At the end of every summer, I can’t stop talking about camp. The stories are endless, and it’s impossible not to share them. The anecdotes are often specific enough to qualify for ‘you had to be there’ moments. From grand events like the break of College Days to tales of campers realizing their goals to the crackle of a mid-summer campfire. There’s something special happening every hour of every day.
We often remind our counselors “Little moments have a big impact.” And that’s true. Like how a camper created a song and it became a year-after-year tradition. Or how a staff member turned brushing teeth into a game that campers would look forward to each morning and night. Stringing the anecdotes together paints a bigger picture of Laurel: a camp becoming a community. Campers who two weeks prior were strangers begin to function like a family. Campers who have been together summer after summer (after summer!) start appreciating their amazing time at Laurel in a new way.
In between the stories I tell, I realize how gratifying the larger dynamics of camp are. And it makes me even more eager for the upcoming inside jokes, anecdotes and another summer in Maine!
The impact of a Camp Laurel summer is unique for every camper and counselor. Everyone at camp is engaged and active in the moment. Campers focus on having fun or trying something new, rarely realizing the character-building and social skill development that’s naturally taking place. Campers are constantly working together and encouraging one another. It makes them more empathetic, responsible and kind.
Campers are also getting out of their comfort zones in the best way. They are encouraged to take ‘safe risks’ like learning to waterski or ascend the climbing wall. Well trained, highly skilled counselors reassure and encourage campers to overcome challenges. Campers begin to understand that skill development doesn’t always come easy. It takes practice and patience. Campers rebound from mistakes and stretch their abilities and interests to new places.
Self-confidence comes naturally to some, but it’s also a trait that can be developed. Summer camp offers a chance for campers to develop these traits naturally. Campers view themselves as capable when they succeed and resilient when they persevere. They perceive themselves as fun and interesting due to the relationships they create in their cabins and around camp. In short, campers discover and establish the best version of themselves. And that confidence sets the foundation for the individuals they become.
Summer is a few months down the road and college students throughout the country are searching for summer jobs and internships. Every year students compete for positions hoping to get a foot in the door for their future careers. While corporate settings can offer great opportunities, few summer jobs are as beneficial as working at camp. Here are some of the many benefits for working at Camp Laurel.
Finding Your Voice
Being a Laurel counselor is a great job for anyone who wants to lead. Counselors lead campers of different ages and skill levels from the moment they step off the bus. They’re forging bonds, leading activities and communicating constantly with their co-counselors and Campus Leaders. On top of that, counselors are utilizing their creativity all summer long to create memorable experiences.
Maine and the Great Outdoors
Crisp, fresh air. A loon call in the night. There’s nothing better than Maine in the summertime. You won’t find a better ‘office’ than working on Echo Lake. Beyond the beautiful setting, camp facilitates movement all day long. No wonder many counselors say they’ve never felt better than the summertime!
Little Moments, Big Impact
Camp is a natural place to become a mentor. Campers are constantly looking up to their counselors, and it’s often the little moments that create the biggest difference. Being a positive influence for campers every day has a cumulative effect, and many campers remember their counselors forever. Counselors, though they might not know it when they arrive for Orientation, will learn and benefit from their campers all summer long, too.
Shining stars on a clear summer night. A gentle breeze whistling through the trees. The call of the loon in the evening or a robin chirping in the morning. A summer in Maine reminds us to slow down and cherish every minute. Of course, those aren’t the only sensory sensations of the summer. Camp is alive with energy every day with “echoes” at Cove to cheering in the Lodge and the Laurel birthday song ringing out almost every day. The Laurel Spirit can be seen and heard from one end of camp to the other!
One thing you won’t hear throughout the summer: the ping of an Instagram notification or the buzz of a phone. A summer at camp is the perfect place for a digital detox. There are numerous studies about the benefits of staying unplugged: increased concentration, better short- and long-term memory, improved conversation skills and higher self-esteem are among the many perks of getting away from digital devices.
It’s easy to quickly double tap a friend’s post, update your own status or clear the notification bar. But, just as easily, it can take us out of the moment. Camp is the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button. Campers find themselves making genuine connections with their peers and counselors. They also have the opportunity to exercise their minds in a more ‘analog’ way by writing letters home and reading books.
Digital advances have made our world easier and more accessible in many ways, but campers (and counselors!) will be surprised by how great they feel after time away from their devices.
The first day of camp is often like the first day of a new school year. New faces, new activities and a renewed excitement for the summer ahead. Jem and Debbie often talk about “Writing the Story” of every Laurel summer. Approaching camp with this in mind allows each camper to be the author of their own adventures and memories. It also allows them to include their friends and counselors in their summer stories.
Camp is an incredible crash course in meeting people and making friends. Campers share with each other, communicate together and learn different perspectives all summer long. Children are interacting in ways they never get to throughout the school year. They’re eating S’mores, competing in athletics and singing songs. Most importantly, campers are living the cabin life, which is so much more than the place where campers and counselors brush their teeth and fall sleep. It’s where they become a summer family, create lifelong inside jokes and learn to be great friends. At the end of every summer, each cabin paints a plaque that captures some of their favorite camp moments: a token to visit in future summers to be reminded of all the great memories.
Campers appreciate their camp friends for all the right reasons. They stand up for and encourage one another. At Camp Laurel, campers learn not only to make new friends, but also develop the tools necessary to allow those friendships to grow through their shared summer experiences.
“Work” and “camp” aren’t often found in the same sentence, especially for children who go to camp. But it’s important for children to develop patience and a good work ethic. It’s equally important to dream big. Camp is the best opportunity to merge hard work, big dreams and creativity. Whether they’re using their less-dominant foot in soccer, throwing a bowl in ceramics or performing an original song at a campfire, Camp Laurel offers endless opportunities for children to achieve the prideful feeling of a job well done.
Camp is the ideal setting to take ‘safe risks’ by trying something new. And experiencing fresh activities creates a lasting sense of curiosity. Conquering the climbing wall or learning to waterski may seem daunting when viewed from afar, but having counselors break down activities into simpler steps can be inspirational when trying something new.
Beyond the initial wonder of an activity, the structure of our program and quality of our staff allows campers to develop skills. When children can work toward something, they truly appreciate the end result. It’s more rewarding when a goal is earned through patience and hard work, especially in today’s world of instant gratification. And with campers being involved in the goal-setting process from the beginning, they learn that hard work pays off. Prolonged satisfaction creates determined, hard-working individuals. The best part for children and parents: how much FUN they’re having while they’re developing their skills!
We hope everyone is excited to celebrate Halloween safely. It’s always a fun time of year to see amusing costumes. At camp, we’re able to show our creative side when it comes to face paint and wacky outfits. Camp is one of the best places to show your spirit. And there are ample opportunities for it: popping on the tie-dye you just made with your cabinmates, putting together a themed ensemble for socials or rocking your College Days colors.
One of the foundations of camp is providing a space for campers to feel comfortable expressing themselves. It’s a place where we’re never too cool or too old to have fun. Perhaps the best part of dressing up at camp is the ability to plan it out with your closest friends. The enthusiasm while planning makes the event better!
Crazy hair, ridiculous costumes and face paint all encourage creativity. And it’s nearly impossible to get ready without also sporting a smile. From Laurel Spirit Day to Red, White and Blue everything on July 4th; the expressiveness of our campers and counselors is always a joy to see!
At Camp Laurel, campers develop in a myriad of ways. Campers may come to camp eager to work on their backhand in tennis, their chords in guitar, their skills as a goalie. They automatically get the intrinsic benefits of living at sleepaway camp: social-emotional development, lifelong friendships, confidence and staying active. At times, however, Outdoor Adventure can be overlooked when evaluating camp’s impact. This program is just as beneficial for campers as everything else at Camp Laurel.
Outdoor Adventure creates self-reliance. Campers learn to trust themselves and expand their capabilities. Reaching the top of the climbing wall for the first time is exhilarating. Campers learn to overcome their fears. Going on hikes throughout Maine’s beautiful local, state and national parks opens up a whole new world for many of our campers.
Outdoor Adventure also focuses on teamwork rather than competition. There is no ‘beating’ the other team. Everyone cheers when someone learns to ride a bike or conquers the Aerial Park. Whatever new challenge captures a camper’s imagination, they will leave that activity with a sense of empowerment. Perhaps the most important aspect of Outdoor Adventure is the ‘outdoor’ side of things. Campers love feeling the crisp breeze through the Maine trees. The raw experience of being in nature make seemingly simple activities – like hiking and camping – memorable. Particularly for campers coming from cities or suburbs. And the best part? Campers are creating and sharing those memories with their closest friends.
There are tons of big events at Camp Laurel. From Arrival Day to the Olympics to College Days, Opening Ceremony to the Closing Campfire. It can be easy to chart one’s way through the summer based on what big event just happened and what’s on the horizon. That’s intentional, of course. There’ll always be memories being made and something to look forward to. However, asking counselors and campers to recap their summers will only include a handful of those events. The best times at camp often come away from the action.
Our counselors hear it during Orientation and at every staff meeting: Little moments have a big impact. Bedtime stories, creating a mini-hockey tournament at Rest Hour, taking the time to teach camp songs and how to make friendship bracelets. The most vivid memories can’t be re-created outside of camp. They happen organically.
This also happens in reverse. Our campers teach us all the time. They remind us to capture a moment. We get to re-live the excitement when a camper scores their first goal in a soccer intercamp. We’re proud when someone takes the stage for their first time at an all-camp campfire. We love hearing the enthusiasm in campers’ voices when they return from a hike. Camp is about the friendships, the activities, the inside jokes, the cabin games. More than anything, it’s about the moments that only happen at camp.
We’ve heard Jem say it many times. It’s such a simple request, but one that has taken root at Camp Laurel over the years. It’s a staple of the Camp Laurel experience. Be kinder than necessary. It may seem overly simplistic, but when put into action, is one of the cornerstones for the family vibe at Camp Laurel. It reminds everyone that we’re on the same team and have the same goal. At camp, acts of kindness are routinely celebrated. Small acts of goodwill toward others build up, creating the foundation for our culture.
There are so many opportunities to be kinder than necessary every day at camp. At activities, it’s seen through the praise and support we have for one another. Campers and counselors remain competitive and sportsmanlike in athletics. Positive feedback pushes campers toward new literal heights on the climbing wall. Artists find new ways to refine their creative work in InterArts. This attitude is entrenched in our Camp Brother, Camp Sister programs. Prospective families touring Camp Laurel always mention the welcoming smiles and friendly demeanor of everyone around camp.
The message may sound simple: Be kinder than necessary. But it’s a key building block for a successful summer. Campers and counselors go out of their way to look out for each other. It creates a ripple effect, allowing for a perpetually upbeat atmosphere. And that’s what the Laurel Spirit is all about!