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Our Story

‚ÄčThe American Camp Association, Illinois (ACA, Illinois) has a rich history of serving the youth of Chicago, tracing back to 1872 when the Chicago Congregational Church began a “fresh air camp”. As the camp movement grew throughout the late 1880’s and 1890’s, a number of agency camps from church and settlement houses came together to create the “Camps and Outings Committee” in 1919, a committee of the Chicago Council of Social Agencies. Around the same time the Camp Directors Association was born during the preparation for a “sportsmen’s show” in New York, offering a series of conferences and training courses for directors and counselors on subjects such as canoeing, swimming, nature, etc.

Eastern states and camp leaders had greater numbers of private camps than other regions; however by 1926 the few camps and camp directors of the Midwest came together to form the Midwest Section, Camp Directors Association of America, and the first “Chicago Convention”. At the 1935 annual meeting of the Camp Directors Association of America, representatives from various camping interests of Chicago voted to establish a Chicago Camp Association, which would be affiliated with the Chicago Council of Social Agencies, with the purpose of “unifying and establishing a single organization for Chicago camp people”.

The Beginning of ACA Illinois

The Camp Directors Association of America (CDA of A) Board favorably voted to approve the affiliation request from Chicago in 1935, and thus, the Chicago Section of the American Camping Association was born. The Chicago Section of the American Camping Association’s first Executive Committee included:

  • Mr. Hedley S. Dimock, Chairman, Faculty member of George Williams College
  • Ms. Eleanor P. Eells, Vice Chairman, Social Worker
  • Mrs. William T. Grabel, Head of Camp Fire Girls
  • Dr. William J. Monilaw, Camp Highlands
  • Ms. Kay Lee Johnson, Girl Scouts
  • Mrs. Philip Seman, Jewish Community Centers
  • Mr. Alfred J. Nichols Jr., Boy Scouts
  • Ms. Ella Ross, Camp Kechuwa
  • Ms. Helen James, Camp Warwick Woods
  • Mr. Roy Sorenson, Regional YMCA

Note: At the same annual meeting the board voted a name change from Camp Directors Association of America to The American Camping Association).

In 1973 the Chicago Section of the American Camping Association became the Illinois Section, American Camping Association, allowing it to acknowledge the larger state community and regional efforts in camping standards. During the 1970’s one of the prominent focuses of the agency became an emphasis on camp standards, and this continues to remain a main program of ACA Illinois today. For more information about standards and our Accreditation Program, visit here.

Another noted program that developed in the 1971’s, and continues to support a high level of operation for ACA Illinois today, is the Title XX Program. Started as a part of the Social Security Act in 1979, the DFI Title XX Camping Services Program is funded by the State of Illinois Department of Human Services. The purpose of this program is to send youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to camp. Learn more about the Title XX Program, including the objectives that participating camps and agencies still practice today.

In 2004 the national agency adopted the name change to the current American Camp Association, and the Illinois Section, American Camping Association American Camp Association, Illinois became the American Camp Association, Illinois. To read more about the national history of camping in the United States, head over to the national American Camp Association website and review their anniversary timeline.

Mailing Address:

American Camp Association, Illinois   I   PO Box 5412, Evanston, IL 60204

Mailing Address:

American Camp Association, Illinois

5 S Wabash Ave

Suite 1406

Chicago, IL 60603

Phone: 312-332-0833



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