“Thank you for calling Camp Highlander, this is Beth speaking, how may I help you?” This greeting has been heard by all who have phoned Camp Highlander in the past twelve years. The caller’s response to the question “how may I help you” often reveals a troubled parent who is desperate to find an answer for their struggling child. Whether the family is from California, Louisiana, Florida or any state in-between, I can always find common threads in the conversations and am able to identify issues our nation’s youth are facing. Bullying, building self-confidence and how to get kids outside to play have always been common topics, but the greatest and most troubling of them all, especially as of late, is loneliness.

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In an insightful article entitled, Camp and the Loneliness Crisis, author Scott Arizala states that “more than one of every four of [summer camp] campers, staff, and their family members are indeed lonely”, and according to a 2019 study by YouGov, “29 percent of millennials said they always or often felt lonely, and 27 percent said they had no close friends” (Arizala, 2021). So, loneliness is not a new problem within our youth, but one that is worsening within our current culture. Quarantine and the ongoing battle with social media dependence have further isolated our youth and exacerbated their feelings of loneliness. So, what role does summer camp play in the solution for this problem that faces yet another generation?

I believe the summer camp experience is one of the greatest tools to help to solve the loneliness crisis. It is truly heart-felt when I say that I enjoy speaking to moms, dads and grandparents, hearing their stories and learning how Highlander can best partner with their family to meet the needs of their child. As youth-development professionals, our leadership team is constantly seeking ways to help children make meaningful connections and friendships around shared interests and activities. There is nothing better for an isolated and lonely child than arriving at camp to be greeted by nine other children who will instantly become their friend and two caring counselors. Not to mention a campwide population that is focused in on making them feel loved and special. We provide this impactful community at Highlander. No child is ever roaming alone, they are engaged, listened to and loved and are participating in over forty adventure-filled activities while at camp.

The Camp Highlander leadership team along with the American Camping Association can be wonderful resources for parents who are looking to help their child, who may be struggling with loneliness, or learning how to socialize and make friends.

I encourage all to explore the links provided to learn more. To be an agent of change, talk about this topic with friends to create awareness and become a catalyst to help bring comfort to our dearest treasure, our youth.

We still need to help kids make quality connections and friendships.

Scott Arizala
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