July 17, 2016
At the end of each session, 8-10 campers ages 13-14 write letters to the camp. They are the nominees for Spirit of the Torch and Bearer of the Torch – the highest honor for a girl or boy camper. The Spirit and the Bearer are not better than anyone else, but is instead simply the persons that our camp community feels best represents our community.
Actually, the meaning of the award is not the point of this blog. I bring it up because I want to share what they wrote in their letters.
These letters do not follow any formal structure. We simply ask them to share any thoughts that they think would be meaningful to the campers. Despite this simple prompt, we often get some deep thoughts. The following is a sample:
“The very first time I came to camp was when I was about six years old. I remember being so excited that I was finally able to go to that place that my big brother had gone to a year back, but I also remember crying a lot the first time. But I came back to camp the following year, and I have continued to come back for now seven years. Slowly, I fell in love with a place that I had no intention of coming back to in the first place. “ -Girl camper for 7 years
“Last year, I was asked what camp means to me and I gave a short answer: camp is being accepted for who you are. Now that I am older, I cannot say that camp is only about acceptance – it is learning how to be your “best form of yourself”, how to trust yourself, and how to love yourself. Once you discover who you really are, camp will embrace you. . . While learning how to love myself for who I am, I notice how much I love people.” -Girl camper for 4 years
“By living without my parents for three weeks, I’ve grown to be more responsible and independent. Camp has helped me become the best version of myself and be that girl not only here, but everywhere I go. “ - Girl Camper for 6 years
“I found my true and best self at Camp Champions. But even more than that, I learned how to bring that person back home. I love that in a place like this, I can be my crazy and weird self and that it is embraced instead of shamed.” -Girl camper for 5 years
“My first year at camp I was real man, and I was terrified at the thought of coming to camp, I was scared of being separated from my parent’s and being around a bunch of strangers for three weeks, but I was welcomed like family running through a counselor tunnel of smiling faces, and my cabin mates who I’d never met treated me like a long lost friend. I’d never felt more at home. “ -Boy camper for 8 years
“The people are what make camp a great place and are the reason why I come back every year. We make this camp a great and special place because of our positivity and our attitude towards it. This camp teaches you lessons and skills that aren’t taught verbally but they are taught through each other’s actions. Camp teaches you how to be a good role model. It teaches you how to work together as a team.” – Boy camper for 8 years.
“When I came here six years ago, I arrived as an excited, but nervous rookie. For the next four years, I enjoyed all of the new freedoms I gained by moving up through the divisions. Of course there were the inevitable ups and downs, but those were the things that shaped me into the man I am today. Coming back for my last year as a camper, I have grown exponentially, and found a new respect for adulthood.” –Boy camper for 6 years.
I am struck by how many of these campers talk about early struggles in their first summers at camp. Some talk about shyness or homesickness while others occasionally mention struggles with cabinmates. But they also stress their growth over time. Each year brought different, but equally important, gifts.
If you are a first time parent, I know that you are focused on getting through the next 2 or 3 weeks. Six or eight years of camp must seem almost unimaginable. But I also know that you hope that camp will help your child grow in confidence and competence. With that in mind, I hope you find these quotes from 8th graders encouraging.
I know I do!