Camp Works

  • Each week I carve out time to sit down, take a deep breath and look back on a week well spent. Some weeks I can’t find the time, and other weeks I struggle to just find the words. Sometimes, my speechlessness is because of exhaustion, but mostly because each week leaves me in awe. I think about the people, the activities and the place, and I always find myself straddling between chalking it up to the “magic of camp”, and giving credit to the incredible intentionality that our staff approaches each week, each day and each conversation. Camp works because we believe in it, we nourish it and because we treat each day like an opportunity to make it the best day.

    At camp, your priorities change. You care less about how you look and what you’re wearing and more about if you can paddle your giant inflatable unicorn to the lifeguard waiting at the Aquaglide, shout out to Emily and Marlee for their valiant attempt that resulted in both of them in the water almost immediately. Exams and grades take a back seat to making sure that everyone had a bus buddy before departing for yesterday’s trip nights to Laser Craze (Oles), Mini Golf (Tsofs) and Ogunquit (Bogs). Clean up scores become the only grade you truly care about and even that is a group project.

    At camp, you learn your worth goes beyond a text or how many likes you get on an Instagram story. The simple fact that our campers have the opportunity to navigate and build friendships without the pressures of social media and phones is, hands down, one of the most powerful benefits of a summer at camp. Our campers disconnect from their devices and plug in to their communities here.  The strength of our greater camp family is elevated by the smaller connections we make. Our campers get high fives from their swim instructor each time they arrive at the pool for I-Swim, a warm smile from the older camper at their mixed table, and they build camaraderie with the bunks they share a chug with no matter the age. Our Tsofim softball team made up for a loss by cheering and singing on the bus ride home from Camp YJ. In no other place in the world do kids have the chance to feel they belong, in so many places, with so many people, over the course of just one day. That builds confidence and self-esteem and at the end of all of this, that’s why we’re here.

    At camp, you learn that you’re in this together. With the biggest grin on his face, shirt soaked and sweat dripping from his chin, a camper, Ben, looked at me as he responded to a bunkmate’s request for air conditioning by saying “but that’s what camp is about – suffering in our sweat together.” Campers are learning to navigate conflict, even if it is just who’s next on the step ball court, how to ask for help and how to offer it to a friend in need. First-time campers are learning how to cope with a new routine, while Bunk 5A and 5B have officially/finally mastered the art of clean up, and we are all blown away by their absolutely spotless bunks and the consistency of everyone’s involvement…it certainly takes a village to keep a bunk of middle school boys clean.  Camp was buzzing about our inaugural animal raft races yesterday. Teams were assessing the strategy, positioning and paddle technique that should be used to optimize results. Alex and Jordan, despite asking for my help in getting them positioned on the float, responded to one of my suggestions with a very passionate “we don’t care about comfort, we care about winning this thing”

    At camp you learn to appreciate the little things. Red, white and blue cupcakes on the 4th of July, Bunk Night spent doing your counselors’ make up outside of Bunk 9, a s’more made for you by a new buddy, Bunk 4 watching Jumanji on the big screen, Bunk 8 deep frying EVERYTHING in the kitchen for bunk night, and an impromptu Zumba session during free play. At camp, our focus shifts and we zoom in on what’s really important; spending time together in a place that we cherish. Free Play, after dinner, is always one of my most favorite times of day. I always compare it to what my neighborhood was like growing up from after school until dinner time. Lots of different groupings, scattered throughout campus, some kids taking walks, others sitting lakeside, chatting with a friend. Camp can be so non-stop, having that time to unwind and enjoy just soaking it all in, is always a necessary reminder of how lucky we are to be here.

    Camp works because of the incredible staff who put their everything into each day, and because of the campers that make it all worth it. Camp works because of all of you. Behind the July 4th fireworks, and the field trips, and Water Carnival, and 4th period yoga with our new amazing instructor Sharon, and pool parties and dance parties, stands a community comprised of some of my most favorite people in the world. At camp, your child finds caring adults that they know love and care for them outside of their immediate family. In their counselors, they find confidantes, in a department head, they find a coach, in their head counselor they find a role model and in the oldest campers they find a big sibling to look out for them. Our Big Little Night on Sunday was the perfect example of the power of our relationships at camp. In just ten minutes, our youngest campers met their new buddies and were instantly swept into the excitement of the evening. Daniel taught Adam how to floss, Abby and Ariel made each other friendship bracelets and every nook and cranny of camp was filled with new friendships and smiles.

    Camp works because we are invested in making it work. Our campers have the chance to wake up each morning next to their best friends, take risks, make memories, and be their best selves – all while tucked under the blanket of knowing it was their parents who sent them there, the people who love them most.

    Thank you and Shabbat Shalom from Sunset Lake!

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