Through carefully crafted and rehearsed trainings and drills, staff are provided with the techniques, knowledge, and shared experiences to create a safe and inviting environment that feels magical to campers.

SeriousFun implements training techniques that develop emotionally intelligent staff who see the world through campers’ eyes.

Adults are prepared to actively live the values of safety, love, and respect that they then teach to campers, and skilled medical professionals are aligned with counselors to ensure campers’ needs are fully supported. This is the work that happens behind the scenes before any child walks through the gates to the life- changing experience of camp. This is the serious business behind SeriousFun.

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