Tuesday, May 28, 2019

That Magical Place

Dear 2019 Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha Staff,

I grew up going to various day and sleep away camps. It was one of the only places during my youth that I felt I belonged. When I went away to college, I found myself working at Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha during the summers because I loved being outdoors, and I loved the impact that I had on the campers. I even worked at camp after my first year of teaching but couldn't go back the following summer because I was too exhausted when I started the school year. It wasn't fair to my new class of students.

I missed being at camp so much that I started bringing my students up there. For 19 years, I gained the trust of the parents in my classroom to allow me to take their children three plus hours away for three to five days. And here is what happened. The kids in my classroom that struggled were shining stars at camp. Those days at camp were exhausting but my students got to experience something they probably would never be able to: the magic of camp.

There is something about camp that only camp friends can understand. There is a closeness and bond that is unbreakable, and it doesn't matter if you are there for one summer or ten. You will grow in ways you never thought possible. You will become more independent, self sufficient, mothering, and creative. You will learn how to really talk and listen to kids. As much as this summer is about you growing as a person, it is also about helping your campers grow too.

Some of these girls are away at camp for the first time. Most by choice and some not. It is your job to build a sense of community and closeness in your cabin. That is most effectively done by building relationships with your campers. You will have campers that you gel with right away and others that might drive you a little nuts. You need to look past that and find something that bonds you two together. These girls have one chance at childhood and you are a big part in it. EVERYTHING about camp will leave a lasting impression on them. Make it good. Make it positive.

My daughter, Kate's first year at girls camp was during the summer of 2018. She was familiar with the grounds and cabins because we had attended a few mother-daughter weekends together over the years. She went to camp knowing no one and left with tradition and memories that she has spent the last school year talking about. She has an entire shelf of just "camp clothes," has started making lists of things she needs to remember to bring, and is anxiously waiting to meet up with her friends from last summer and the older girls that befriended her. She continues to sing songs and tell anyone who will listen about Super Saturday, the food fight, casino night, and the fourth of July.

Kate is outgoing and is a camp girl. She adapts to pretty much any situation and tends to go with the flow. She can be the messiest girl in the cabin or organize a cleaning party. She is inclusive but shy. .She is ten and is already starting to talk about the extended trip to Alaska. Here is what I know.  Kate LOVES camp because of the tradition, activities, and you, the counselors.

You will be exhausted. You are mother hen to a full cabin of girls. Take care of yourself. On your day off, rest. Take it easy. Recharge. Because although this summer is about you, it is also about them. The young girls that leave their families for two to four weeks and for some more. Camp is a magical place. And if you don't know that already, you will. Soak it all in. Learn. Grow. But most importantly, be a role model for a young girl. This is one reason why I send Kate to camp. She needs to see that women are strong, can be in leadership positions, and are capable of going through life truly happy with who they are.

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