Camp Helps a Child Develop a Powerful Identity


We awoke this morning to rain and thunder which passed over us by 8:00 just in time for campouts to return to camp for breakfast. As we made our way to the dining room, the campers noticed all sorts of the Tajar’s folly with all kinds of pranks in downtown GV.  There were so many things moved and out of place we hardly knew what day it was and where we were.  A table from the dining room was in front of the building.  Tubes from the lake were all over the Green, bicycles were in strange places, one even hanging from the basketball hoop.  Folks had different name tags on and didn’t even know it and of course the word Tajar was spelled out on the Green with kayak paddles. The wildest folly was in the dining room where the SITs were asleep in tubes from the lake and one was even on a paddle board on top of a table!  Despite all his folly we made it through another wonderful day at camp intact and just ended on a great Tajar Ball note.  More on that later.

I spent some time today with climbers who were in Main Camp Climbing and taking on our two Arborist trees.  Arborist climbing is very different from tree or tower climbing here at camp and originally was used to access trees without spiking the trunk or limbs.  It’s an environmentally friendly way to get up into trees.  Through a series of knots and hitches you literally climb the rope you’re hanging on and inch your way up like a silkworm.  It’s a strenuous workout for legs and arms but you’re able to hang freely while climbing and 98% of the time making no contact with the tree.  

I followed the bikers on their Discovery this morning on a trail ride throughout camp.  We have differing trails that wind through, over, and up some of the single track here on the property.  This was the B group’s last day of Discovery and they were going for it.  The Mill made ice cream this morning and of course everyone was happy about that.  What child doesn’t want ice cream at about 11 AM?! Campers were continuing their marbling, weaving, and pottery in arts and crafts.  

Several special events took place today and one was the release of the baby calves.  All summer long they have been cared for and bottle fed twice each day by our campers.  Today was the day they were set free to go into the big field.  It was in essence graduation day at the farm.  A slew of campers and staff took their lead lines and walked them to the entrance of the field.  Some bounded away kicking their heels up and frolicking along the way while others were hesitant and weren’t quite sure what they were getting themselves into.  Keep in mind these babies were born back in late April and early May.  The whole affair reminded me of opening day of camp when some campers just can’t wait to get to their cabins while others are a bit reluctant with their parent’s parting and saying good-bye.

Today was a good day to try something new in the afternoon which is always possible during sign-ups. Some chose to sun paint, others went to blacksmithing, some climbed, biked, while others went on a trail ride. Cabins can go tubing in the afternoons and  one cabin went today.  Our tubing run is about 2.5 miles and we take out across the road on the Hunt Farm. Campers are in tubes and we also take a raft for safety which sometimes acts as a tug boat for the little yellow tubes floating behind like ducklings.  With the recent increase in rainfall it was a quick and fun ride down the flat French Broad near camp.

Our Riverside and Mountainside groups all rolled back into camp today at various times after spending 4 days out in the field. All had stories to share and successful and fun adventures. I always love to see them driving into camp, waving, honking, and excited to see their friends and share their tales. They all weathered a storm or two, hiked, paddled, climbed,and biked a lot, and learned new adventure and camping skills, all while growing in confidence. 

As the dinner bell rang tonight, everyone showed up in costume to celebrate the Tajar’s birthday.  There was a cookout complete with burgers, hotdogs, chips, all the trimmings, watermelon, pasta salad, and beans.  That was just the beginning of a food fest.  It was a beautiful day and evening for the Tajar Ball and it was loads of fun. There were games of many different varieties including minute challenges, pyramid ping pong ball challenge, balloon darts, the shell game, pong bowl, soccer shootout, football toss, slackline, waterslide, hay ride, giant bubbles, swurfer swing, face painting, tin can topple, corn hole, fortune telling, and guess the # of M&M’s.  Some of the campers just camped out at the Waterslide which is like a big jungle slip and slide that ends in a big splash pool.  As a cameraman you can’t stand too close to that pool. There was also ice cream and cookies if you didn’t eat enough dinner.  There will be some tired campers tomorrow because after a full day we also went hard until 8:30 this evening playing and having fun.

Camp helps a child develop a powerful identity which makes children feel confident in front of others and provides them with something genuine to like about themselves. A child may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when they sing, but chances are that a good camp counselor is going to help a child find something to be proud of that they can do well. The camp experience not only helps the child discover what they can do, it also provides them with an audience that shows appreciation. With all the activities and experiences that Gwynn Valley offers, there are many experiences that provide the inertia that propel children in positive ways and are stepping stones for life’s skills. 

Tomorrow morning is the last day of sign-ups and in the afternoon we’ll be packing our bags and going for sessions at the lake and pool.  We have another wonderful day of opportunity, fun, and the “simple joys” coming up. We will be sad to see our session and summer come to an end.