Your children are safely in their beds and are safely asleep.  They are ready for a wonderful first full day at Camp Champions.  Counselors have read to the youngest campers.  The older campers met together to talk about the high points of their day and to get to know each other better.

With the day winding down, now seems like a good time to share some thoughts.

I am so excited about the summer we are having and the wonderful campers that arrived today.  Please allow me to talk about both for a moment.

I am in love with our team this summer.  From the directors to the Leadership Team to the counselors to the Fillin’ Station to the nurses, we have a group that is committed, loving and hard-working.

The three week session that ended yesterday was fantastic and showed what this team is capable of.  I think the aspect of this team that strikes me the fact that they are very focused on impacting children while having essentially no ego. When we ask each other for assistance, the assistance comes rapidly and happily.

Perhaps most importantly, they are truly committed to their campers.

I have been thinking about why this team has been working so well and I have come up with several theories.

First, we hired 10 people from England/Ireland/Wales and another 8 from Spain and Mexico.  Having people from different cultures provides variety and also adds different skills and points of view.

Second, we have a great office team.  Everyone in the office this session (all 4 of them) are “camp people”.  In other words, they do not see their work as a job as much as a mission to help families.  As a result, they are providing support and smiles that people see every day.

Third, we required graduates of our Senior Camper program (resent high school graduate who attended 9 weeks of leadership training over 3 years) work two sessions.  In the past, they would often work just one, and that would be the same session they attended for years as a camper or Senior Camper.  As a result, they sometimes felt like they were still campers.  By changing this requirement, we had fewer Senior Camper graduates, but we knew they were all here to be counselors and not simply relive previous fun.

Fourth, we added several new twists to our counselor orientation.  We brought in Scott Brody to help the counselors understand the powerful impact they can have on children.  Scott serves on the National Board of the American Camp Association (ACA) with me and owns a camp in New Hampshire.  We brought in an expert in appropriate interaction from Pennsylvania to make sure our counselors understand how to help children in different situations.  We flew in Niambi Jaha-Echols from Chicago to talk to us about sharing our inner “superheroes” for the campers.  Niambi also serves on the board of the ACA.  We also brought in a group called the Drum Cafe for an hour of team building and fun.  It was one of the high points of the orientation for all of us.

Finally, Leah Ma’am and Erec Sir simply did a fantastic job recruiting.

In short, we hired well and trained well.

All of this combines to make a team focused on helping your child!

I also said that I love seeing the wonderful campers.  Some people assume I mean all the familiar faces.

Of course, I am elated to see the campers who have been coming here for 2, 5, 7, or 10 years.  I have known many of them for over half their lives.  I feel (old guy warning here) like a parent to so many of them.  I see confident 17 year olds that first arrived as unsure, doe-eyed 7 year-olds.  I watch as dear friends race across a field to hug - the 49 weeks apart melting instantly as they embrace.

But I also love seeing the new faces and meeting them and their parents.  New campers inspire me.  What they are doing is kinda scary.  Being away from home for 2-3 weeks is not a typical event.  I see first time campers like adventurers who are embracing a great challenge.  OK, sometimes they are a little worried or homesick, but that just makes sense.  Camp is unfamiliar and home is lovely.

But they soon find their sea-legs and embrace the challenge.  The first summer is particularly rich in growth and confidence.

I also love meeting the new campers and learning their fun and quirky personalities.

One of my favorite experiences is watching the returning campers reach out to their new cabinmates.  The returners love camp and they want to share their enthusiasm with their new cabinmates (friends!)

When we get a chance to see the returners melt together with the first years, we see what camp is really about.

Tonight, we had Counselor Skits and our first Torchlight ceremony (it was a blast - silly, energetic, joyous).  After that, the campers returned to their cabins for some bonding time before going to bed to “Taps” and awaiting tomorrow’s adventures!

Steve SirAltus sunset torchlight

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