“B” Session Opening and More!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Opening Day for B Session was awesome.  We had cool weather in morning fading in the perfect afternoon to hold swim assessments and get into activities right off the bat.  Everyone attended lunch and then it was off to the Lodge to choose activities for Discoveries this week.   This is important because there is so much offered in the morning and in the afternoon.  Over the course of 6 days of Discovery, they have 4 activities in the morning and two different ones each afternoon.  For those new to GV, morning sign-ups are for building skills and afternoons more for the experience, possibly adding to those skills and trying new things.  activities that were open in Main Camp this afternoon were as follows:   Pottery, Sports, Fine Arts, Mill, Horses, Crafts, Swimming, Camping Skills and Nature, Climbing, and Farm.  Activities just for today were pre-assigned and get children right into the flow and tomorrow we start on the choices they made today.  Afternoon activities vary each day and everyone chooses two one hour activities or one 2 hour activities.  95% of the afternoon activities are one hour.

Tonight’s dinner was noodles and alfredo sauce along with broccoli and salad from our farm and a giant cookie for each table in the dining room.  Campers sit as cabin groups until tomorrow at lunch and then we all go to different tables and you get a chance with folks that are not in your cabin.   After dinner, there were after supper activities and then a camp-wide scavenger hunt for cabins to experience as a group and work on bonding with one another.

Mountainside had their closing ceremony tonight and Anne went up to the MS shelter to honor them and their time at GV.  Several of those campers have been at camp for as many as 8 years.  What a great crew up on Mountainside and also a great staff.  Hat’s off to the staff for putting together such a great session.   We stuck around for the MS skits which you may see tomorrow if you’re an MS parent.  They, as always, were funny and goofy.  You can tell that the overall has group has bonded as well as the cabin and adventure groups.  That is truly what camp is all about.  Thank you for sharing your Mountainside campers with us for the last 10 days.  I think they’ve had a great experience and wonderful adventures.  We look forward to having them back next year either back on Mountainside or in our Riverside program.  Riversiders will spend their second day on the river tomorrow and will head back to the Green for a longer and more thorough moving water experience.

As morning activities kick off tomorrow know that your children are in a place where they are accepted and cared for in partnership with you as parents. This is our 83rd year of camping and many more to follow.  Camp takes children to a new level of community life that is hard to beat.  Campers have a chance to make choices and become independent in their time with us.  Camp creates a sense of confidence and resilience.  Camp also offers a sense of belonging to something that is greater than oneself where we still practice the GV values of simplicity, acceptance, a strong connection to the natural world and in a non-competitive setting.  We’re looking forward to a session of the simple joys of childhood for the days ahead.  Stay tuned!

Farewell to Session A and Video Recap!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our A Session today. We’ve had a wonderful time with your children and will carry lots of good memories from those children that were here for 7 days.  Soon you will receive a link to an evaluation that we are hoping you will participate in.   We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program. During today’s campfire, I forgot to convey that we showed a short recap video at last night’s campfire.  The link can be found below and hope you enjoy!

For those of you that have arrived home, we hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be. We know you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and that the camp experience will become a great memory. Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really benefits from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for sharing your children and a great start to our summer.  Hope to see you next year!

PS   Video Link:  Video Recap – Session A 2018

A Great Session to Start Off the Summer!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It is just after our Friendship Campfire which is always on the last night of the session.  Several cabins are out on the Gatehouse Green watching the sun go down and catching fireflies as they capture the remaining time here with us in the Valley.  It’s been a beautiful last day at camp with sign-ups in the morning and packing along with water fun in the afternoon.

Tonight’s campfire allowed our campers to put on a play about the Tajar as well as a couple of skits and from some of the cabins.  We also recognized those who have attended camp for more than one year and especially those who have been here 4 years or more.  Those attending for 4 years receive a blanket from camp.  Five-year campers get a plaque and we also recognize 8 years and 10-year attendees.  Most of these children come to our longer sessions.  Many of our staff are old campers who have been here 10 to 15 years.  At the end of campfire, we celebrated by showing many of the pictures that you all have been viewing this week as well as a short video.  Our camp photographers Liv, Jacob, and Clair have done a great job of capturing your children over the past 6 days.

Backing up a bit in the day, Mountainside left for their adventures this morning and will be out for two more days returning on Saturday.  This afternoon everyone in Main Camp went to the pool.  It’s a festive affair and lots of fun on a hot sunny day like today. Tonight’s dinner was our traditional pizza night with salad from the garden and pasta for those who were really hungry.  All this was topped off with brownies to die for.

It’s been a great session and the children have made lots of new friends, explored the world around them, and lived in our small intentional community that provides a good bit of nurturing.  As I circulate through camp each day I witness the magic that is played out by those who are experiencing new things for the first time.  I’ve seen children turn from shy to talkative with our table family, show resilience in tackling new challenges, and push themselves in ways that help to raise the bar for future endeavors.  Camp is a stepping stone for life skills and building a sense of confidence in an outdoor world.  All of this has happened without the aid of screens or other distractions in this short session that will end tomorrow.  In an environment created just for them, they’ve learned real life skills, developed self-esteem, and gained a sense of independence and community.  By playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, and becoming part of a camp family, they have created some memorable moments this week.   I call it creating camp DNA.

Tomorrow when you arrive you may go straight to the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a friendship circle in your child’s cabin.  We’ll ring a bell at 11:00 for everyone to gather in the Lodge for our final campfire of the session.  After that you are welcome to stay and have lunch with us around noon or just before.  Safe travels and stay tuned!

A Sunny Tajar Ball Day!

Parents and Friends,

We have some catching up to do and it’s been a wonderful day, starting with a little Tajar Folly or Foolery.  Our ever-present Tajar left his mark by leaving our Downtown GV a little bit in disarray this morning.  There were boats on the Green, paddles spelling out his name, inner tubes scattered about, tables moved to the pavilion, and teacups hanging in the trees.   He’s just being the Tajar and getting ready for his birthday party which was tonight.  More on that later.

Riverside returned to camp today after four days of climbing at Foster Falls in Tenn.  They came back looking rugged and rocky and cleaned up pretty well later on in the day.  The crew had an excellent time as they scaled the many walls around Foster Falls.  Camp is so much fun here but I think anytime we go off site for adventure, it stretches us and we develop a crust or should I say patina that glows with confidence and resilience.  They will be heading out again in a few days on their paddling adventure.

Mountainside will be leaving tomorrow and going in many directions, 5 to be exact.  Bikers will head to Dupont State Forest where over a hundred miles await their rolling thunder.  Paddlers will ply the waters of the Lower Green River near Saluda.  Climbers will ascend into Pisgah to take on Looking Glass Rock.  The Backpackers are headed to Panthertown Valley, a beautiful part of Nantahala National Forest between here and Highlands.  Our Earth Skills crew will tame the wild forests nearby Dupont and have Eden under their feet.  Today was packing day, food checks and general fun at the lake.  They will be returning to camp on Sat. afternoon.

As for Main Camp and all the wonderful children there, we held our last morning Discovery sessions today and had sign-ups this afternoon.  It was a great day with a short shower just before dinner.  Campers are feeling the end is near and for some, it has been the right amount of time.  For others, we are leaving them hungry for more next year.  Each year is so different from my perspective.  Our goal is to provide better experiences each year and while it may seem impossible, it is dynamic in a successful way.  Change and growth are good and it’s difficult to accurately measure.  My method is talking to campers and watching their interactions from day to day.  For campers, there are many places to grow and experience camp life, starting in their cabin, at the table, and in their program areas which are numerous.  Each day you are with different campers and staff and it makes for a broad experience.  I think the great takeaway or outcome from this is building relationships.  While we spend a lot of time having fun and participating in the program, we tend to not pay homage to the day to day aspects of living and participating in a small family like communities.  Communication, collaborative learning, trust, support, a sense of belonging, sharing and getting to know total strangers are just a few areas where campers grow.  Seven days is short, but it does make an impact.

We saw that tonight as we celebrated the Tajar’s Birthday at Tajar Ball on the Athletic Field.  Everyone came in costume and we held our traditional cookout on the Green where all campers and staff assembled for the feast of burgers and dogs with assorted trimmings.  From there it was off to the carnival to participate in a number of games, dessert, and challenges.  There was everything from Face Painting to Hay Rides, and Soccer Shootouts to Water Slides.  I’ll be the first to admit, I’m tired and will sleep very well tonight.

Life at camp goes way too quickly and sessions fly by even faster.  We try to slow things down here and live the simple joys.  Stay tuned for another great day at GV!

Partnering With Others!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another super day at GV brought more sunshine than we anticipated.  It was supposed to rain today but held off till just before the campfire.  It only lasted for about 30 minutes which was nice for our cabins camping out tonight.  They were scattered about over our property in dry and up off the ground camping huts.  Campfires for food preceded the rain and s’mores followed.  Good food served outdoors and topped off with s’mores ends the perfect evening for some who are maybe going on their first campout.  Coming back from a night camping the campers smell like smoke and woods and showers are a welcome way to enter the land of camp civilization again. Tonight, the rest of our cabins were having some cabin bonding time or dancing in the Lodge.  Our wonderful days give way again to the cool of the evening and we topped off the evening with Mountain Dancing.  Debbie played the piano and I called the dances as she played.  We danced the Hokey Pokey, Sasha (a Russian Folkdance) and Going to Kentucky and a Virginia Reel.  There was a lot of laughter and fun had by everyone.

Backing up a bit Day 2 of Discovery went extremely well.  Our staff activity leaders have been knocking it out of the park creating lots of fun and skills for campers trying new things for the first time and getting lots of chances to try and try again.  “I can’t” is replaced with “I can” when campers have staff encouragement as well as from their peers.  We all excel in different ways and at different times.  I think camp brings out the best of “another day of opportunity”.  We see children tackling not only new skills but also working along with others as were our Mountainside paddlers on the lake today.  They were finishing off their mini adventures and paddling tandem canoes, which is all about partnering with your bow or stern person.  When communication and strokes are working together there’s nothing more beautiful to watch than a tandem team on flat or whitewater.  These folks will soon be on the river and using their combined skills to ply the moving waters.

The climber and belayer have the same relationship in that they both depend on one another and communication is key.  Signals and keywords are used to convey what’s going at both ends of the rope.  Partnering with people and animals is possible at camp and nowhere is it truer than at Horseback riding.  Like us, horses can have a mind of their own and we have to be gentle and firm at the same time.  In working with children, we call it discipline with dignity.  I think the same is true with horses and you have to win their respect as you steer and guide them in the ring and on trails.

It’s that time of day when all of camp has wound down.  As one young man said this morning, “I don’t think it took me more than a minute to fall asleep and I didn’t wake until I heard the wake-up bell.  I compare this to a pack of 230 young puppies, playing all day long and just collapsing into deep sleep and dreams of more to come tomorrow.  We hope you have pleasant dreams as well.  Stay tuned!