July 17, 2017
The first days of any new term are awash with energy, excitement and some apprehension. Campers and counselors are forming new friendships, learning traditions and trying new activities.
Even those of us who have been here all summer feel a new burst of energy when we see all these awesome campers.
So let me give you a snapshot of the first day.
We started with flag raising (boys and girls do this separately) and head to breakfast. The morning will include 4 separate activities with a fruit break (nay, a Fruit Frenzy) in the middle. [Note: we have learned that names are important. No one cares about a fruit break, but who doesn’t like a Fruit Frenzy – so that is what we call our fruit break.
We have over 40 activities at camp, so no two days ever look the same. Every camper will get into the water (the lake or pool) everyday, usually twice. They will also do one activity each in Fine Arts, Outdoors and Sports. We want to encourage campers to try new things. Everyone gets a chance to refine skills that are good at as well as explore new options.
We eat lunch around 1 and have a rest period until 3:45. During today’s rest period, we had a short cookie-and-milk plus question-and-answer session with all the new campers. We want them to know that they are part of our family and that we are committed to them feeling comfortable and valued. I am not a great photographer, so please forgive the back-lit documentation of these meetings.
After rest period, we then have an afternoon treat and two more activities before dinner at 6:15.
After dinner, the schedule varies, but we always end with two things: Torchlight (a fun assembly of all the boys and all the girls) and then Nightly Rituals (each cabin gathers to reflect on the day, sharing gratitudes and goals).
Between dinner and Torchlight, we sometimes just have a little hang out time, but other days features a special activity. Today was such a day.
Tonight, we played Abduction. In Abduction, one counselor from each cabin is captured by “zombies” and the remaining counselor and the campers go on a mission to find and free their abducted teammate. As they attempt to do so, the zombies attempt to thwart them with balls (if you are hit, your team must return to a home base). I love watching this game, especially because the “zombies” seem much more proficient at disrupting the older cabins than the little ones. When done well, this ends up being 40 minutes of fun and laughter with everyone finishing within 5 minutes of each other.
At Torchlight tonight, we brought the boys and girls together for a short assembly to wrap up the game. We concluded Torchlight with a short “reintroduction” of a special group of campers, our new Senior Campers. I will write more about the Senior Camper program over the course of the term, but it is our high school leadership program. It is nationally recognized and Susie Ma’am and I have given talks on it over 15 times on three continents.
The campers entering the program this summer just finished the 9th grade and are in the first of 3 summers in the program. While the rest of us had a “normal” day of camp [Note: “normal” is really not an applicable word at camp.], these new Senior Campers had a special retreat to talk about giving back and becoming adults of character. Over the next three weeks, these young people will have their own schedule that includes special activities and meetings in our home. They will also practice service and leadership through a series of tasks, including running our Treat Time every day.
So tonight, we re-introduced them into our community. Below is a photo from the re-introduction that a friend with a fish-eye camera took last session. I share it because the fish-eye does a nice job of showing the full event.
Despite all this activity – Abduction, Torchlight and Nightly Rituals – we rang Taps (alls quiet) at 9:30. Our youngest campers were in their beds, ready for almost 10 hours of rest. The older campers (11 and up) had a little more time to finish brushing teeth and getting to bed, but they too will soon be asleep. After all, we all have a busy day again tomorrow!
PS One of our principal values at camp is respect, so everyone is “ma’am” and “sir” - even the campers. I know this seems odd, but it becomes second nature rather quickly.