The Simple Joys of Childhood

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What a great day here at camp.  The weather couldn’t have been better with lots of sun and a brief shower right before dinner tonight.  I spent the morning visiting program and checking out all the activities from morning Discovery.  With the good weather also comes the enthusiasm that goes along with that.  Climbing was flashing at the Wall and the Trees both morning and afternoon.  Mountainside was also at the Wall today along with Main Camp.  In the afternoon, Main Camp moved to our dear Hemlock Trees to feel what it might be like as a squirrel or bird perched 65 feet on a limb in a beautiful hemlock.  It was a great day for being up high and scanning the Blue Ridge Mountains off to the west.  The Brookside mountain bike skills area also captured much interest as did the Blacksmithing Hut just off the biking trail.  When you’re at camp you can always hear the banging of the hammers against the anvils set up for our young blacksmiths.  There’s work going on when those hammers ring.  Even though the heavy dew from the night wet the ground, soccer was full-on as well as basketball and other sports like Nine Square and Thunderball.

Water not falling from the sky was felt in the lake, pool, and creeks as everyone enjoyed the warmth of the sun as campers boated, swam, and played in the water around GV.  The Watermat or “Scream Machine” was fully turned on today.  It’s simply a giant water pad that can support the weight of many campers. They all wear PFD’s and have a blast on top and around the “Mat”. I’ve developed a small cadre of canoeists this session from Chestnut Hollow, Firefly Cove, and Running River.  These nine dedicated paddlers have taken on one of the hardest tasks at camp – tandem canoeing.  The learning curve is tough but once you start to get it the fun begins.  Kayaking always attracts a lot of kids and early on it’s easier to control the boat.  Most campers don’t like to be still attached to their kayak when they turn over so that eliminates a few.  It’s much easier when you turn over a canoe – you just fall out.  This crew is working toward a possible river trip next week so we’ll see how they progress with lake skills.

Tonight was what we call Twilight Play which is really an added period of program that we throw in after dinner.  It’s a full hour to pursue many activities and yet another chance to take in the magic of GV.  I was with young campers at the Tower Swing by Choice which is so much fun.  Campers are clipped in with a chest and regular harness to the Swing.  They are hauled up by their buddies who are also participating by pulling on the haul rope.  When the “flyer” says stop the haulers stop and the flyer releases the knot that holds the haul line and so begins the giant swing. It’s a thrill and we ran everyone through the Swing twice which means no nervous campers unwilling to pull the release cord.  They had a blast.  

We’ve been espousing the virtues of program but camp life really starts in the cabin and works outward.  That’s one reason we hold what we call “Open House” in each cabin every session.  That’s when a leadership team member visits the cabins to meet with just the campers.  It’s a great way to ensure that your child’s experience in the cabin is a good one and to make sure that the counselors are doing a good job.  We visit with the cabin group for about half an hour and talk about a lot of things: their counselors, what they are looking forward to, favorite activities, how they are getting along, and many other topics.  It provides good insight into their life at camp and how it’s going.

There are lots of checks and balances at camp.  We have lists, roles, check-ins, meeting spots, roll calls, buddy systems, and other ways of supervision and guidance during our busy days.  The structure is never heavy but underpins the organized chaos that camp is.  With that organized chaos should come fun, learning, and many chances to build relationships throughout the camp experience.  It’s life outdoors, without screen time and the focus is on “the simple joys of childhood”.   We all need this!