I love camp. From the long, hot summer days to the smelly shoes and dirty towels. I love the themed dress up days, Kona Fridays and yes, even the rainy days. The kids all know that I love coming up with counselor gross out challenges (even though the counselors dread them) and sending the kids on awesome field trips. But, that's just grazing the surface of camp. These are just facts and material parts of camp. Why have I decided to make camp my profession? The answer to that question is so much more...
I love camp because of the friendships that I see built over the course of a day, a week and a summer. The relationship with the counselors are my favorite to see. I continually hear great stories of campers opening up to their counselors and sharing their souls with them. When they do, there is such a sense of relief. They can be known, and loved for who they are.
I love camp because I see kids who are scared and nervous to leave a parent befriended by a camp counselor and eased into their group.
I love camp because those same, nervous kids at the beginning of the week are begging mom and dad to come back again at the end of the week.
I love camp because camp doesn't care who you are; it only cares about who you want to be.
I love camp because it opens kids up to new experiences. Maybe it's making a shrinky dink, going creeking or gardening. Maybe it's jumping into a foam pit, battling Darth Vader or playing pocket tag. And maybe it's just talking to someone new, making a friend from a different school or becoming comfortable around other kids.
I love camp because I get to help shape and guide the lives of 25 young adults who go by the title of 'camp counselor' but I just get the pleasure of calling 'friend.'
I love camp because as much as I think I'm shaping their young lives, I know that, in turn, they are everyday shaping mine.
I love camp because it doesn't care what 'abilites' society has placed on a child. We accept every child and meet them on their level.
I love camp because it gives kids the opportunity to lead. (It also teaches them when and how fun it can be to follow.)
I love camp because it hones communication and socialization skills. I love seeing a shy camper become comfortable saying "hi" and smiling every time I see them.
I love camp because it instills responsibility in young people. You want to help teach your youngster responsibility? Send them to camp with a swimsuit, towel, extra socks, shoes, a jacket and a waterbottle and see what comes back home! (....hence the reason why we don't recommend sending your child with electronics, cards or toys... we already have enough to keep track of.. with the first priority being your child!)
I love camp because it builds confidence in kids. Being away from their parents, making new friends, trying new activities – these all help in the child gaining confidence as they grow up.
Finally, I love camp because of the kids. That's the reason that I love what I do. Each summer that I have worked summer camp, I cherish the relationships I have built with parents and my staff, but most importantly with my summer campers! Take a look around my office now and there are pictures on my walls taken of me and some of my summer campers. Drawings, colored pictures and crafts made by my summer campers are on my desk, shelves and bulletin board. I cherish these things and become humbled when I realize that all of these wonderful things began because a parent entrusted me to care for the most important thing in their life.
I love camp. I love my co-workers. I especially love Kids First and our Camp-A-Palooza family. I am so excited to see what the future has in store for us.