As a kid, I was fortunate enough to attend summer camp. I started with the JCC day camp and went on to the overnight camp. My mom had gone there too, which I thought was pretty cool. A few of my good friends from school went to camp with me, and I made such special friends from outside the area, I thought for sure we’d be “friends forever.” We didn’t have computers at that time– e-mail, texting, and facebook were unheard of –so we depended on regular letters that we actually wrote by hand and put into envelopes with stamps for the post office to deliver! Cool thing now, though, is that we really can be “friends forever” with facebook, even though we lost touch for some years since camp. It has been exciting to rekindle friendships over the internet- not quite the same as living in a cabin together with no running water (yes, that’s the kind of camp I went to as a kid!), but a great opportunity to catch up regularly.
I loved camp so much, that I spent several summers on staff at that same day camp and overnight camp, in addition to working at the youth group camp I had attended as an older teenager.
For six years now, my own kids have had a special home away from home each summer. They started in day camp as well, but I was the camp director and we lived there – it was on the grounds of teen leadership overnight camp. Now they attend a “sister” camp, which is overnight. I am the drama director there – so I still get to be at camp every summer! And my kids get to ignore me if they so choose… which my older one often does, but they’ve also both been in a show I’ve directed there!
This photo includes Zeke as a member of the barbershop quartet in the Music Man:
We have had the opportunity to visit camp and camp friends during the off-season as well. We’ve attended family retreats in the winter time, camp reunions, and just returned from a weekend out of town at a camp friend’s bat-mitzvah. It’s such a joy to see the summer buddies just as close outside of that environment. The bonds are really strong.
This picture below is of Sian with his Maccabiah (Color War) team:
No matter what team they are on, the kids that share a bunk root for each other and really don’t bring the competition “home” with them. It’s a few days of intense bonding with kids from different units, and exploring activities around camp they might not spend much time doing otherwise. Color war comes at the end of the summer, which is exhausting, but a welcome break from the regular routine, and a great opportunity to build camp spirit.
At our camp, kids are able to connect or re-connect with their Jewish identity. They automatically have a place where they belong; they’re in a community of people that have similar beliefs even if they practice differently. Incorporating Jewish values into daily camp activities, kids learn about ethics in general and how to incorporate these things into their every day lives throughout the year.
So much happens at camp. Kids become independent and compassionate, they learn to appreciate and take care of the great outdoors, they become swimmers, and often try something they had never dreamed of doing in their lifetime. Often times, sibling relationships are strengthened through the camp experience, and other mentors are discovered. At camp, kids learn to put electronics aside and actually engage in activities with others…and living with each other, they learn to accept people’s differences. Kids can be themselves – truly themselves – and develop a level of confidence that stays with them once they leave the camp gates. At camp, kids can shine.
The following photos are of Zeke on the 4th of July at our annual carnival and Sian playing drums with a camper band at our annual music festival: