Camp Ignites a Fire


Great start to our C-2 / C Session yesterday.  The weather was perfect, good for traveling and dropping off C-2 campers in the cool of our morning.  C campers held sign-ups in the morning just after breakfast and also in the afternoon which was hot and a good excuse to hit the water or the shade of Gwynn Valley.  We are blessed with many things but shade is high on the list.  Biking trails are tree plentiful and have lots of shade as one cranks those pedals over hills and dale.

While C-2 campers got oriented to camp in the morning and early afternoon they still participated in activities later in the day.  Today began our Discovery activities in the AM when working on skills is the priority.  Campers working on skills produce an independence that happens here and campers grow into their camp skin. 

I will never forget when I first started riding my bike to school and my mom and dad walked the route with me several times before I took off one early morning in the Spring.  Their trepidation, I think, fueled my confidence even more as I headed off.  It’s hard as a parent to let go.  The two emotions, parents and child are most of the time vastly different.  We see it at camp as children arrive and literally zoom off to their cabin and feel right at home after that long driveway ends, bags are unloaded, and name tag with the cabin is their ticket to expanding what’s here at camp in relationships, mentors, adventure, new foods, curiosity, and a whole lot more. 

That first day for arriving campers allows them to experience a small taste for the ones new to camp and for those returning, the familiarity of scents and scenes, faces, and memories of past sessions. New campers visited the pool or lake for swim assessments, archery, basketball, tie-dye, camping skills and nature, Thunderball, lake fun, soccer, the Mill, the Farm, and a hike to The Rock to literally cap off their day.  There’s not much time wasted that first day for new campers because these are the times we fuel their confidence by giving them the independence to find their meeting spot with 330 people leaving the dining room.  It’s loud, lots of chatter, and can be intimidating with the exception of staff mixed throughout looking for the “lost look” that is readable on a face a mile away. After dinner, they choose their own after-supper activities (ASA’s) for about 30 minutes. Again lots of leadership to guide and direct those with information overload and too many options to even think about. 

Camp inspires you to try new things, leave your comfort zone, and learn to trust others.  While most of the camp is pretty darn structured and scheduled, we also look for times when children can really get down to what we call unstructured free play.  This is maybe building a dam in one of our many creeks, lying on their backs watching cloud shapes or looking for 4 leaf clovers while a staff member strums on a guitar or perhaps reads a story.  

One of the hopes I have for children who are here is that they get “rewilded”.  This, in my mind, is when they pay more attention to nature around them.  They appreciate the wet grass in the early evening, they chase fireflies, they get dirty, they learn to make friends with the creepy crawlers at camp that don’t exist in their homes, and they sleep like big puppy dogs every night at camp.  Of course, every child gets “rewilded” in varying degrees.  The best part is they are on their own, away from home, and don’t have a screen to entertain them. We’re in a time when a lot of children have been swept up by the “Swift” movement as early as 6 years old and that same star appeals also to those 10 times their age.  The wide breadth and depth of this popularity is contagious and has never been experienced before at such a broad level. This is a conversation I had with our camp doctor, David, the other night, and his observation is not necessarily bad.

My wish for campers is to find a “star” or something to perk their interest in helping preserve our planet as well as preserve and protect relationships with one another, which I would hope reaches that same contagious level.  In a small way camp is a starting block for that.  We are out of the starting blocks strong for this session.  Our Riversiders ran the Nantahala River for the last two days and crushed it.  These campers are in tandem canoes, not forgiving rafts.  Skills, attention to detail, communication with your partner and confidence fuel their bodies as they take on class three rapids. These Riversiders started years ago just like those who arrived today and those who are here for three weeks.  Camp ignites a fire that can add so much to children’s lives.  My life has burned brightly through the many sparks I’ve seen on their first day of camp.  We’re fanning those sparks every day!  Stay tuned!