Camp Laurel South Blog

Learning to Lead

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others” – John Quincy Adams

img_2452From the moment you wake up at camp until the moment you fall asleep, you have countless opportunities to inspire, encourage, support, love and empower those around you. At any given second, you have the chance to be a leader by serving others. Whether they need advice, an extra hand or just someone to listen, when you go out of your way to help others, that is a characteristic of a leader.

You don’t have to be a camp counselor to be a leader. You can lead by actively participating, being honest, showing good sportsmanship, acting with dignity and being kind to others. You never know who is watching and there is usually a good chance that a younger or new camper is watching. It is important to do the right thing, even if nobody is watching. This is another true characteristic of a leader.

Although everyone has the opportunity to become a leader every day, some will be trusted with a valuable role to lead others. As a Camp Big Brother or Camp Big Sister, you can help younger and less experienced campers get a feel for camp. It’s a very big responsibility to be a mentor to someone else, and campers take it very seriously. They take the younger campers needs and wants into consideration and help make their adjustment to camp easy. They know that being a leader is not about them, it’s about building up and encouraging those who follow them.

dsc_6221Camp counselors get a unique opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills at camp. Not only are they responsible for day-to-day activities, organizing events, and making sure everyone is safe – they are also role models. The way they talk and think and act is being watched by hundreds of eyes every day. They lead by example, showing kindness and patience to everyone around them. They empower others by encouraging them to do things they are afraid to do, standing by them when they fall down and offering a hand to help them back up. Many campers say they look up to their camp counselors, and strive to be a counselor themselves one day.

When campers and counselors return home after the summer, they put the leadership skills they learned at camp to use. They have an easier time standing up to peer pressure, they speak up to bullies, they follow directions in class and show good sportsmanship on the field. They are leaders in every aspect of their lives, because of what they learned at camp.

The Beauty of Camp

cover-photo-7 Chelsea takes the subway to school every morning. Justin spends his weekends hanging out downtown with his buddies. Evan can walk to movie theaters, restaurants and museums from the apartment where he lives. These city kids spend most of their year surrounded by concrete, honking horns and tall buildings. And that is why they, like so many other kids from big cities, really look forward to coming to camp for a change in their environment.

Camp Laurel South is located in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the country. Tucked away amongst tall trees, gorgeous lakes and acres and acres of sprawling green fields, camp is the definition of natural beauty. When you’re here, you can really connect with nature and breathe in fresh Maine air.

The lake is a refreshing place to spend the summer, whether it’s fishing, swimming, stand up paddleboarding, waterskiing or sailing. The view of the lake changes throughout the day and gives off a different feeling depending on when you are. In the morning, the lake is a quiet and peaceful place to wake up to. In the afternoons, it’s an exciting water playground where campers jump, splash and play all day. And then in the evenings, the lake is a quiet and peaceful place to reflect and unwind. City kids may not get to experience such natural beauty in their everyday lives, making the beauty of camp even more special.

social-media-8Waking up to a view of tall forest trees is a nice change for kids who are used to the hustle and bustle of a big city. The natural beauty of camp makes for the perfect backdrop to pictures that campers are sure to treasure forever. Waking up each morning and breathing in the crisp Maine air is good for the heart, mind, and soul!

Being immersed in the beauty of Maine is a welcome and unique experience. Spending the summer unplugged from technology, interacting with others and playing games fosters creativity. Once at home, campers have so many more options than their peers who are accustomed to spending long hours in front of the TV, computers and gaming systems. Campers are more apt to play outside with friends, building true relationships and getting exercise.

Camp exposes campers to things they normally wouldn’t see and experience back home. They learn to find excitement and joy in nature, and it awakens something in them that the city just can’t. Spending time outside has been proven to improve vision, encourage social skills, reduce stress and give kids the vitamin D that they need. Who knew spending all day outside at camp is actually good for kids?!

The Impact of Camp Friends

Salmon Rushdie once said “Friendships are the family we make – not the ones we inherit.” Mr. Rushdie must have been a camper because no quote better epitomizes the relationship between camp friends. As anyone who went to camp knows, camp friends become your family before you’ve even realized. And similar to your family, your relationships are like a roller coaster ride. You can hang out and laugh in the cabin one minute and argue over some minuscule issue another; yet through it all you know camp friends are there for you, no matter what

Camp friends are unlike any other friends and help shape who you become as a person. Their significance is immense and immeasurable; here are a few reasons why they are so impactful:

_mg_4223Camp Friends Tell It to You Straight

Whether in moments of frustration or moments of merriment, your camp friends are honest. They will tell you the truth without second thought. This is not because they don’t care, it’s actually the opposite. Your camp friends will point out your weaknesses, but always in a constructive way. They aren’t attempting to hurt your feelings, instead they are trying to help you grow. With their assistance you can begin to turn these weaknesses into strengths and become your best possible self.

Camp Friends Are with You Through It All

Your camp friends have seen you at your best and at your worst. They’ve seen you score the winning goal in an intercamp and they’ve seen you with a cold in the Health Center; and through it all they’ve held your hand, cheered you on, and pushed you in the right direction. It’s easy to be there for someone when things are great, but when things are tough is when camp friends thrive. They know how to make you forget the bad and move forward with the good. As stated earlier, camp friends will take you at your worst and help you turn things around so you can become your best possible self. With them in your corner, nothing can keep you down.

week-3-favorites-75Camp Friends Last Forever

Possibly the best thing about camp friends is that they don’t just make an impact and leave. They are with you through your life, even after you time at camp has ended and continue to help you better yourself. Whether you talk once a day, once a month or even once a year, their loyalty is unmatched. Many even evolve to become your college buddies, travel companions, post graduate roommates and everything in between. They continue to help you thrive in different stages of your life, but no matter what they become, they will always be your camp friends first.

I Return to Camp Because…

cover-photo-6 My older brother started going to camp when he was younger, and I remember picking him up at the end of each summer and being so excited to hear all about his experience. I was beyond excited when it was finally my turn to spend the summer at camp… I was ready to experience camp for myself!

I spent my first summer playing sports, swimming, waterskiing, hiking, climbing and making friends. But one summer was not enough. I made it very clear on the drive home that first summer that I HAD to go back next summer, and I would do whatever it took to get back there!

“Why do you want to go back?” my mom asked on the drive home. What a loaded question, I thought. Why wouldn’t I want to go back? I made so many new friends and tried so many new things!

I explained to her that first and foremost, I wanted to go back and see all of my friends. I got to camp and didn’t know anyone, and was a little timid about just walking up to a group of people and introducing myself. But lucky for me, my counselor swooped in and made me feel right at home. He introduced me to other campers who were also there for their first time, and right away we all clicked. Throughout the summer it became easier and easier to make new friends. The other campers in my cabin really became my close friends. We talked a lot, supported each other, and it was nice to be able to look around camp and find a smiling face waving at you to come sit by them. I felt included at camp, and when it was time to go, I was really sad to leave them. Thankfully, we shared phone numbers and email addresses and plan to keep in touch throughout the school year. I can’t wait to see them all again next summer!social-media-17

I also explained that even though my summer days were packed with fun and adventure, there are still so many things that I didn’t get to try that I really want to. I want to get back to camp to try archery and overnight camping. I want to dabble in some of the more “artsy” programs available at camp, like music production and culinary arts. I want to go back and re-do some of my favorite activities, like waterskiing and tennis. It’s amazing how you can wake up early and go to bed late, spend your entire day on the go, and still not do everything that camp has to offer!

And, as if those things weren’t enough, I told her that I want to go back to camp because it feels like I’m part of something. It’s that feeling of belonging to a team, where everyone looks out for everyone else, where you feel important and included, and where other people support and cheer for you. There is something different about my camp friends and school friends. My camp friends and I have been through something special together. We’ve participated in camp traditions; we have a special bond that other friends just don’t have. I feel like I’m part of something bigger when I’m at camp, and this is another reason why I really want to go back.

My little sister has started counting down the days until she can have her first camp experience, and I know that just like my brother and I, she will have many reasons to return to camp year after year!

Taking the Camp Spirit Home

When camp comes to an end, you pack up your duffels and head home to get ready for another busy school year. When you leave, you leave with a lot more than you came with. Your journal’s full of memories, your phone (which stayed at home) is full of new numbers from all of your new friends, and you leave with a new sense of confidence and independence that you only get when you spend a summer at camp.

week3faves-105There are different ways campers bring a little piece of camp spirit home with them. You may find yourself humming one of the whacky camp tunes as you clean your room, which will bring back memories of campfires and canoeing on the lake.

You may find yourself digging through your laundry bag to find your super comfortable camp t-shirt, the one that reminds you of scoring the winning goal or laughing until you cry alongside your best camp friends. You may search your room for your beloved camp hat or sweatshirt, as the perfectly worn-in feeling brings back warm memories of summer adventures.

Your family members may notice that you come back with a new sense of confidence, a new passion for sports or the arts, or a brand new sense of independence. They may notice that you came home with the camp spirit still dancing inside of you. They may notice you are happier, more active, and more willing to try new things. A lot happens at camp that causes changes and shifts within you, and it’s impossible not to take those experiences and lessons back home. Shy campers may find it easier to make new friends, outgoing campers may learn to find comfort in quiet time and connecting with nature. Camp has this special way of exposing campers to a side of themselves that they may not normally see. This is the spirit of camp that comes home with each and every camper.week-3-favorites-7

And next summer, when you come back, you’ll be amazed at all of the new things you take home. Year after year, even after you think you’ve experienced everything camp has to offer, you still come home with something new each summer. You may learn that you don’t need to be constantly connected to Wifi to feel connected. You may learn that there is something special about spending time on a great lake in Maine. Every summer, campers take a little something extra home with them that stays with them for the rest of their life.

Lucky for you, a lot of the camp spirit that you take home with you, and carry with you for the rest of your life, won’t take up any extra space in that camp duffel.

Where I Go All Summer and Why I Look so Happy When I Come Back

Every summer, millions of students close their books, say goodbye to homework and depart for summer camp. For a month or two, they stay busy doing activities, exploring nature and making new friends. All that anybody hears from them is the occasional cheery postcard dropped in the mail between activities.

Weeks later, they return home smiling, suntanned and filled with enthusiasm, leaving everyone that stayed home wondering: what happened out there that was such a blast? Their peers who don’t attend summer camp are sure to look up from their phones when everybody gets back to school and ask two questions summer campers know well: “Where have you been? And, why do you look so happy?”

Challenge by Choice Helps You Believe in Yourself

Contrary to popular belief, the real attraction of camp isn’t that it’s easy, or “all fun and games.” The real attraction of summer camp is that it teaches you the rewards that come from new experiences and meeting new challenges. When you realize that challenging things can also be fun, difficulties like homework and making friends at school that used to seem scary and difficult become easy and engaging. You realize that just like any game, the secret is to enjoy playing win or lose. This is an important life lesson and a main reason campers tend to seem happy and energetic.

 Learning that Exercise Can Be Fun

Another reason for all the post-camp smiling might seem obvious to some: physical activity. Endless scientific studies have shown the negative effects that getting too little physical exercise can have on people, particularly young people who are still growing. So, it’s a good thing that summer camp is basically a crash course in exercise, introducing campers to tons of high-energy sports and activities.

Campers don’t just do activities at camp — they take skills home and pursue their passions independently, whether it’s playing for their school sports teams, joining a climbing gym or working on their tennis game.

In short: at camp, the endorphins are flowing!

Digital Detox Works Wonders

Technology isn’t all bad, but most parents agree that spending too much time playing SnapChat stories and scanning Instagram can have a negative social effect on children and teens. After all, can you imagine how different your childhood would be if you hadn’t spent most of it outside, making your own fun with your siblings and friends?

In our digital age kids feel a lot of pressure to stay “active” with a wide range of social media activities, and that can become incredibly stressful, not to mention invite bullying. Camp is a chance for campers to cut their ties to technology and concentrate on the things that make childhood fun. Namely, making new friends, discovering new things, and getting back in touch with nature.

What it All Means

Summer camp has a lot of fun activities, yet when people reminisce about summer camp they aren’t usually talking specifically about sailing, or basketball, or ceramics, or campfires. No, they always talk about “the summer camp experience” — that unmistakable mix of nature, friendship and activities that somehow turns fun and games into a chance for growth and self-discovery.

When you look through photos from time spent at camp, it’s always bittersweet; these are times that go by quickly and are memories that will last forever.

No matter their background, campers will all tell you that camp is a life-changing experience. Campers are introduced to life-long friends, given a chance to practice their real-world social skills, taught the value of unplugging from the digital world and focus on being present in the moment.

With all that summer camp offers, why wouldn’t you look happy when you come home?

Way Too Quiet

LS 1It seems like just yesterday we arrived in Maine, waiting for our Pre-Camp group to arrive and to start setting up for the summer.  In the blink of an eye, we have said our goodbyes to the greatest campers and finest staff anywhere.

We had such an amazing summer!  To our staff: Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication.  To our families: Thank you for allowing us to spend 3 1/2 weeks with your wonderful children.  Please know that we recognize the tremendous leap of faith on your part and strive every day to earn the your trust.  And to our Campers: You are the reason we do what we do.  Seeing your smiling faces and listening to your laughter all summer fills our hearts with joy that we can’t sufficiently describe.  LS 2To our amazing CIT’s: Watching you grow through the years and become the fine young men and women who set the tone for all of our campers is incredible. You were a wonderful group, and you will truly be missed.  Please keep in touch, and we can’t wait to have many of you join our staff in the years to come.

And while we are sad the summer of 2016 has come to an end, the memories we made will last a lifetime.  We are pumped the countdown to Summer 2017 is now on!  Oh, what a beautiful day in the state of Maine!!!

Down the Stretch They Come

Blog Photo 2 Just a precious few days remain in the summer of 2016 and we’re taking full advantage of every opportunity.

Yesterday we had an amazing time at Funtown! Between the rides, games, food, fun and friendship, our Final “S” Day was awesome. Today and tomorrow are our last two program days of the season.  All of the culminating activities will cap off another incredible summer. We’re so excited for tonight’s performance of Shrek, the Musical. The campers and staff have been working so hard, and we can’t wait to see these all camp productions. Tomorrow is Final Banquet, when we will feast on steak, lobster or vegetarian lasagna. The banquet is followed by our Final Social. Sunday night is our Closing Ceremonies, when songs will be sung, laughter will ring and a tear or two will be shed.Blog Photo 1

Monday is Departure Day. We can’t wait to see and hear the stories as families are reunited. While it always saddens us to say goodbye, we’re excited that the countdown to the summer of 2017 will officially begin!

One Week Left

Blog phot 2It’s hard to believe that we’re down to the final week of the 2016 camp season. A lot has happened since our last post. The 8th Graders had an incredible trip to North Conway, the 6th Grade girls had their own amazing overnight camping trip, Roger had a fabulous time at dinner in Naples with the 7 Year Club, and the 5 Year Club enjoyed their movie morning!

There may be little time left, but there is no shortage of excitement on the horizon! We’re eagerly anticipating Moose Bowl tonight. The idea to take a simple flag football game for our Rangeley boys and turn it into an all camp spectacle has grown every year. From the Blog Photo 3tailgate cook-out dinner, to the campers singing the National Anthem (ending with campers firing rockets into the air), the halftime show performed by our amazing camper dances, the tee-shirt slingshot, the cheering…it has truly become a Laurel South favorite! Our thespians have been working hard for Friday’s performance of  Shrek, the Musical. And we still await Funtown, Final Banquet and all of our culminating activities.

The fun, friendship and excitement will carry on!

Spirit Days 2016

Unknown-1We all knew Spirit Days was going to break soon. We had so many campers guessing. Would it be Wednesday morning at breakfast? Thursday morning? Everyone had their theory. But what no one could have guessed was that, at Tuesday’s Evening Cove, CIT Matty G would engage Roger in a seemingly innocent conversation about fishing that would serve as a distraction for the CIT’s to break Spirit Days at Cove. That’s right…Spirit Days 2016 broke at Evening Cove, and what an amazing two days we had!!!

The Blue Jedi and the Green Wizards squared off in the friendliest of competitions. From the ballfields to the waterfront, the sounds of games, cheering, singing and team pride was evident throughout. Our amazing group of CIT’s ran one of the closest KAOS races in history, and the Moosehead Relay was even closer! The songs, cheers and plaques were awesome. And, when Adam read out the final scores, the winner was… Laurel South, because at the end, we had a blast competing with each other and we were so glad to reunite as one Laurel South family. Closing Ceremonies concluded with an incredible fireworks display, and we went to bed exhausted but happy.Unknown

This morning, the 5 Year Club headed out on their annual trip, Intercamp games and Tournaments resume and camp is back to regular program. Tomorrow is our Beach Resort “S” Day! On Sunday, our 8th Graders depart for North Conway. Tuesday is Moose Bowl. As you can see, every day is packed to the brim with activity.

As always, it’s a beautiful day on the state of Maine!!!

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