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Sharing the Summer Camp Experience

Last week I took 49 kids (one dropped out at the last minute) and 4 adult sponsors to Summer Camp.   It was our third time to attend camp at Dry Gulch U.S.A.   Dry Gulch is really the Ritz-Carlton of summer camp experiences.   They’ve changed in quite a few ways since I was a kid, and have changed even more over the past 3 years.   Our kids and families have thoroughly enjoyed each years trip to Dry Gulch, so we’ve continued to attend.   This is NOT a post about why kids should attend summer camp, nor is it some review of Dry Gulch.   All I will say is that Dry Gulch is 9 hours away from Lubbock, and every year it proves to be worth the long drive.   My intention is to I to share something that we did this year at camp, that has brought us tons of good will from our families.

We kept and updated a camp blog, complete with pictures and video from each day.   We actually had a Flickr group last year that parents could look up each night, but we’ve taken it to a new level this year.   First thing I did was create a sub-domain for the camp blog.   I did not link it to the main website, and instead decided to only share it with a direct link.   I had some privacy concerns, and thought that by not directly tying it to our ministry website that it might be better.   (In retrospect, I think this was a bad decision and next year I will run it on the normal parent’s blog.)   I then setup a feed with feed burner and made an early post about how parents could signup for email updates while we were away.

So what did I do exactly?   I had one of my volunteers take about 95% of the pictures with his really fantastic camera.   By the way, I cannot overstate what a difference it made to have someone take pictures that knew what they were doing!   Then each night I would load them into iPhoto, and use the Flickr upload tool that is built into iPhoto.   I went ahead and paid the $30 for flickr Pro, which gives me unlimited uploads and allows for some cool stat tracking options.   Flickr is also cool, because it allows for people to purchase photos directly from their site (if you setup the privacy settings correctly.)   I would then grab the HTML code from flickr and simply insert it into each nights post.   I also made an effort to create a few 15 second video each day with the Flip iMino HD camcorder, and uploaded them to Vimeo.

So each night I’d take this flickr slideshow and a few of the Vimeo video’s; and post them alongside a quick text recap of our day.   Easy, easy!   I’d estimate that it took me about 2 hours each night to upload the pics and video.   I say 2 hours, but really about 30 minutes of that was spent in front of the Macbook.   I usually let it upload pics while we ate dinner, and never gave it much thought.

I knew a ton of parents were following along, because I was watching the stats; but it wasn’t until I returned that I heard how much it has meant for the parents.   I heard story after story of parents waiting up til midnight each day until I could upload the pics and videos.   The site was passed along to family and friends, and it became a great hit for the kids when they returned home and wanted to relive the camp experience.   As time has passed, I see that I should have hosted it on the main parent’s blog because now I’m wasting all those that took time to sign up for updates.   I could have continued to keep them updated on additional happenings at church, but I’ll make the change next year.   I’ve also been impressed with how much this has increased traffic to additional pages on our ministry website, and love it that I’ve introduced parents to our heart for their children.   The camp blog also has immediately become my best advertisement for camp in 2010!

I did have a few Internet issues one of the nights, and had to do an early morning upload and update; but besides that it went off without a hitch each day.   Here is a video recap I made after we returned from.   This was made using iMovie and includes some of the songs we did at camp this year.

So do you do something like this for parents when you take kids to camp?   As a parent how much would it mean to have this?

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.