It’s hard to believe that the summer has come and gone and things are already shifting to prepare us for the next amazing camp season. For any Kippewa staff reading this, you most likely remember that a valuable piece of our orientation is discussing the measures at which some parents go through in sending their children away for three and a half weeks every year. That notion also touches on the value that staff have in terms of cultivating relationships with one another and welcoming these wonderful campers who come to be part of our home. Sending children away and in some cases, very far away, can be daunting for both parents and children. But what happens when the child returns from that summer experience? What are they bringing back to their families? What are these families now gaining from hearing about the child’s experience? The after-effect of camp is also very valuable in terms of how the camp experience stays with us all well beyond the time we are there. Below is a letter written by a former camper who now has three kids who attend a camp in Virginia. This is from her perspective after her children have returned home. You can see the original article here
Dear camp counselor,
September is here. Backpacks are packed, pencils sharpened, and yellow school buses wait at the corner. Orange and brown leaves are starting to cover our yard and the sun is coming up later and going to bed sooner. Alas, summer is officially over.
Despite the excitement and energy that surrounds a new school year, there is one bit of summer that lingers in our house; one topic that resurfaces at the dinner table, in the car, and at bed-time. Of everything my kids did and experienced this summer (and it was a lot) the one subject that comes up again and again is camp.
While you camp counselors have returned to your college dorms and apartments or your regular jobs, my children are still singing those same songs 100 times in a row, re-enacting that silly skit and arguing over who gets to play what part, and trying to teach their school friends how to play spit and color tag .
Out of 12 weeks of summer vacation they only spent two with you, but they are the two weeks that live on in our house. And sure, they did some pretty cool stuff at camp. I mean, who wouldn’t remember a week canoeing down the Shenandoah River, horseback riding on the Appalachian Trail, or an afternoon of caving? But really, in the midst of the stories and the songs and the laughter, what I hear most are your names.
I hear stories told over and over about how Jake did this, or Sarah said that. My kids will say to each other, “remember when Dan and Tori did that skit?” and bust out laughing while trying to explain it to me (for the 78th time) and I still won’t get it, but they will laugh hysterically anyways. Then they’ll ask, “Mom do you think Nick/Julie/Dalton/Jayme will be my counselor next year?”
Your names are spoken with a tone of admiration, love, and familiarity as if you’ve been in their lives forever, not someone they just met in June. You are the coolest/funniest/smartest/nicest/craziest person they know. And I get it. I was a camper for 7 years, and thought the same thing about my counselors. Twenty-five years later and I’m still friends with some of my camp counselors, and probably my biggest regret is never getting the chance to be one of you.
Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp – campers with counselor winning the golden broom Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp counselors
But, as awesome as I thought my counselors were when I was a camper, as a parent I have an entirely new perspective. And I’ve come to one simple conclusion: y’all are insane! You spend eight weeks in a row where every waking moment is dedicated to caring for other people’s children! I mean really. I love my kids, but after 5 days of them being home with me I am secretly re-setting the clocks three hours ahead and trying to convince them it’s bed time at 5 o’clock.
It’s not just that you spend all this time with these kids, but you are constantly doing all these things! Like outdoor, in the heat, constantly moving things! You take them hiking and swimming, canoeing and climbing. You play games in open fields where bugs fly up your nose and in your eyes. You have to oversee ten 9-11 year old boys cooking their own dinner over an open fire, in the woods for crying out loud! I can’t even get my 9 year old son to put his plate in the dishwasher!
And after all of that hiking, and swimming, and cooking, and playing, you sit with them on the porch and wave away the gnats as you tell them about God’s hand in everything they did that day. You patiently answer their questions, overlook their foolishness, and hug the ones who miss home. Then you remind them, five more minutes till the flashlights have to be out. Because you are the last to sleep and the first to wake. And you do it all over again the next day…and every day for 8 weeks straight. Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
But you know the part that gets me the most? It’s that when I picked my kids up at the end of week 8, you had just as much energy and joy as I saw in you back in week 2. And because no one ever became a camp counselor to get rich, I know that joy and energy must be because camp is in your soul. It is inside of you and fills your heart and overflows into the space around you. It’s contagious. My kids have caught it. Camp is inside of them. Not just while they are there for those two weeks, but every day throughout the entire year.
Yes, y’all are insane. Beautifully, wonderfully, certifiably insane. And I, for one, am so very thankful for it.
A former camper-turned-mom of three lucky campers
Camp is something that comes home with us. It’s cherished by campers who pass that along to their families, and it’s also cherished by the staff who do put in so much effort to create a safe an fun space to live in for weeks at a time. It’s amazing how such an experience can go full-circle and never really end. And you don’t just have to be a camper to relate to that notion. I want to share a few thoughts written by some Kippewa staff members about what camp means to them:
“The biggest thing that makes Kippewa “Kippewa” is that the girls here can truly be themselves. No matter what walks of life or backgrounds the campers come, they can come to Kippewa and be whoever they want to be. Every person, camper, and counselor alike, is accepted and celebrated for who they are!”
– “I love how close everyone gets. I believe some of the friends I’ve made at camp will be friends for years to come.”
– “Kippewa is a place where you can definitely be yourself. It is a place where I don’t think about all the stresses at home. I give everything I can to make their experience as special as I can. ”
– “Kippewa is a unique place through its traditions and ultimately the kids. It wouldn’t be a camp without the kids. Everyone brings so many different personalities and everyone kind of reflects on each other. It feels like home the very first moment you step foot in camp.”
– “I think the people and traditions are what make Kippewa “Kippewa.” While the camp grows and time changes, Kippewa would just be another camp without all the things they campers hold dear.”
– “The kids bring such life to the camp. Kippewa has such spirit that cannot be put down!”
– “Love. It is one big family where the kids are proud to be themselves because they know that whatever that is, they are loved for it.”