Trips Galore and Program More

IMG_2795We all enjoyed a great Visiting Day just gone by and by Saturday after pizza dinner, we were quickly back into our regular routine. Cabin parties ended, extra food and candy was donated to a local food bank…and we were full steam ahead with program.  It’s amazing to watch thousands of people clear out of camp at the end of Visiting Day and then, with a snap of a finger, we’re back into “camp mode.”  Sunday was a great day in camp and yesterday, our Bec and Bago campers departed on their Extended Trips for Boston, Montreal, Ogunquit and Sunday River.

Baxter and Sequoia campers will be out for the day at Funtown Splashtown USA and our youngest campers have the place to themselves. They love to rule the roost.  How cool.

There is a huge Calendar of events that sits on the wall in the main office at camp and the amazing array of activity still in store is incredible.  As they say, the best is yet to come:  Junior Bec and Bago Dinner Party…CMGL Tournaments…Intercamps…More Overnight Camping and Day Trips…Magic Show…Suessical…and so much more.  We can’t wait.

8 Things that Are Quintessentially Summer Camp

It’s hard to believe that another summer is almost half over. It seems like just yesterday that campers were arriving, excited for another summer. Time passes so quickly at summer camp that it’s sometimes impossible to not miss some things. But there are certain things that, no matter how busy, chaotic, or crazy things get at camp, remind us of camp and are a big part of what it’s all about.

  1.       CL Quint 2Campfires—Every camp’s campfire has a unique significance to it. Campfire traditions, songs, and activities vary from camp to camp but one theme is consistent from camp to camp: the campfire has a sacred relevance and, as such, is a very special event at camp. So special, in fact, that the campfire is symbolic of summer camp itself. The fire embodies camp life, and the smell of burning embers raises an immediate reminder of sylvanian settings in which camps are located.
  2.       S’mores—What’s a campfire without s’mores? Anyone and everyone who has ever been to camp craves the gooey delight of melted chocolate and marshmallows between two graham crackers. S’mores are so distinct to camp that biting into one instantly harkens memories of camp.
  3.       Sing Alongs—Sure, karaoke is a popular activity for get togethers. But there is nothing more harmonious than an entire camp—counselors too!—singing their camp’s favorite tunes together. Camp sing alongs are more than just time spent together singing songs, however. They’re a way of bringing everyone together to celebrate the place that has brought them all together.
  4.       Cabins—As the saying goes, ‘If only walls could talk…’ And, oh, the stories so many summer CL Quintcamp cabins could tell. Cabins are more than just places where campers and their counselors sleep at night. Cabins are facilities in which campers become families. They are also places in which the vast size of sleepaway camps shrink to an intimate setting in which friendships are nurtured and memories are made. Each cabin family is unique, with its own jokes, songs, traditions, etc.
  5.       Arts & Crafts—According to the American Camp Association, Arts & Crafts is one of the five most popular activities at camp, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want to spend a portion of each day in an area stocked with beads, lanyard, glitter, paint, glue, markers, scissors, and just about any other craft supply one can dream up? The possibilities are endless in Arts & Crafts. The relaxing atmosphere gives campers opportunity to decompress and reflect while still being social. Arts & Crafts is an activity that allows campers to spend time with their friends.
  6.       CL Quint 5Bugle Calls/Bells—There has to be some way to move campers through their program day at camp. Whether it’s bugles or bells, campers know instantly what each unique sound is telling them to do from waking up in the morning to turning out the lights at night, and everything in between.
  7.       Camp Shows—Those who are not familiar with camp may wonder what makes camp shows different from other types of shows. Anyone who has ever been involved in a production that goes from auditions to performance complete with full sets and makeup in a week or less knows that this is precisely what makes camp shows a camp entity all unto their own.
  8.       Crazy Wardrobe Choices—We mean C-R-A-Z-Y—as in more is definitely more when it comes to showing spirit or “dressing up” for a special camp occasions. In fact, camp is probably the only place at which one is complimented for arriving at a function wearing body paint and/or temporary tattoos, bright colors, a tutu, crazy sunglasses or hats, a wig (or two) and mismatched socks.

What’s an A-Day? What’s a B-Day? What’s an S-Day?

11-IMG_3076Children today – including our campers, of course – are heavily scheduled and heavily programmed all year long.  We race to school, sports, clubs, dance, lessons, music and more.

At camp, we’ve been going all-out for just about four weeks.  Non-stop activity, action and movement.

On A and B Days at camp, we’re programmed into six hours of pre-planned and structured activity, three in the morning, followed by lunch and rest hour, and three in the afternoon.  We then have a fun evening program each night, followed by Nite Bite and bed from 8:45 to 10:30, depending on a campers age.

We go all-out from day one at camp, and one of the things campers look forward to – about every fourth day – is an S Day.  It’s a chance to sleep in, catch our breath, and take a bit of a “camp vacation day.”  S-Days are sometimes in camp (Carnival, Iron Chef, Bec Swim, Bago Sprint, ACFL, APES, Quest) and sometimes out of camp. Out-of-camp trips are typically day excursions along the Maine coast (Boothbay Harbor, Old Port, Aquaboggan, Funtown, etc.)

Cutting across this A-B-S rotation is intercamps, tournaments, camping trips all over the state, IMG_9323theatre productions, dance showcases, rocket launches, Triathlons, Fit Trails and more.

And, let’s not forget about the extended trips that leave next week to Montreal, Ogunquit, Boston and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

It’s no wonder when we put our heads down at the end of the day, we sleep soundly through the night, with a cool breeze coming over the shore of Echo Lake.

Camp Influences

CL influence 1In their book True North, Bill George and Peter Sims challenge readers to examine the qualities and influences that have made them great leaders through a series of motivational chapters complemented by interactive surveys. In the survey that follows the first chapter, readers are asked: “During your early years, which people had the greatest impact on you?” This is a very significant question to anyone who either attended camp as a child or who works at a camp as an adult.

It only takes a single summer to influence a camper for a lifetime, but the majority of campers CL Influence 2attend summer camp for seven summers or more, which exponentially increases the chances of camp counselors having a lasting impact on their lives. Add the community environment of camp in which campers and staff live together 24 hours a day, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine that each camper’s life is not greatly impacted by at least one member of the camp staff. Such a conclusion is evident by the amount of former campers who state the influence of former staff members as one of the primary reasons they chose to return to camp as camp counselors themselves.

CL Influence 3George and Sims challenge readers to “discern passion through life experience.” Such an intense task puts the role of camp counselors into a new perspective. Not only do counselors have the ability to greatly impact a child’s life, but to inspire passion in them through the experiences they provide at camp. This is an interesting concept because it is not one about which most camp staff tend to reflect throughout the summer. Camp is a temporary environment that is structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Combine this with the fast pace of camp, thinking tends to steer in the opposite direction.  Yet, many campers –and even counselors– are so influenced by their camp experiences that they take away a passion for camp as well as the traditions and values they are taught there.

When examined from such a perspective, the role of camp counselors becomes so much more than CL Influence 4a summer job, whether a staff member spends one summer or many summers at camp. When counselors pack their bags each summer and head off to camp, they are taking on the tremendous responsibility of inspiring children to become so deeply invested in the camp experience. It’s neither a small nor insignificant challenge. Yet the hurdles of living up to such high expectations is exactly what draws so many camp counselors to their summer camp roles each summer—and what makes them return in subsequent summers. In this regard, the campers have as much influence and inspire as much passion in the counselors as the counselors do to them. The two roles are interdependent.

It’s easy to go through one’s daily life without slowing enough to properly contemplate the potential influence each of us has over others. But when the concept of influence is examined through the perspective of camp, it’s very easy to see how little time is needed to influence someone for a lifetime.

Carnival and Dunk Your Kicks

carnival 22One of the great events at camp is our annual Carnival.  It’s not just great because of the bounce house rides, games and contests, the fried dough truck, the photo booths, costumes and the food and drink…it’s great because we all come together after a cookout dinner on the Upper Soccer Fields for an evening as part of the Laurel Family.  Brothers and sisters hang out with each other.  Cousins have a great chance to catch up. Camp little brothers in Apache walk from game to game with their older camp brothers in Bago. Camp sisters in Acadia meet up with their big sisters from Bec.  It’s a total relaxed and fun night, under the Maine sky… and is always remembered as one of our favorite nights of the year.

This summer, we invited Dave from the Max Cure Foundation and Laurie from Maine Camp Experience to be part of Carnival.  In the middle of our festivities, we took a few minutes and asked Dave to speak about his charity and how he formed the Max Cure Foundation seven years ago after his son was diagnosed with pediatric cancer.  Dave spoke and you could hear a pin drop.  He talked about how his son is now a healthy camper (at a New York camp) and how over the past seven years they’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to find a cure for pediatric cancer. Then we all had a blast watching our youngest Acadian and carnival 15Apache Frosh participate in the Dunk Your Kicks event where we donated hundreds of pairs of sneakers collected from camp families at Laurel, Androscoggin and Vega.  It was great night and we were so happy to have Dave part of our very special evening.

It’s hard to believe three weeks of camp have gone by and we’re in our last day of the First Program Rotation already.  Tomorrow, we awake to new schedules that will take us through the next three weeks of our program cycle.  Time is flying but the very best is yet to come.

The Action Never Stops!

IMG_4976Our Outdoor Tripping Staff have taken campers all over the state of Maine:  From Camden to Bradbury, Baxter to Lake St. George, Three Rocks to Rangeley, the list goes on and on.  We’ve played Baseball, Basketball, Lacrosse, Soccer and Tennis at home and at nine different neighboring camps.   The sounds coming out of Rockport  – our music studio – are nothing short of amazing.  Rehearsals are in full swing for Beauty and The Beast.  Sports Night teams are in friendly competition twice a week… and Swimmers, Climbers, Runners and Bikers are competing home and away.

Down at the Waterski Docks, our four new Mastercrafts are going from dusk till ‘dawn, pulling skiers, boarders, tubers and surfers all over Echo Lake.

7.11This afternoon, our Senior Bec and Bago campers (8th graders) leave for their annual White Water Rafting trip on the mighty Kennebec River — an annual summer highlight.

Thursday night is Carnival… and we’re psyched for Bouncy Rides, Photo Booth, Smack the Rat, Casino Tables, Fried Dough and more.  We’ll also welcome the folks from Dunk Your Kicks for a charity event.  It’ll be a great night of fun and some great community service as well.

It’s been a great week so far at camp, and the action keeps on going!

Amazing Things Are Happening Here…

IMG_3717Camp Laurel is full of activity, sports, games, action and fun.  All day, children play together under the careful and watchful eye of our trained counselors and staff.  If you were watching from above, you’d see a virtual beehive of non-stop action.  Some may even call it dizzying.  But if you stop and speak with an individual child…you’d get a perspective that cannot be matched from afar…or above.

You’d hear campers talking about their cabin-mates, friends and counselors as if they’re members of their own family.  The relationships campers develop with each other — and their counselors — in seven weeks can be described as nothing less than amazing.   While we know we have great facilities, buildings, fields and courts at Camp Laurel, what matters most is the “who.”
The “who” are our friends and our counselors.

As we begin the third week of camp, we have watched the “newness” become a comfortable routine.

We are settled in and enjoying the frenetic pace…and also being careful to relax to recharge our batteries.

And we’re also taking advantage of the most important thing at Laurel.  Each other.

I Never Thought I Would…

img_0026A recent blog shared some of the most popular counselor ‘I never thought I would…’ thoughts. Counselors aren’t the only ones from whom this phrase is commonly heard as the introduction of wonder throughout the summer. It’s heard just as often from campers. Here are some of the most popular perspectives of camper exclamations that begin with, ‘I never thought I would…’

Learn to play the guitar

I’ve never played an instrument before in my life! But my camp’s guitar instructor is amazing. He really loves music and he knows how to teach us chords in a way that is really easy to remember. Sometimes I wish I could spend all day at guitar. But then I think of all of the other stuff that I would miss. Instead, I asked my parents if I can take guitar lessons when I get home in the last letter I wrote to them.

FINALLY get my back handspring!

I’ve been working on my back handspring at camp since last summer. This year, I finally got it! I started a couple of summers ago on the tumbling track with my cabin counselor, who was also a img_7307Gymnastics specialist. She knew one of my goals was to learn how to do a back handspring, so she worked with me on the tumbling track, which is a really long trampoline. By the end of the summer, I could do a back handspring pretty well on the tumbling track, but I couldn’t do one on the floor without being spotted. I don’t take gymnastics during the winter, so this summer, when our camp’s gymnastics coach asked me if I was ready to learn how to do a back handspring on the floor, I was nervous. We did a couple on the tumbling track, then he/she spotted me while I did them on a mat. By the end of my next gymnastics activity period, I was doing back handsprings on the floor—by MYSELF! The best part of all is the camp photographer got a picture of it. I can’t wait until my mom sees it!

Become friends with my cabin mates so quickly

This is my first summer at camp, and I was SO nervous because I didn’t know anyone. I met my new cabin mates as soon as I got off the bus. It felt like we already knew each other. We’re already BFFs. We do EVERYTHING together! Our counselors taught us how to make friendship bracelets. Then we all made one and traded them with each other.

Swim in a lake

img_7431Before coming to camp, I’d only swam in pools. I was super nervous about swimming in the lake, especially since we had to take a swim test in it. I was so scared to jump in the first time. Then my friends and counselors convinced me to get in. The lake at camp is really just like a giant swimming pool. It was especially fun to jump off the water trampoline while holding hands with my camp friends for the first time after passing my swim test.

Make my own pasta

I love spaghetti. When I found out we were making our own pasta in Cooking, I was SO excited! We had to roll the dough a lot, but it was so much fun to see how pasta is made. Fresh pasta is so much better than the pasta you get in a box. I’m going to ask my parents if I can make homemade pasta when I get home after camp.

Be in a show

I’ve always wanted to be in one of my school plays, but have never tried out because I didn’t know if img_2149 (1)I could get up in front of lots of people. After being in my camp show this summer, I’m totally going to try out for one of the school plays next year. Being in the camp show was so much fun! It was a lot of work. We had to practice a lot. But my counselors worked with me every day to help me memorize my lines. When it was finally time to perform my part in front of the whole camp, I was ready and so excited to get on stage and show everyone what I could do that I didn’t even think about being nervous!

Score a soccer goal

I’ve been trying and trying and trying to score a soccer goal ever since I made my club team at img_5627home. This year, I told my soccer instructors at camp that I wanted to be able to tell my club coach that I’d scored a goal when the fall season starts. They gave me lots of tips during our instructional periods. I got to play forward on my division’s team, and I scored the first goal of my first intercamp game!

Act so crazy on purpose

At school, I’m really conscious about how excited I get about things. I’m always wondering what my classmates will think. Camp is completely different! At camp, it’s so easy to just go crazy because all of my camp friends do too. I love being able to be myself without wondering what all of my friends are thinking.

Sports, Activities and Trips Galore…

IMG_1139Our overnight camping program is one of the best parts about going to camp in Maine.  Yesterday, four groups of campers headed out for camping excursions to Three Rocks, Bradbury, Mt Blue and Camden Hills State Parks.  They had a great time hiking, camping out, telling stories and preparing their own food over an open fire.

On the courts and ballfields, more than 100 campers have already participated in Intercamps and Tournaments in Baseball, Basketball, Tennis, Soccer, and Softball at Laurel and also visiting our neighbors in the Central Maine Camps League. Morning Marathon continues to be a great source of exercise, fun and a great place for those who arise before the rest of camp.  Watching campers – young and old – jog around our sports fields before breakfast is always a highlight. IMG_1214 On the more creative side of camp, the dishes that have been created in ChefCamp…the music that’s being recorded and produced in Rockport…the drawings that are being sketched and painted in Studio Art….the designs that are being molded in Metalsmithing… and the clay that’s being thrown, heated and glazed Ceramics have all been amazing.

Tomorrow is our first Out Of Camp S Day.  We take a break from our daily schedule and groups will head to Funtown USA; Aquaboggan; Boothbay Harbor;  and the Old Port of Portland for a day of fun and sightseeing along the beautiful Maine coast.

Happy 4th of July!

img_2483h51a3375Our first, great full week of program is coming to an end.  Hard to believe we just got here last Saturday.  So much has gone on the past week that it feels like one big, giant flurry of activity.  We’ve settled into our summer routine and look forward to what’s coming up.  Because of a little liquid sunshine today, we moved tonight’s Fireworks Show to Saturday where they’re calling for clear skies. We can’t wait.  If you had a giant video camera in Readfield, you’d be amazed.  The Athletics and Waterfront instruction is unsurpassed.  Our Adventure and Arts areas are alive with creativity and activity.  Tennis is better than ever.  Chefcamp is, truly, in a class by itself.  Rockport is all the rage.  Incredible.  Ropes, Climbing and Mountain Biking are fantastic.  And let’s not forget about our 21 ponies and horses at the Equestrian Center.

We’re looking ahead to Camping Trips starting this week;  Beauty and The Beast rehearsals in full swing;  The Quest on Sunday and our first In-Camp S Day…yessssss!!

But first – The Counselor Cabaret tonight in the Fieldhouse!