These values guide our decisions, activities, actions, and expectations of campers and staff. Each one is connected and related to the other in an intricate web that ultimately creates our camp community. They are not ideas we merely post on a wall to inspire; they are concepts we live by every day in both speech and action.
The 2020 Board of Directors worked together to put down on paper the core values that have always existed at VBYC. The result is the four primary core values of integrity, leadership, inclusion, and service, and six secondary values of teamwork, camper first, responsibility, commitment, respect, and friendship.
Our core values are taught and reinforced through our token system. Campers earn tokens for their cabin by displaying behaviors that align with our core values. The cabin with the largest token collection at the end of the week is awarded Honor Cabin.
Leadership is a central part of our Camp. From Little Bears to Leadership campers, we incorporate leadership into many different aspects of our program. Campers develop their leadership skills through daily planning groups where cabins take turns leading the Camp through different activities.
Campers raise and lower the flag, present ideas at thought, lead songs at meals, and perform campfire entertainment for the rest of the Camp.
High school aged campers attend Leadership camp, which is a weeklong workshop experience to make new connections, try new things, and grow in both their personal and leadership skills. They then have the chance to return to additional sessions as a volunteer counselor.
Integrity, or doing what’s right no matter who’s watching, is another central core value in our organization. Integrity shows up in many forms at VBYC, starting with staff training at the beginning of the summer. Staff members learn what having integrity looks like as both individuals and as a team, and also learn how to demonstrate integrity to the campers we serve. Integrity is fixing our mistakes and helping campers fix their mistakes too.
Integrity appears in the Friendship Agreement that all campers review and sign at registration. Having integrity and being kind to cabinmates and all others at camp, even if a staff member isn’t directly in the conversation, is an essential part of creating a Camp environment where everyone feels welcome and valued.
Inclusion is the reason that campers return to Camp summer after summer. Ask a group of alumni why they love Camp, and you’re bound to hear stories of connection and acceptance. For nearly 75 years, VBYC has continued to cultivate an environment where all campers feel included, respected, and celebrated for being exactly who they are.
Here are just a few examples of Inclusion in action at VBYC:
- Our focus on cabin bonding and cabin unity
- Our Campership program that offers financial aid to campers in need
- Our Gender Inclusion Policy
- Our partnership with Camp America, a cultural exchange summer camp staffing resource that allows us to hire staff from all over the world. In recent summers we have had staff from Turkey, the UK, Australia, and Poland.
Service appears at all levels of our organization, beginning with the campers and building up to the Board of Directors.
Service at a typical Camp session often appears in the form of serving our Camp community. Campers are given the opportunity to volunteer as store helpers during choice activity time. They also are given the chance to volunteer as kitchen helpers and work alongside staff to clean up after a meal.
Another facet of service occurs in the form of service projects where campers work together on an age-appropriate task to benefit someone other than themselves. Past examples include organizing a blood drive, creating cards and other artworks for other organizations in our community, writing letters to individuals in care facilities and in the armed forces, and more.
Service is also at the heart of our volunteer counselor program. Our volunteer counselors gift to us their hard work and dedication during one or more weeks of their summer vacation. We are endlessly thankful and appreciative of the young leaders who choose to give back and spend a week with our awesome campers.
Camper First is a core value that is taken seriously by the counselors and staff at VBYC. It’s more than just surface level; it is a principle that guides our programming choices and decision-making processes.
Camper First means taking a hard look at our programming to ensure that the activities will challenge, inspire, and build up the confidence of our campers. It means leading by example in our words, actions, and attitudes.
Camper First is the reason we work diligently during training sessions to build up counselor and staff teams that are ready to best serve the campers that come to VBYC because without the campers, where would we be?
Teamwork is easy to spot at VBYC- it’s everywhere! From staff members tag-teaming a full Camp game, to campers working together to set the tables for a meal, teamwork is the very fabric of our Camp.
Our Initiatives and Low Ropes program area is a space intentionally dedicated to working on team building skills. Campers work together in their cabin groups to solve puzzles and overcome challenges all while trying new things.
Responsibility is a core value that campers are quick to identify when we talk about the expectations that come with attending Camp. Campers at VBYC learn how to be active members of the community. Together, we take pride and responsibility in keeping our Camp tidy. Another facet of responsibility is shown by how counselors and staff work with campers to take responsibility for their actions and work toward productive solutions.
Respect is the foundation for all action at VBYC. In alignment with our mission, respect for each other, ourselves, our facilities, the leaders, and the nature around us is an important part of creating a welcoming and nurturing environment in which all campers can thrive.
Respect for each other and ourselves builds the foundation of our Friendship Agreement. All members of the Camp community deserve to feel respected and valued. Respect for our facilities includes taking pride in caring for the Camp during clean up time. Respect for the nature around us includes learning about the environment throughout the week and taking care to minimize our impact on it.
Commitment runs deep within the VBYC staff and counselors who share their time, energy, and personalities all summer along. They are committed to serving the campers and the camp community as a whole and make decisions that are based upon that commitment.
Commitment is also seen in a different way at Camp. It’s giving something an honest try and seeing it through no matter the results. Commitment shows up at the archery range where campers try over and over again to hit the bullseye. It’s found in the conversations staff and counselors have with campers who need extra support to have a successful week at Camp. At its core, commitment at VBYC is a wholehearted belief that through our mission, our summer Camp can make a positive impact in a child’s life.
Friendship is what summer camp is all about! At VBYC, we see relationship building as a goal for just about every activity. Helping campers connect with each other is a key to each camper feeling comfortable and welcome at Camp.
Our commitment to Friendship is one reason why we do not accept cabinmate requests. While we encourage campers to invite friends to Camp, we feel strongly that all campers deserve the right to have a fresh start in their cabin. In our experience, campers who attend with friends, but each have their own cabin assignments, tend to adjust better to Camp life. We see them feel empowered to try new things with the support of their cabin, and they leave Camp with more friends than when they arrived.
In contrast, campers who stay in the same cabin as a friend tend to struggle with making new connections with their cabinmates and are more hesitant to try new things. Often requests are made to help ensure that a camper will enjoy Camp, but in our experience, intentionally housing friends/siblings together takes away from a camper’s experience and places tension on the friendship. Additionally, it often makes it harder for their cabin to connect as a whole when some campers are already best friends.
Each day there are opportunities for the whole Camp to mingle. When campers attend Camp with a friend, choice time is a great opportunity for them to meet up and bring their cabinmates along. Friends who have different cabin assignments can often be seen meeting up at the waterfront or the Camp store, laughing and making memories and connections with both their friends from home and their new friends too.
If you have concerns about your camper adjusting to Camp with or without a friend or sibling, please check out the Setting Campers up for Success page. Our staff and counselors are all trained to notice and act when a camper needs a little extra love and support to help them feel comfortable at Camp and have a great week.