June 30, 2017
About 9 years ago, Susie Ma’am and I realized that we were not getting much of the joyful aspects of camp. Sure, we enjoyed Torchlight and Flag-raising and the special events, but our days were less fun. We found ourselves in “problem-solving” mode most of the days, dealing with issues that crept up with campers or counselors.
We were addressing homesick campers and counselors personality issues. If a group of 12 year-old girls were being exclusive or if 2 ten year-old boys got into a pushing contest, we were on the front line.
We, however, were not at the climbing wall when a camper overcame a fear of heights. We did not get to play Uno in the cabins or share jokes with them. We did not know who liked to play pickleball and who preferred tetherball.
Please do not get me wrong, helping campers is our number one priority, but we could not help but think that camp had more problems than it actually had and fewer joyful moments.
Once we realized this, we chose a two-part solution to the situation.
First, we changed how we dealt with camper issues. We committed to addressing all issues as soon as they arose. And we empowered our Leadership Team to be proactive in addressing them. We also decided to solicit insight and advice from parents early in the process. Prior to these changes, Susie Ma’am and I tried to solve most of the problems and we also did not want to “bother” parents with minor incidents.
After thinking about it, we realized that parents appreciate more active communication. Also, they often had very useful insight to address issues when they were merely tremors and had not yet become an earthquake. Since we democratized the parent-communication process, we could also make more calls and address more issues proactively.
As a result, we had fewer challenging issues.
Second, we decided to create “Friendship Games” for girls and “Man Cave” for boys. Friendship Games and Man Cave are one hour cabin meetings that take place in our home. Susie Ma’am meets with every girl cabin and I meet with every boy cabin.
These gatherings give us a chance to share stories and jokes when life is fun and grand. Our joy level went up and we got to spend time with every camper, a true gift for us.
Susie Ma’am and I stack the deck a little to assure that the campers love these meetings. We begin by having them in our home, which makes them feel homey. We also provide slushees, Doritos and Oreos. If you think that we are pandering to your children to earn their love, you would not be far off.
In our defense, we really strive for healthy foods options most of the time. With the exception of s’mores occasionally, we offer fruit breaks every morning and healthy treats in the afternoon. Our food (widely loved by the campers) has become even tastier and more nutritious this year after a year of work and planning by Susie Ma’am and the kitchen team. Our salad bar has 7 fruits (including 2-3 berries) every morning and 16-22 items, ranging from vegetable options to humus to salads (chicken, tuna, cous cous, broccoli) to several cheeses. We serve mixed greens with spinach, not iceberg lettuce. In short, meals can be incredibly tasty and very healthy.
But not Man Cave and Friendship Games. After all, we are 5 times their age. We need every possible tool to assure that they love visiting us.
Susie Ma’am gives the girls questions in fake fortune cookies while I ask the guys to build models out of Legos. Please allow me to share a few examples.
Susie Ma’am had the youngest girls in the house and they wanted to talk about the Pirate Ship (our whimsical ropes course). Susie Ma’am explained that we built it 4 years ago and really love it.
Man Cave (note that the builder spelled out the name in the photo at the start of this blog).
Our cabin meetings bring the fun of camp into our home and make each day better. I just need to steer clear of those snacks!