PHOTO: Michelle Koplan received the 2021 American Camp Association’s Frank M. “Scotty” Washburn Award for Outstanding Service. It is awarded to an individual or team known for his/her/their outstanding service and leadership in the profession of organized camping.
B’nai B’rith Camp CEO Michelle Koplan has received the 2021 American Camp Association’s prestigious The Frank M. “Scotty” Washburn Award for Outstanding Service from the Oregon Trail for her outstanding service.
Koplan founded and chairs the Alliance of Oregon Camps, formed in response to the pandemic, which forced the closure of overnight camps in 2020. The Alliance includes Oregon overnight camps including those affiliated with ACA, the Christian Camp and Conference Association, and unaffiliated licensed camps.
“This was such an honor – really nice and quite surprising,” says Koplan. “This is such meaningful work. I am so passionate about creating a Jewish experience for children, and that motivates me to do this work.”
When the award was announced she says she received this lovely “campy” text from Janette Kunkel, ACA Oregon Trail President: “You really deserve so much! You jumped into the deep end and got life jackets on us all and helped us keep swimming! So proud to have you on our team and grateful for your leadership! I could write pages on your efforts, energy and efficiency. You truly were like a wrangler with wild horses that were going in many different directions!”
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Koplan served on a task force with the governor’s office and Oregon Health Authority to create protocols for overnight camps to operate in the summer of 2020. But after an outbreak in an immigrant farm camp, the governor decided to close all overnight camps in 2020.
“We were all devastated,” says Koplan of camp leaders around the state.
When Koplan learned the Oregon Cultural Trust had received federal funding through the CARES Act, she decided to see if Oregon’s 160 overnight camps – whose industry had been shut down – could also receive funding. She worked with volunteer lobbyists, stakeholders and legislators and was able to secure $1.5 million in December 2020 for Oregon camps.
That drove her to further organize camps to ensure they could open for 2021. The newly formed Alliance was able to develop safety protocols and obtain $10 million from the state legislature to open safely in the summer of 2021. Additional funding from the Oregon Community Foundation brought another $40 million to summer camps that year.
“We are still on a roll,” says Koplan of the Alliance’s efforts for summer 2022. For the Oregon legislature’s 35-day short session that began Feb. 1, the Oregon Alliance of YMCAs, OregonASK, the Oregon Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and the Alliance of Oregon Camps have submitted a request for $52 million to support and assess the needs of summer programming and summer camps.
Inspired by hearing of National Guard members in other states serving as substitute teachers, she worked with Rep. David Gomberg and Sen. Dick Anderson to draft a letter to the governor requesting National Guard assistance for summer camps facing severe staffing shortages.
The award was named for Oregon native “Scotty” Washburn, who passed away in 2016. He was a leader in the resident camping field and served in a number of roles with the American Camping Association including national president from 1968-1970.
ACA Senior Director of Volunteerism Michele Branconier wrote to Michelle: “Your leadership in organizing The Alliance of Oregon Camps, developing key relationships with the Oregon Health Authority, and using your voice to support the camp experience through government affairs has been exemplary.”