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Meet our new Executive Director

posted Feb 28, 2017, 3:14 PM by Rob Dailey   [ updated Oct 16, 2018, 12:22 PM ]

Dear campers, families, alumni, volunteers, and supporters,

It was my privilege to assume the role of Executive Director of Gales Creek Camp Foundation in January of this year. In my first two months, I have begun to get to know the inner workings of camp, and I’ve gotten a chance to spend some time with our dedicated Board of Directors. Now more than ever, I am excited about the future of our camp!

My first visit to Gales Creek Camp was in 2013, when our family attended family camp. Our daughter was diagnosed with type 1 when she was 2 years old, in 2010, and we had been looking forward to giving her the camp experience since the day we heard about Gales Creek Camp (and, let’s be honest, my wife and I were looking forward to some respite, too). We still had to wait another three years before she went to her first week of overnight camp—we went to family day camp and family overnight camp—but from that first visit, we felt like family.

We just celebrated our seventh anniversary as a type 1 family, so diabetes is a big (BIG) part of my life. The other part, the professional part of my life, has always been in creative not-for-profits. Just so you know a bit more about me: I left my position as Executive Director of the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg to take the position at Gales Creek Camp. Before that I was Deputy Director of the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, and prior to that I had been in operations and development for two performing arts not-for-profits. At one time I was even a summer theatre camp teacher! All of the organizations I have worked with have summer camp programs, and I was involved in all of them. Summer camps are a chance to expose kids to a world beyond their everyday lives. Camps can take kids on adventures into ideas and the outside world—and camps can take kids on a journey within themselves. Summers are not to be wasted.

Gales Creek Camp has a long, venerable history. Since 1953 this camp has been giving kids with type 1 a chance to get out into the Oregon outdoors, get away from their typical support systems, and be around other kids with type 1 diabetes. That is a powerful formula, and it has changed the lives of thousands and thousands of people, from those living with the everyday challenges that type 1 demands of their own bodies, to those who live with, love and support them. It’s more than one week in the summer—it’s a network of families who, through the shared experience of type 1, together become a kind of extended family. Gales Creek Camp is the nexus of a system of parents and caregivers who, merely by being connected, by sharing their stories, their tips, tricks, and their hope, support and fortify each other. Our summer camp is more than a summer camp.

So that’s why I’m so excited to be a part of it. Despite the recent surprises that haven’t been great for the administrative side of GCC, right now we’re looking up at the limitless, starry sky of opportunity. We have an incredible history, a fantastic base of supporters, and an amazing summer camp program.

To give you an idea what’s ahead: first, our Board of Directors and I have made it a priority to build the fiscal controls and governance systems that will ensure Gales Creek Camp is not only financially stable, but also viable into the future. Beyond this, it is time again to renew our organization’s strategic vision. We’ll take the time to reflect on the history and traditions of Gales Creek Camp, to look at our capacity now, to assess the needs of our campers and families, and to imagine what the future will hold. Ultimately, we want Gales Creek Camp to be a renewed, updated version of what it has always been: an organization that meets the unique needs of type 1 kids today—their today.

Transparency is a key value in this organization, and it is no secret that we’ve had some recent misfortune. But from the Board of Directors on down, we’re excited to move on. Part of this process necessitates the re-examination of our current systems and practices.

I am sure many families wondered why we didn’t have an auction this spring. The short answer is that we weren’t ready. Most of all it is a question of using the organization’s resources responsibly. We want to make sure every dollar invested in GCC has maximum impact. We want to make sure we’re putting as much as possible into camp and as little as possible into fundraising. To this end, we’re looking closely at the whole model of a charity auction.

This does not mean we will never do an auction again. We might. Or we might try something different. We still have to raise money to cover the costs of camp that fees do not cover. It’s important to remember that regular camper fees cover less than half the overall costs of camp—but low fees and “camperships” (scholarships) ensure camp is accessible to any kid facing type 1, so it’s worth it. Part of the planning process the Board has initiated includes cost analyses of different types of fundraising methods, so nothing is off the table.

But our families know that a big reason fundraising events are valuable is because of the opportunity to connect or re-connect with other type 1 families. The annual auction has been a place where kids can see their friends (the peers who truly get what it’s like to be them), and it’s a place where parents and caregivers feel that inexplicable surge of empathy that goes along with truly getting other parents. This is the best part of the auction—but we don’t need an auction to make it happen!

Getting campers and families together is part of our mission, and during our strategic planning process, we’ll talk about ways we can do that better.

That still leaves the need to raise funds. While we recognize that many of our families are in the phase of their lives where just covering the everyday costs of life (plus medical expenses) makes donating to a not-for-profit a stretch, we want to make sure everyone knows Gales Creek Camp survives on the direct financial investments of our supporters. If you are a family looking to direct the impact of your charitable giving to something that matters to you, Gales Creek Camp is here. You know first-hand that camp changes the lives of kids with type 1—because it has more than likely made a difference in your type 1’s life. To kids, Gales Creek Camp means summer fun and new best friends. They won’t realize until much later that it also means better social skills, added personal resilience, improved self-care, higher self-esteem, and ultimately more readiness for independence. That’s the power of camp. That’s the power of your donation.

If you need proof of the power of camp, you need only talk to any of our thousands of alumni. Past campers, past counselors, and even past families are Gales Creek Camp’s greatest champions. In fact, I can comfortably say that without the direct involvement of our alumni, GCC wouldn’t be here today. It started with 23 kids the first summer. Now we have about 500 per year! Many of our board members, our volunteers, and our camp staff are alumni in some way. This is truly a pay-it-forward model of positive impact.

I know it has long been a dream to have a way to connect alumni, to re-connect old friends who shared the time of their lives, and we have not given up on that. It’s another thing on our long list of priorities.

Of course, the most important thing for Gales Creek Camp Foundation is to focus on the programs—the camp itself. Although we had an unfortunate situation in the organization’s administration, we are proud to report that camp has been almost unaffected. Almost. Many of you know Jo Vance (AKA “PJ”), who was until just a few weeks ago our camp Program Director. She was instrumental in operating camp throughout the unfolding of the disruption. Notably, Jo also spearheaded our re-accreditation by the American Camp Association—which means we meet national standards in safety, programming, and facilities. Unfortunately for us, Jo was offered a position she just couldn’t turn down at a wonderful camp near her hometown in southern California. She left her mark, and she will be missed.

Right now we are actively searching for a seasonal Camp Director who will lead camp through the 2017 season. Several all-star alumni counselors have already expressed interest, and we are confident we will find just the right person. Beyond that, we are discussing how we will ensure camp will continue to grow with the needs of the type 1 community. This is part of the process the Board of Directors has undertaken: to carefully consider the camp’s long-term goals—and to create the infrastructure necessary to get us there. Hiring a permanent, full-time, year-around camp professional in the fall to serve as Program Director is certainly a strong possibility.

I know most of you have supreme confidence in Gales Creek Camp. This trust has been earned over the course of years. On behalf of the Board of Directors, the many volunteers who fill the myriad roles at camp and outside of camp, the staff who give their all every time they put their camp hats on, and our supporters who have been with us as long as anyone can remember, I want to say thank you.

We are in a great place, with unlimited possibilities ahead of us. Together, we will continue to be the place where kids and families with type 1 can find their best friends, their outdoors, their mountains, their creek, their games, their bubble gum tree, their memories. Gales Creek Camp is where we all find our place—our community.

I look forward to meeting you, every one of you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. I may not know all the answers yet, but I’ll be happy to find them together.

Also, we’ll be looking for volunteers to participate in all kinds of ways in the near future, from helping with Camp Cleanup Day to getting involved in fundraising events. I hope you’ll keep an open mind and step up when the time comes. We’ll make it fun!

Finally, if you are ready to make a donation, there are several ways to do so, including securely through our website or by mail (office address below). Again, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you know someone who might share our passion for Gales Creek Camp, please talk to them about it. If you'd like to make a larger donation or talk about options for planned giving, I would love to speak with you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this message—and thank you for being a part of Gales Creek Camp!


Rob Dailey

Executive Director