The American Camp Association recently announced that the Gahanna Parks and Recreation Department's Camp Friendship summer day camp received ACA Accreditation Camp status for 2009.

The American Camp Association recently announced that the Gahanna Parks and Recreation Department's Camp Friendship summer day camp received ACA Accreditation Camp status for 2009.

To receive ACA accreditation, Camp Friendship was submitted to a thorough (up to 300 standards) review of its operation by the American Camp Association. Topics covered included staff qualifications, training and emergency management, according to Cindy Moore, National Standards Commission.

Recreation supervisor Abbey Brooks said the ACA looks at a variety of factors, including health and wellness and human resources, before awarding accreditation.

"We felt we were in line with a lot of these things, anyway," she said. "Why not show parents we work really hard for kids?"

Brooks said Camp Friendship already was meeting about 95 percent of the requirements for accreditation. In some places, a written policy might have been added to comply. For instance, emergency procedures were in place but nothing was in writing.

Another requirement was written principles that guide the camp program, Brooks said. Camp Friendship's guiding principles were never written down. Now that they are in writing, she said, the camp staff can clearly communicate them to parents.

"It lets us show in writing what our goals are," Brooks said. Camp participants "see the benefit every day. They love camp and learning something new."

With accreditation, the program might be eligible for grants, Brooks said, adding that camp officials will need to follow up on available funding. Parents who receive assistance with childcare may be able to benefit from an accredited program, she said.

Camp Friendship's accreditation has been a goal of the parks department since the camp's inception more than five years ago, Brooks said.

The accreditation process has been evolving for the past several years, she said.

"It will continue to evolve in the future," she said.

After submitting their application, parks officials weren't asked to make any changes, Brooks said.

A second Camp Friendship site will be added this summer at Hannah Farms Park. It should be relatively easy to get the second site accredited, Brooks said.

"We already know what the best practices are," she said. "There is always room to grow and improve."

Brooks' last day with the Gahanna Recreation and Parks Department was Nov. 21. She accepted a new position with the city of Dublin.

"Camp Friendship and ACA form a partnership that promotes summers of growth and fun in an environment committed to safety," parks director Tony Collins said in a news release. "ACA accreditation demonstrates our commitment to quality camp programming."

ACA documents say it is the only independent accrediting organization reviewing camp operations in the country. ACA collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross and other youth agencies to ensure current practices reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation.

For more information, parents can contact the Department of Parks & Recreation at 342-4250 or visit www.gahanna.gov.