The Blog of the West Wind

The Blog of the West Wind

A conversation with Eliot: Kabeyun’s partnership with the ACA

Thursday, May 16, 2019/by Laura Remington/Go Back

A conversation with Eliot: Kabeyun’s partnership with the ACA

Kabeyun’s waterfront director, Eliot Golding, is adding a crucial new role to his portfolio this summer: coordinating camp’s re-accreditation process with the American Camp Association. The ACA calls accreditation “a voluntary commitment by camps to the highest standards of health, safety, and program quality,” and a way “to assist the public in selecting camps that meet industry-accepted and government-recognized standards.”

Eliot has a more lighthearted way to describe it. “It’s a process that lets families know that even though we've run a boys summer camp for 90+ years, we're not just a bunch of people running around in the woods doing whatever we want,” he says. “There is a national organization that trusts us, that has certified us.”

Kabeyun first applied for and earned ACA accreditation in 2016. Now that it’s time for re-accreditation, Eliot will organize the extensive paperwork and coordinate preparing camp’s staff and facilities for a thorough evaluation during the summer of 2019. To help prepare himself, Eliot joined Kabeyun’s director, Ken Robbins, in attending all four days of the ACA’s New England conference in late March. Eliot recently spoke with Laura Remington about the ACA conference and accreditation.*

Tell me your overall impressions of this year’s conference.
I thought it was a fantastic conference! This is the first year I've done the entire conference. Ken and I got there Wednesday morning for an extra accreditation session that ran all day Wednesday. I always enjoy the parts [of the conference] I've been there for. But to be there for the entire time, to get to do every session I wanted, and also to get to know people a little better by being there for four days – it was great.

Did you find people from other camps sharing ideas pretty freely?
Yeah. Even if someone’s not a waterfront director, we all have the same basic jobs. We all really care about working with kids and we're all in New England. I think the value of the whole conference is not only what you get out of the sessions every day but also the extra ideas and dialogue that are a really special part of it.

What sort of sessions do you appreciate the most? Has it changed over the years?
Yeah, definitely. The sessions I choose to attend have shifted over the past four years as my job and the things that Ken has asked me to pick up during the summer have shifted. The first time Ken asked me to come [to the conference] was the summer I was getting bumped up from being the head of swimming to really dealing with more of the big picture, the whole waterfront. I recently found all my notes from that first conference. It's a couple of waterfront things and a couple of items about dealing with challenging behaviors in your bunk and then a lot about being a first-time senior staff member and how to deal with your friends now that you're technically above them in the hierarchy.

Sounds very useful. What about this year?
Well, I always ask, “Where's the waterfront stuff?” This year, there was the accreditation ‘hot topic’ workshop and I thought, “I definitely need to get to that.” But it wasn't all waterfront and accreditation. I also went to a couple of sessions on diversity that I thought were really interesting.

Tell me a little more about accreditation.
It’s a process that lets families know even though we've run a boys summer camp for 90+ years, we're not just a bunch of people running around in the woods doing whatever we want. There is a national organization that trusts us, that has certified us and that we're a part of – it’s really important. I would imagine for a parent who doesn't know us and doesn't come into it implicitly trusting us, that probably means a lot. You have two sons in our program – doesn’t it mean something to have a great national organization that's says, "You're good. You're being safe and you’re running a quality program?"

Yes, absolutely. As a parent, I think it brings another layer of trust. It's great to know another set of eyeballs and set of standards has come through this camp and taken a good hard look at all of the ways things are done to keep kids safe.
Right. It's a process to ask ourselves, "Do we have a plan for this? Do our rules for this makes sense? Are we going to make sure that kids – and the families that trust us with their kids – are going to have the best possible experience?" And for a family from Cleveland that finds us online, that means they don't just have to trust us, they can also trust that we're backed by ACA.

And you’re interested in becoming an ACA visitor?
By next summer I'll start the training to become an ACA visitor, so that I can go to other places and help them with their accreditation process. But I also can just see other camps. Already, there are a couple of camps on Winnipesaukee I will visit this summer, wander around their waterfronts and talk to their waterfront staff. Everything I see in another camp I can consider, "OK, should I be bringing this back to Kabeyun? Should we be talking about this? Is this something we could be doing better or could be doing a little differently to make our program better and safer for our boys?"

Eliot Golding has been coming to Kabeyun since he was an infant, when his father, former staff member Larry Golding, brought him to Family Camp. He has not missed a single summer since his first year as a camper in 2002! Eliot teaches grades 4, 5, and 6, at Cornerstone, a Montessori school in Stratham, NH, and lives in Portsmouth with his cat, Katie.

To read more about Eliot and our other staff members, click here for our staff bios.
To learn more about our waterfront activities and other choices, click here to read our activities page.

* This interview has been edited for clarity and length.