Dear Parents and Friends,
Tajar Ball has just finished on this beautiful Wednesday night and a few of the older campers are lingering in the Gatehouse field watching the last light disappear behind the mountains. Our view day in and day out is unmatched and we’re so lucky to be at this gem we call Gwynn Valley. As we wind down from the session, tonight was the icing on the cake in the FUN category. Campers come to the Tajar Ball in costume and there’s always a picnic with burgers, dogs, watermelon and all the trimmings. Ice cream and other assorted snacks are served at the Ball which takes place on the soccer field. I will tell you that campers will sleep well tonight after a full day of activity and then the Ball.
It’s been a fantastic second week to our session. One of my favorite places at camp is my table and I’ve been blessed with great table mates for both weeks. Friendships abound at GV and this was witnessed firsthand at table 4 this week. One of my campers brought her “new friend” to our table since hers was closed. At the introduction of Lily’s new friend Liza, I learned they had met at camp in their cabin on the first day and you could tell that there was this instant bonding. Several Leadership Staff were in the office today going through old pictures and pointing out all their old friends they had gone through camp with. More than a few are here as staff and enjoying the friendship and company that was built on many years in the program together. This is truly one of the magical aspects of camp.
It’s been a great week for introducing fun new aspects of camp. Kevin our assistant director for outdoor programs created and built the Jedi Training Center using locusts’ logs, a swinging soft rubber ball on a string and pool noodle bats. It’s a great game and I’ll let your children explain it to you. It’s been a real hit.
Another addition to camp this week has been two Auto Belay systems that we’ve added to our climbing wall. These are mechanical devices that are clipped into the camper’s harness and retracts into a round cylinder as they climb. At any point should they not be able to continue, reach the top of the wall or simply slip, the “True Blue” gently lowers them to the ground. We’ve placed these on our intermediate wall and still teach traditional belay procedures to our beginning climbers. I’ve been looking at these for several years and just had them installed a couple of weeks ago. We researched and prepared our operating procedures and put them into action. Our climbing staff fully tested them for a week before we let campers use them. The Auto Belays allow campers to climb more independently and not hang on the staff belayer when they tire or can’t go further. They spend less time “hang dogging” and more time climbing. It also simulates what real climbing is like and not being too dependent on the belayer to hold you up on the climb. The campers love it and it’s a nice addition to our program.
Being at camp offers so many positives and creates so many good memories. Yesterday I spent the whole day on the Mountainside Biking Adventure. I met them early at their campsite and we spent over 6 hours riding the trails of Dupont State Forest. Great group of kids and a beautiful place to be! It was a hot day but 95% of the trails are in the shade so it was a terrific way to sweat a little on the uphill’s and cool off on the downs. They swam at Wintergreen Falls, had a nice lunch at Grassy Falls and biked almost the length of the park. Several hills were challenging, and we got off our bikes to “scout” our line to the top which was sometimes blocked by rocks and roots. They gave it their all and most of them came very close to riding these technical sections “clean” and no “dabs”. Challenged in their efforts and rewarded with good meals, comradery, nice scenery, and fun experiences, they are stronger for their resilience and grit.
I returned to camp having spent quality time with a small group of our campers and after dinner just walked around camp observing children enjoying the cool active evening after dinner activities. The soccer field was hosting a great game on 9 on 9 with a good many goals scored. Thunderball captured the interest of many campers and they thundered their enthusiasm around its wooden walls. The basketball ball court provided Knock Out for all ages and I loved it when one of our Young Leaders was ousted by a camper half his age. The Young Leader is a good basketball player and I quietly told him it was a good character-building experience. You could tell his pride was hurt. “Nuke em” was on the volleyball court for those not quite ready for real volleyball. And Nine Square was shuttling through players laughing and trying to get out the king or queen in the middle.
We live an active lifestyle and one in which everyone gains. Camp satisfies so many needs and provides so many wonderful experiences throughout the day. I’m sorry to see our session end on Friday. We have more work to do as more campers join our ranks on Sunday. One camper told me at Tajar Ball tonight, “I wish tomorrow would last another week”. I simply said, “I do too”! Stay tuned!