Every Inch of Camp

  • I was 12 years old the first time I saw Tel Noar. We were one of the visiting teams for the girls’ basketball tournament and we arrived screaming cheers, hair braided in double french braids, adorned in our beloved Pembroke purple. Our bus pulled in front of the office, unloaded, and we found a shady spot as we waited to find out who we’d be playing first. I remember standing on the road adjacent to the basketball court, looking around, and thinking “This is IT?”. Flash forward 17 years later, and 7 summers spent here, and that’s the same spot I begin every prospective family tour, only now, I stand there and proudly say “Look at ALL of this.”

    I look around now and I don’t just see a softball field, but I remember the double Jake hit during the Tevya game day this morning. I don’t just hear the noise of camp, but I listen for the joy of seven blissful weeks spent without the pressures of the school year. I don’t just see the gym stage, I tear up thinking about how proud I was watching our Ole and Tsof campers perform their hearts out in the Jungle Book last night. The dance platform isn’t just a platform, it’s the foundation for campers to try something new. The road isn’t just the way to the Bunk Area, it’s a path to friendship, independence and lifelong memories. Your mixed table isn’t just where you eat, it’s the family you competed in Table Wars with on Wednesday. Every sunrise is a fresh start and each sunset over the Dining Hall is the end to another eventful day at camp. Every inch of this place, and every memory made here, is filled with passion, steeped in excitement and hung out on the lines of every bunk to soak up the summer sun.

    Every inch of camp is special and every moment to share that is savored by our campers and counselors alike. The opportunity to welcome 55 potential families to experience Prospective Family Day is always one of the best days of the summer. The day was filled with some CTN favorites…tie dye, s’mores, a pool party and of course, Zumba. Almost 40 of our current campers volunteered to spend their afternoon getting to know future campers, showing them the ropes, and introducing them to CTN tradition. The compassion and thoughtfulness that even our youngest campers demonstrated as they acted as “mini” counselors for the day never, ever, ever ceases to amaze me. I end the day exhausted, but filled with gratitude for the community that embraces everyone.

    I get to see the power of community in each interaction, activity period and in every day at camp, but it’s even more validating of the permeating impact of the kindness that exists here when visitors get to experience it. Avoda was one of the camps that joined us on Monday for our Junior Boys Basketball tournament, and we were lucky to welcome the team and their director, Ronni, for the day. She was blown away by the care and attention that one of her campers, who was sick, received not only from our Health Center staff, but from every camper, counselor and even kitchen staff who noticed the camper as they passed by him. She was effusive in her compliments and so appreciative of the warmth and care the team was shown during their time with us. While we didn’t fare too well in the tournament itself, the demonstration of empathy and sportsmanship was even more of a win.

    On Tuesday night, as bunks spread out throughout every corner and covering every inch of camp, groups experienced their final Bunk Night of the summer. Bunk 1 had a “boys night in”, complete with mustaches, root beer, card games and hair drawn on their chests with marker. Bunk 11 and 3 had a mini social with slush and popcorn. Bunk 9 did a cook off. Bunk 18 built forts and watched a movie. Every space and every area of camp was utilized in a creative way to provide a unique, bunk-centric experience for our campers. And then I had one of those moments. One of those out of body, how-is-this-real-life/what-is-camp type moments. They happen a few times each summer and they’re often the highlights of weeks here. I stood outside of Kevin’s head counselor porch on the road and watched 25 blindfolded Bunk 5 boys line up in perfect silence, hands on shoulders, in front of their bunk. At the same time, 24 Bunk 14ers were being lined up in a similar manner and led through the Area heading in my direction. Both bunks quiet, a bit excited and a little nervous for what was to come. And then a whistle blows, my head turns, Bunk 4 rounds the corner and 30 boys in a steadily moving, single file line come Indian sprinting down the road with their counselor, Aki, at the helm. Such contrasting experiences, happening in the same space, at the same time, with very different goals and very productive outcomes.

    Tel Noar is small, so every inch of camp is occupied if not by campers, by memories from this summer and prior years. We fill each day with activity and each hour with fun (and of course, food) and Wednesday’s line up qualified it as my favorite of the week. Omelet Bar breakfast, taco lunch and Chinese food for dinner. It doesn’t get any better than that. But then it does and your bunk (2), counselors and head counselors tell you you’re doing dinner on the lake. At CTN, counselors are willing to go the distance to make sure our campers can measure their time here in fun. Lila ran 247 “back and forths” on the beach with Zack and Avner. Our 24-3 Bog softball loss (yikes!) was made up for by the cheers and encouragement from coaches and friends. Tsof campers danced in the rain for three straight hours during our first rainy day. Bunk 8 beat Bunk 7 at the first round of competition in the Bog Olympics. Our space is intimate and our time may be limited, but we take advantage of every moment here in Hampstead.

    We are small but mighty, and there’s nothing that makes me love this place more than the fact that every inch of camp, every bench and table, every tie dye hanging to dry, and every basketball lost in the woods, and tennis ball stuck on the roof, and every boat and kayak and canoe and paddleboard, and every camper at CTN, tells a story. One of adventure and friends and countless late nights filled with both of those things. Every inch of this place continues to leave me in awe, and I know how lucky I am to be able to experience so many First Session memories in this perfect little place with your most prized possession. Thank you, thank you, thank you and Shabbat shalom!

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