9.21.2009

Camp Irony

As I've noted before, signing Leelo up for camp can really suck. There is no reason parents of kids with special needs -- parents who deal with enough challenges already -- should be put through the indignity of having to wait, overnight, outside an office building, so that their child can go to the one local camp that accommodates kids who need full-time aides. The overnight cage match signup also means families who can't spare a parent for the sixteen-hour overnight vigil are out of luck.

My friend and I agreed that signups were sucky and unfair, so I wrote to the camp's administration. I suggested they implement a lottery system so that parents only have to show up for an hour or two during the morning. I cc'd my parent friends on the email. Those friends then replied all, and told the camp staff that they backed up a lottery option, even if it meant some of our kids might not get in. Then we straightened our ties and went back to parenting our children.

The Fall camp registration packed arrived three days ago. And, even though it acknowledged that administrators received suggestions from parents regarding how to ensmoothen the process, they didn't change a damn thing -- except to expressly warn people that they might have to wait overnight, and that we should try to keep our tempers. Awesome.

And you know what caps off that awesomeness? I can't go to the registration -- it's during Seymour's Jackson Hole business trip. When I wrote that email asking for a lottery, I was unknowingly advocating for my own family.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, camp administration people! Why wouldn't you try to make the process easier for yourselves as well as for the families you serve? Do you use the stories of the desperate way parents and caregivers brave near-freezing overnight temperatures to line up for camp to bolster your fundraising, as was suggested by a cynical friend of mine after three beers? Because in case this hasn't come through clearly enough, the overnight signup process not only sucks, but it's completely unfair to families who can't participate. I'm not thinking of us so much (though I am bummed, and Leo's going to be sad) but of families who are constantly excluded from camp because of sign up absurdity. You are amazing people in all other ways; please reconsider, and please don't do this to your campers' families again.

13 comments:

  1. It may be a fundraising gimmick as your friend said, or simply a power trip for the camp administration. Unfortunately it is the children who are once again caught in the middle. I know you will assauge Leo and find a good camp for him for next summer.

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  2. Does it have to be the parents who stand in line?

    I know how much the camp means to you & to Leelo

    I have camping & cold weather gear, a flashlight, books to read....

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  3. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Forcing people to wait overnight is simply wrong. Is there any possibility you can bring in public safety folks? Are they allowed to let people virtually camp out for this purpose? You've even said that people have virtually come to blows standing in line.

    I generally hate suggestions like mine. The camp folk are good folk who are trying hard to do the right thing, one presumes, and might have encountered families who feel strongly that the method that can guarantee them some degree of success (camping out) is worth it over a lottery. But, I do think it's wrong.

    We have 3 methods of allocating scarce resources: money (and the camp's decided not to use this one), time (overnight lines), or lottery. Time seems fairer to most people than money, but it often boils down to the same thing.

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  4. They should really try to be a little more professional and considerate with families. It's a camp, not Best Buy the day after Thanksgiving.

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  5. My current disgust with system says we are done going to the camp for weekend respite, which will suck for Jake, but they also made it so they are only scheduling fall respite, so we will need to do it again in January and I simply cannot deal with that much emotion three times a year. I think we will still do summer camp sign ups.
    Now having said that, I think I can work out being there in a few weeks, so if you want/need Leo to go, I will wait for you...and DT, and MamaBeth. Doesn't say anywhere that only parents can sign up, nor does it say anything about only signing up one kid. We could do shifts starting next week :)
    I will be looking into other forms of respite for both weekend and summer camp...this is just wrong.

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  6. I can't even get my brain around how lame this sign up deal it. I mean, hello!

    Can you boycott? Maybe it isn't such a good camp if this is how they do it.

    Sucks big time. Not sure what else to say but Squeaky wheels get the grease. So, I would commence squeaking for next year.

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  7. Liz, I lurve you and so appreciate the offer. Jennyalice has volunteered to register our boy (And I will owe her big time).

    Anonymous et al, I don't think we will need to call on external agencies -- we should try an intermediate and more formal step first, as in asking for a meeting with the administration (suggested by my friend Ep). And then Jennyalice's Jake can keep going.

    The camp staff really are awesome, as I noted, so perhaps the decision was made by someone higher up, with less day-to-day camp experience.

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  8. Anonymous4:56 PM

    I was thinking of how i had signed up my boy for summer camp (he was a a youth camp for the national guard families) It was first come first serve but you could mail in your applications with a check and they had let you know in several weeks. In a way it is better than sitting outside over night to try and get a spot in camp for ones kid, but I truely agree the lottery system is a very good idea (maybe with a potential down payment fee refundable if you do not get selected?).

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  9. Why don't they expand the program if it's that popular!! And, I bet you can find a friend to stay in line all night for you. I can't but maybe someone around me could...

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  10. Make things easier for parents? What's the point of that..... grrrrrrr.

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  11. This would be crazy for ANY camp, but as you've noted, particularly so for families that are already juggling quite a lot.

    It occurred to me perhaps the idea that the campers have full-time aides is what made this solution "acceptable" to the administrative higher-ups who don't have practical experience -- they might believe "Oh, the kid is taken care of, so Mom is 'free'." Perhaps they seem camp not as an opportunity for respite, but as more of a luxury? Sad.

    (But I'm thrilled JennyAlice is going to endure the wait for you both - Good luck!)

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  12. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Oh, I agree completely that escalating shouldn't be the first step. Glad to hear that a personal solution might be found for you, and that you'll keep fighting the fight.

    Standing in line at odd times in order to get camp entrance is one of my bugaboos. I've pretty much given up on camps that require it. But, I have that luxury with my typically developing kids.

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  13. Jeebus, what century is this? There is NO REASON for them to force people to spend the night outdoors or anywhere for a chance at participation in this program. There are myriad ways to make this a fair and accessible (hmmm...where have I seen those words before?) process for all interested families, some of them easily implemented. What insensitive, short-sighted, bureaucratic a-holes.

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Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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