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Celebrating Independence Day

It was certainly a quieter July 4th on Echo Lake over the weekend. Looking back at photos from previous summers, though, reminds us how lucky we are to have celebrated Independence Day together in Maine.  We’re grateful for the fun programs our Department Heads plan like Red, White and Boogie at Dance, Ring the Liberty Bell at Climbing, US Open Tournament at Tennis and countless others. Of course, the special July 4th Cookout and the best fireworks show in Maine cap off an amazing day.

We missed seeing your patriotic face paint and hearing Happy Birthday (Laurel-style, of course!) for the USA. Most of all, we wanted to share smiles and laughs with all of you – our campers and counselors.

We’re beyond thankful for the energetic and caring community we have. And we appreciate the Laurel family so much for carrying that spirit forward. We hope you had an enjoyable and safe weekend. We’re already looking forward to celebrating America’s Independence Day on the shores of Echo Lake in 2021!

Camp Activities at Home

We hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. We came up with a list of fun Camp Laurel activities that can be done to keep things interesting. We’d also love to hear the at-home ideas our Camp Laurel family is up to in the comments below!

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are one of the many team-building activities we utilize when camp opens to create a great community with awesome communication. Want to make it fun while also being productive? Get your camp duffels out and set up clues for items your campers will bring to camp. The duffel can be home for the clues and items they find around the house. This is a great way to generate excitement for camp.

Backyard or Indoor Camping

Nothing beats being with friends in the great outdoors. And now is a great time to ease into the world of outdoor camping by setting up a tent in the yard or living room. Don’t have a tent? Make a fort with blankets and pillows. A fun activity for parents and children, this can easily be modified by setting up a digital camp hangout with your friends. It’s also the perfect excuse for some Indoor S’mores!

Change the Channel

Change the Channel is a theatre game that’s stood the test of time because it relies on imagination and improvisation. Setup is simple: start with two or more actors and one director. The director gives the actors a scene (like waterskiing on Echo Lake with a boat driver and skier). At any time, the Director yells ‘Freeze!’ and trades places with one of the actors who then becomes the director and sets up a new scene with the frozen actors before calling out ‘Action!’

Write Letters

Camp is the best place for pen pals. And now is the perfect time to reach out to your camp friends, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles as an old school (or digital) pen pal. As a (massive) bonus, this will help your campers get into the habit of writing before camp starts, netting parents some extra letters when the temperature heats up!

Maine and the Great Outdoors

People always ask me about my favorite aspects of summer camp. That list could go on forever: community, independence, friendship, activities, teamwork, facilities, personal growth. Staying unplugged and tuned into the world is a key ingredient for all those benefits. Children (and counselors) spend so much of their year in classrooms and their free time plugged in. One of the things camp people look forward to so much is a change in their environment. And there’s no better place for this switch than Maine.

Camp Laurel is in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Tucked among tall pine trees nestled on gorgeous Echo Lake: Maine is the definition of natural beauty. The views of the surrounding forest are a welcome change to the skyscraper backdrop of the big cities from where our campers come. Breathing in the crisp Maine each summer is an amazing experience. The acres and acres of lush green fields give our campers a connection to the nature around them. Campers are also able to take advantage of day-hikes and camping excursions to state parks, Acadia National Park and local spots we’ve been frequenting to for decades.

When campers reminisce about their time at Camp Laurel they always talk about their “experience” rather than specific activities. They mention that distinct mix of friendship, community and nature. It’s a life-changing experience and one that Maine provides in the best way.

Echo Lake: Like Nothing Else

I consider myself very fortunate to spend my summers at Camp Laurel on Echo Lake. I remember thinking the name of the lake was something really special my first summer. Many of my favorite camp memories are traced back to the time spent in the water: jumping on the trampoline, passing a level in swim and waterskiing for the first time all rush through my head.

As I look back on those memories they come into a greater focus. I can picture one of my favorite counselors giving me instructions from the boat while I put on my skis. I can hear the lifeguard reminding my friends and I of the waterfront rules while she strapped on my life vest. I still feel nostalgic about getting out of the lake for the last time as a camper, wishing I had one more summer with the friends I grew up with.

It’s only in looking back now that I realize the magic of Echo Lake is tied to the people as much as it is to the location. The waterski counselors were so excited when I first got up skis. My friends and counselors were always ready to have a great time. As a counselor now, it’s through that lens that I’m reminded of the magic of Echo Lake.

Keeping the Laurel Spirit Alive

When camp comes to an end, we pack-up your duffels before you head home to get ready for another school year. You leave camp with a lot more than you came with (like ceramics projects and bracelets — and more bracelets!) But more importantly, you leave with a treasure-trove of memories, lifelong friendships and a renewed sense of confidence and independence that camp fosters.

There are different ways campers bring the Laurel Spirit home with them. Humming camp tunes, exploring a new athletic or artistic passion, a newfound ease when making new friends…there are many ways that camp affords us the opportunity to be the best version of ourselves.

Camp Laurel has a special way of revealing a new side of campers even they may not normally have seen or even knew existed. Even campers who return year after year come home with something new each summer. They understand how fortunate they are to spend seven weeks on Echo Lake. They feel a profound connection to Maine. They realize they don’t need to be “plugged in” to feel connected. Campers take something extra home with them: the stories, shared experiences, inside jokes and memories. Luckily, the Laurel Spirit won’t take up any space in your duffel. And that will stay with you for life!

Another Successful Summer

The sun is setting earlier, the nights are a bit cooler and camp is over. After living, playing, learning, laughing and growing together for seven weeks, we now reflect on another incredible season. The bonds that were forged at Camp Laurel are remarkably strong. Camp is a unique place where children and counselors wake up, eat, play and spend the days together with friends all summer long.

The magical thing about summer camp is that it goes far beyond seven weeks. Memories last a lifetime, and everything is more than it seems. Playing basketball isn’t just about gaining and improving skills, but also about learning to be a good sport and teammate. Finishing a ceramics project is about following directions and unlocking creativity. Campers conquer their fears and step out of their comfort zones at the Aerial Park. In the cabin they build confidence by celebrating each other’s achievements, supporting one another and living together.

The lessons learned at camp translate in the real world. Whether in the classroom, at extracurricular activities or in the community, camp helps us become better students, teammates and friends. Parents: We know you’ll have the chance to talk with your camper about what they learned this summer. As always, we want to thank our campers, camp parents and counselors for another amazing summer!

Something’s In The Air…

Everyone knows it’s coming, we just don’t know when. The chants of “Ketchup…Mustard…Mayonnaise, We Want College Days” can be heard everywhere. First, Saturday night’s dinner, “Pizza in the Pavilion” threw everyone for a loop. Then the Super Seniors not attending the Bec and Bago movie trip was another mis-clue. And now, tonight after the Dance Show, everyone is sure it’s happening. Only time will tell!

 

As regular program comes to a close, we slip into Sports Night Championships tomorrow morning and, sometime after that, the beginning of our five-day culminating event: College Days 2019. We’ll have regular updates on social media and daily on “Laurel Today.” For now, stay tuned and enjoy!!

Culminating Program Week

It’s very, very hard to believe there are only four days left of Program (actually, somewhere between 3 and 5 days, but we won’t say exactly lest you figure out when College Days will “break.”  It’s incredibly rewarding to see campers taking incredible advantage of their last regular program days of the summer. Mastering skills; finishing arts projects; dropping a ski for the first time; challenging a group-mate on the Tennis Ladder; challenging themselves in Dance or Fitness; scaling the Climbing Tower; running the Fit Trail; learning a new recipe in ChefCamp. The list goes on and on.

It was an action-packed week highlighted by the Triathlon and Lake Swim.

This weekend will feature great weather, and we’ll continue to play through until our Super Seniors tell us otherwise; after all, it’s they who help mastermind the start of our summer culminating activity. We’ll keep you up-to-date on all the goings-on in Readfield, and hope your weekend at home is going to be as special as ours, here on the eastern shore of our favorite lake!

Super Seniors 2019

One of the things we speak about a lot at camp is “modeling.”  Modeling good behavior, appropriate language, social responsibility, good sportsmanship and so on. We, of course, expect and trust our counselors to be excellent role models. We also except – and appreciate – when good modeling comes from our oldest campers: Super Seniors.

Becoming a Super Senior at Laurel is a right of passage. Some of our Super Seniors have been with us for four or five years, and others have been at camp for seven or eight. Whether a Super Senior grew up with us or started in Readfield later in their camping career, they have united as one group this season and are an incredibly well-respected, energetic and fun group.

It’s been gratifying to watch the Super Senior Class of 2019 emerge the last five weeks and, although they are currently out-of-camp on their seven-day Extended Trip throughout Maine and New Hampshire, we look forward to their return and the leadership and spirit they’ll exhibit during the last two weeks of the summer.

Growing Up at Camp Laurel

Looking back at my first summer at Camp Laurel I fondly and vividly remember getting off the bus to loads and loads of cheering campers and counselors. I met my counselors and my new friends and made my way to my cabin where my bed was neatly made. Arriving at camp for the first time felt like a whirlwind, and then it was calm as I read the letter from my parents that was waiting on my pillow.

Heading into my Super Senior summer, I remember cheering for the same friends – and all the younger campers – as they got off the bus. Some had butterflies – I’m sure – like I hadn’t since my first summer. I watched with excitement as the youngest campers eagerly awaited meeting their counselors and cabinmates. I also felt a twinge of sadness because I knew that even though the summer I’d been looking forward to every year at camp was here, it meant I was that much closer to my final days as a camper.

Experiences at camp summer after summer brought remarkable transformations to my life. Over the years I learned to trust others, build relationships, accept guidance and develop decision-making skills. More than that, the friendships I made and the memories we created will last a lifetime. Spending my summers growing up at Camp Laurel has shaped me in the most positive ways.

 

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