As we approach the mid-point of Week #2, it’s so gratifying to look back and see all we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time. The past ten days have been non-stop activity and beautiful weather. It was great to take a break today, head out of camp on day trips, recharge our batteries, decompress, and enjoy the great state of Maine.
After an incredible July 4th cookout and fireworks celebration last night, our youngest Acadians and Apaches ventured to FunTown USA for a day of rides, friends, and splashing around in the wave pools. It’s another warm and sunny Maine day, so the waterpark is a very welcome retreat. Our Junior Baxter and Sequoia campers hit Aquaboggan for their water adventure, while Senior Baxter and Sequoia group toured the seaside town of Boothbay Harbor, and its rocky coast, fishing boats and terrific coastal sights. Bec and Bago are in Old Port at the docks, home of some of the best lobstering in the world. Our Super Seniors enjoyed their day – and encore – at SplashTown.
We hit the regular program stride again tomorrow and it’s a menu of activity from the Ball Fields to the Courts, the Playhouse to the Equestrian Center, the Climbing Towers to the Metals Studio…and more.! And let’s not forget about Sunday night’s annual Ronny Romm Hypnotism Show – a summer highlight! We can’t wait for the weekend and the week ahead.
One of the things we talk about in the cabins, at program areas, in the Lodge at meals, at evening activities, and even on trips is: being nice. Sometimes, campers need to be reminded about this, and it’s our job, as caring and responsible adults, to do this in a loving and constructive way.
At the first campfire of the summer, Jem and Debbie talk about being kind and respectful to each other. It’s not only the right thing to do – it’s expected here. This is a value we reinforce throughout the summer. Before we leave on our first S-Day trip, Jem reminds everyone they are leaving Camp Laurel and heading into the outside world, and we want our campers to be great citizens so they feel terrific about themselves and they represent Camp Laurel well.
Kindness and respect are key ingredients to a happy cabin life, and therefore a happy summer. It’s a value we speak about regularly, and reinforce when necessary. Fortunately, we have an environment at Camp Laurel that fosters respect and kindness, and we watch random acts of kindness and respect occur all day long.These values are important at camp. They’re important at school. They’re important at home. And, of course, they’re important in life!
Take a moment and look around. Whether it’s at a restaurant, the movies, a park, or in your own home, there is one constant – a mobile device. Phones, iPads, and other forms of technology have taken over daily life. It has become impossible to have a simple meal with family or friends without the distraction of technology.
Before the influx of technology, children asked for hands-on presents that fostered creativity and adventure for holidays and birthdays. Remember the excitement when you received your first bicycle? Today, children receive iPhone Xs for their birthdays. While technology has a lot to offer individuals, it can have a negative impact on youth development. Creative impulses and a sense of adventure are diminished as children plug in their headphones and sit inside for hours at a time exploring their latest technology.
This is why kids need camp more than ever. Camp offers children a seven-week experience they will never forget. In one summer, concrete memories are made and lifelong skills acquired. Time spent outside in the fresh air with friends teaches children to appreciate the outdoors and the joy of unplugging.
Technology continues to grow at a rapid pace. Soon, our world will be filled with artificial intelligence and self-driving cars. The need to be independent will be diminished but the inherit independence that camp teaches will always be present.
The seven weeks we get to spend with campers each summer is precious. It’s an opportunity to build character and boost confidence. We have the opportunity to be the backdrop for millions of memories and connect people who can grow to be lifelong friends. In today’s world, the pressure to succeed at all costs seems to have become the focus, more so than the ideals that promote kindness, empathy, moral compass and self-assuredness.
At camp, children are guided to solve conflict through understanding and compromise. They learn that differences of opinion can be discussed without resentment or anger. Campers learn to talk about their feelings and truly understand the feelings of others. We tell our campers that not everyone will be your best friend, yet we treat everyone with kindness and respect. These are values that will serve them well throughout their school years, in the workplace and in their communities.
At camp, each camper has a story to tell. Each child arrives at camp with a history, a background, baggage (no pun intended), fears, strengths, and perceptions. As campers begin to integrate with each other, they quickly see how different they all are, but how those differences don’t need to divide them. There is no “us” and “them” at camp. We are intentional about fostering a generation of helpers, includers, and givers. We know that if we want a world full of people who care about each other, who don’t judge each other and who seek out opportunities to make others feel good, we have to start with the kids.
Campers return home with more friends, improved skill-sets and a lot to talk about. But our goal is that each camper leaves camp with stronger character, and that we can instill basic morals and ideals that will help them become better students, siblings, friends, and eventually, adults. Camp is safe, camp is fun, and camp is designed to better the lives of campers and their families each summer.
Going to a sleepaway camp has a profound impact on campers and counselors alike. Summer camp has the power to turn a few weeks of summer into an experience you’ll never forget. From the friendships and memories made, to the life lessons learned, members of the camp community will tell you that camp has changed their lives in ways that they couldn’t have imagined.
Friendships made at camp are unlike any other relationships. The authenticity of camp allows you to truly be who you are, which fosters genuine connections between individuals. You become part of a summer family that loves and supports one another. Your cabinmates become your sisters and brothers and your counselors are the role models you never knew you needed. The camp community extends not only to the campers, but also to counselors who come from across the United States and the globe. The bonds made at camp carry over and solidify throughout the year as counselors travel to visit one another. Because of the friendships formed at camp, counselors know that no matter where their travels take them, there will always be a friendly face to welcome them into their home.
The camp community is so widespread that no matter what camp you attend, there is a commonality that bonds individuals together. Whether it’s the cheers, the campfires, or the athletic competition, the stories of past summers allow for memories to be shared and cherished. Because of camp networking, finding a roommate in college becomes less stressful and allows for a broader circle of friends to be established. Talk of summer camp is the perfect conversation starter as stories about camp are never ending. Each member of the camp community always has a favorite story to tell or lesson learned from their experience at camp.
The Lessons Learned
The strongest connection throughout the camp community is the impact it had on all of our lives. Over the course of a few weeks, camp is able to teach you more about yourself than you would think possible. On one hand, camp reveals your strengths as you build both your athletic and creative skills. On the other hand, camp shows you how to be a friend, a good listener, and a confident leader. Camp has the power to teach you how to be yourself and accept everyone around you with open arms.
My mom has this ritual of asking me about what I learned each day. Sometimes I shrug and say “I don’t know,” and other times I spit out interesting facts about blue whales, Egyptian Pyramids or volcanoes that I learned that day at school. So in the car the day I got home from camp, I wasn’t surprised when she asked me what I had learned while being away. However, she was surprised at my response.
I told her that I learned a lot of new skills that I would never have experienced if I had stayed home. I learned how to play lacrosse and sail. I learned to fish and learned a lot of crazy songs that have been stuck in my head all summer. I learned how to get from one side of camp to the other in the shortest amount of time. I learned how to make the perfect S’more, and I even learned how to paint. I felt like I was learning something new every day.
But in the first few days at home, I kept thinking about other things I learned at camp. Things that were more about character than skill. Things that will help me in life more than knowing the perfect ratio of chocolate to marshmallow on a S’more. When my friend and I had that big disagreement, our counselors walked us through a communication plan that left both of us feeling heard, understood and we walked away with our issue resolved. I learned how to recognize when someone was feeling left out or lonely, and how to bring them into the activity I was doing at the time. I learned how to interact with different people and learned to appreciate differences without judgment. I learned the importance of having true friends who are there for you no matter what, who accept you for who you are, and who are honest and real with you.
I learned quickly that I’m a naturally messy and unorganized person, but that keeping my stuff picked up in areas that I share with others is a sign of respect. I learned to live in close proximity with others and how to respect their personal space. I learned to compromise, to be flexible, and how to manage my time.
I learned that I can function without my cell phone and that not everything fun has to have a screen involved. I learned that without a cell phone, I could focus more on the my experiences rather than getting the perfect shot, choosing the best filter, and then waiting impatiently for my friends to “like” and “comment” on the picture through social media.
I learned a lot at camp. Some of the things are basic skills that are fun to know, while others are fundamental qualities that will set me up for better relationships and experiences for the rest of my life.
If you’re a college student contemplating spending a summer away at camp, you’ve heard it a thousand times: “being a camp counselor is better than an internship”. You’ve also heard a long list of reasons why being a counselor would benefit you; you develop better self-understanding, grow tremendously on a personal level, have a positive and significant influence on the lives of children…the list goes on and on. But has anyone ever told you that being a camp counselor is actually a boost to your resume. Well it’s true! Here are a couple reasons why:
Working at Camp Shows Diverse Interests and Skills
Every accountant knows how to crunch numbers and every doctor knows how to diagnose patients, but what else is required for their jobs? There’s no such thing as a one-dimensional job; in any job employees are required to perform a variety of tasks, and as such, applicants are required to demonstrate a wide range of skills. Camp helps accentuate these diverse skills and interests. While you may gain valuable accounting skills interning at an accounting firm and valuable medical skills shadowing a doctor, you won’t gain the versatility you would while working at camp. Working as a camp counselor requires you to be adaptable, flexible, and resourceful. Interviewers don’t just desire employees with these skills, they seek out camp counselors because of them.
Working at Camp Shows Great Management Skills
Being a camp counselor doesn’t just show you are multi-talented, it also shows that you have great management skills. While most internships place you at the “bottom of the totem pole,” as a camp counselor you are instantly thrust into the action. You are responsible for a group of children who are significantly more unpredictable than any coworker you may ever have. In order to manage campers effectively, counselors must hone their management skills, and they must do it quickly as the summer is a relatively short period of time. But it’s not just managing people, counselors also learn to manage their time effectively and work as part of a group for the greater good; skills that are paramount to most employers.
So in a time when the majority of people are getting internships…differentiate yourself and work at camp. Your future employer will thank you!
Chelsea takes the subway to school every morning. Justin spends his weekends hanging out downtown with his buddies. Evan can walk to movie theaters, restaurants and museums from the apartment where he lives. These city kids spend most of their year surrounded by concrete, honking horns and tall buildings. And that is why they, like so many other kids from big cities, really look forward to coming to camp for a change in their environment.
Camp Laurel is located in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the country. Tucked away amongst tall trees, a gorgeous lake and acres and acres of sprawling green fields, camp is the definition of natural beauty. When you’re here, you can really connect with nature and breathe in fresh Maine air.
The lake is a refreshing place to spend the summer, whether it’s fishing, swimming, stand up paddleboarding, waterskiing or sailing. The view of the lake changes throughout the day and gives off a different feeling depending on the time of day. In the morning, the lake is a quiet and peaceful place to wake up to. In the afternoons, it’s an exciting water playground where campers jump, splash and play all day. And then in the evenings, the lake is a quiet and peaceful place to reflect and unwind. City kids may not get to experience such natural beauty in their everyday lives, making the beauty of camp even more special.
Waking up to a view of tall forest trees is a nice change for kids who are used to the hustle and bustle of a big city. The natural beauty of camp makes for the perfect backdrop to pictures that campers are sure to treasure forever. Waking up each morning and breathing in the crisp Maine air is good for the heart, mind, and soul!
Being immersed in the beauty of Maine is a welcome and unique experience. Spending the summer unplugged from technology, interacting with others and playing games fosters creativity. Once at home, campers have so many more options than their peers who are accustomed to spending long hours in front of the TV, computers and gaming systems. Campers are more apt to play outside with friends, building true relationships and getting exercise.
Camp exposes campers to things they normally wouldn’t see and experience back home. They learn to find excitement and joy in nature, and it awakens something in them that the city just can’t. Spending time outside has been proven to improve vision, encourage social skills, reduce stress and give kids the vitamin D that they need. Who knew spending all day outside at camp is actually good for kids?!
Salmon Rushdie once said “Friendships are the family we make – not the ones we inherit.” Mr. Rushdie must have been a camper because no quote better epitomizes the relationship between camp friends. As anyone who went to camp knows, camp friends become your family before you’ve even realized. And similar to your family, your relationships are like a roller coaster ride. You can hang out and laugh in the cabin one minute and argue over some minuscule issue another; yet through it all you know camp friends are there for you, no matter what
Camp friends are unlike any other friends and help shape who you become as a person. Their significance is immense and immeasurable; here are a few reasons why they are so impactful:
Camp Friends Tell It to You Straight
Whether in moments of frustration or moments of merriment, your camp friends are honest. They will tell you the truth without second thought. This is not because they don’t care, it’s actually the opposite. Your camp friends will point out your weaknesses, but always in a constructive way. They aren’t attempting to hurt your feelings, instead they are trying to help you grow. With their assistance you can begin to turn these weaknesses into strengths and become your best possible self.
Camp Friends Are with You Through It All
Your camp friends have seen you at your best and at your worst. They’ve seen you score the winning goal in an intercamp and they’ve seen you with a cold in the Health Center; and through it all they’ve held your hand, cheered you on, and pushed you in the right direction. It’s easy to be there for someone when things are great, but when things are tough is when camp friends thrive. They know how to make you forget the bad and move forward with the good. As stated earlier, camp friends will take you at your worst and help you turn things around so you can become your best possible self. With them in your corner, nothing can keep you down.
Camp Friends Last Forever
Possibly the best thing about camp friends is that they don’t just make an impact and leave. They are with you through your life, even after you time at camp has ended and continue to help you better yourself. Whether you talk once a day, once a month or even once a year, their loyalty is unmatched. Many even evolve to become your college buddies, travel companions, post graduate roommates and everything in between. They continue to help you thrive in different stages of your life, but no matter what they become, they will always be your camp friends first.
My older brother started going to camp when he was younger, and I remember picking him up at the end of each summer and being so excited to hear all about his experience. I was beyond excited when it was finally my turn to spend the summer at camp… I was ready to experience camp for myself!
I spent my first summer playing sports, swimming, waterskiing, hiking, climbing and making friends. But one summer was not enough. I made it very clear on the drive home that first summer that I HAD to go back next summer, and I would do whatever it took to get back there!
“Why do you want to go back?” my mom asked on the drive home. What a loaded question, I thought. Why wouldn’t I want to go back? I made so many new friends and tried so many new things!
I explained to her that first and foremost, I wanted to go back and see all of my friends. I got to camp and didn’t know anyone, and was a little timid about just walking up to a group of people and introducing myself. But lucky for me, my counselor swooped in and made me feel right at home. He introduced me to other campers who were also there for their first time, and right away we all clicked. Throughout the summer it became easier and easier to make new friends. The other campers in my cabin really became my close friends. We talked a lot, supported each other, and it was nice to be able to look around camp and find a smiling face waving at you to come sit by them. I felt included at camp, and when it was time to go, I was really sad to leave them. Thankfully, we shared phone numbers and email addresses and plan to keep in touch throughout the school year. I can’t wait to see them all again next summer!
I also explained that even though my summer days were packed with fun and adventure, there are still so many things that I didn’t get to try that I really want to. I want to get back to camp to try archery and overnight camping. I want to dabble in some of the more “artsy” programs available at camp, like music production and culinary arts. I want to go back and re-do some of my favorite activities, like waterskiing and tennis. It’s amazing how you can wake up early and go to bed late, spend your entire day on the go, and still not do everything that camp has to offer!
And, as if those things weren’t enough, I told her that I want to go back to camp because it feels like I’m part of something. It’s that feeling of belonging to a team, where everyone looks out for everyone else, where you feel important and included, and where other people support and cheer for you. There is something different about my camp friends and school friends. My camp friends and I have been through something special together. We’ve participated in camp traditions; we have a special bond that other friends just don’t have. I feel like I’m part of something bigger when I’m at camp, and this is another reason why I really want to go back.
My little sister has started counting down the days until she can have her first camp experience, and I know that just like my brother and I, she will have many reasons to return to camp year after year!