Start Your Own Overnight Summer Camp

If you are anything like me you can’t imagine starting your own overnight camp is possible. You would need to buy a big camp, pay for upkeep, lawyers, accountants, the list goes on. That is what I thought until we met Scott. Scott Arizala and Sylvia van Meerten started Camp Tall Tree, a one week resident camp for kids with autism, in 2013. They didn’t have millions of dollars or outside investors. They had a dream, some business sense, and a lot of hard work.

In 2015, Laura Kriegel and I partnered with Scott, Syl, and James Davis to start an overnight camp dedicated to self-direction, possibility, and empathy. We followed much of the Tall Tree framework for that first summer and this summer will run for 4 weeks and serve about 300 kids.

There are a million details that come into play when you start camp, the values, the program, the culture, the department of health, getting kids to camp, etc. Give me a call and I would love to chat with you about any of that stuff, but what I want to talk about here is that while all this stuff is challenging you CAN start your own camp if you really believe in what you want to do. Let’s look at some numbers.

First some assumptions:

  1. You rent a camp that provides food service - $225 per person
  2. You can convince some friends to volunteer as staff the first summer
  3. You spend a few hours learning how to make your own website
  4. You don’t need a much in terms of program supplies

If you have more money you can always pay your staff, pay for a hot shot web designer, and but awesome program supplies, buy you don’t need to. If money is tight, like it was/is for us, you can still do it. Ok the numbers:

$13,500 - Renting the Facility - 45 Campers and 15 staff at $225 per person $1,500 - Insurance - Just call AM Skier and they will set you up pretty quickly $1,000 - Program Supplies $1,000 - Marketing Budget - This include web hosting $700 - To incorporate $600 - Misc _____________________ $18,300 - TOTAL COSTS

You will need to recruit 34 campers paying $550 to cover those costs, which will let you bring 11 campers to camp on unfunded scholarships. 34 kids! 34 kids paying kids and 45 total kids. 45 doesn’t sound like that many and it would be a small camp, but it would be your camp.

At this point the whole game becomes how do you convince 45 families that your camp is the place for them. It won’t be easy and you have to figure out how to sell them on something that doesn’t exist yet, but it can work.

To be safe, save up 5,000 bucks, in case you can’t hit your numbers, rent a site, and start your own camp!


If you really want to do this send me an email and I would love to help.

Jack Schott 585-451-5141