I was up early, taking my daily power walk with the dog. The sound of the birds, and the drip of water off the buildings reminded me of getting up early to shower when I was a Resident camp counselor at Camp Talooli.
As an elementary school student, I attended a week of camp with a friend. It was simply awful. I really didn't have a positive experience. But when college rolled around, and I needed work, I looked to camps for my summer employment.
It was my friend Nikki that steered me to Talooli. She and her family had been going there since soon after the early cooled (or so it seemed), so I decided to try it. Who knew that this moment would lead to the next eleven summers of my life.
I started out as a day camp/resident camp counselor in 1995. It was the last year of that particular split in schedule. It was also the first year that electricity came to the cabins. I think it was one of the last years of cloth tents in the Ayan campsite. My very first day of staff training I was dumped out of a canoe. There were only three CIT3's that year, one of which was my friend Chelsey.
I worked resident camp for a few summers, then switched to day camp, feeling too old to stay over. I saw changed in schedule, the beginning of the tradition of whistles and beads (I still have my whistle!), regular weekly campfire cooking lessons, the end of afternoon choice activities, the beginning of the weekly cookout, complete with MegaDog parade (if you haven't seen it, you should. It's a spectacular). I spent two years running the art program, one year as a CIT director and then spent the rest of my tenure at Camp as Boating Director.
When I left there in 2005, the camp was mostly staffed by campers that had grown up there, and graduated the CIT program. The Ayan tents were now cabins. There were five activity slots instead of 4. We had a pirate ship, a music program, and the flag field was moved to the ball field. It was a different place, but in many ways it was still the same.
I still keep in touch with many of the staff and the campers that grew up and became staff. It makes me feel amazingly old to see the campers that I had when they were six years old not grown enough to run the camp. I helped kids that were afraid of the dark conquer a night hike. I helped kids that were afraid of drowning get in a boat and paddle it (I usually opened with "I'm not getting wet today, so you might as well come boating with me"). I saw kids transform from bratty kids to confident teen leaders.
So when your kids come to you and ask to go to camp, don't think about it. Say yes. Your child won't die of homesickness. They won't down in the lake or be eaten by a bear. The be changed by their experience. In all the right ways.
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