According to the American Camp Association, there are about 8,400 overnight camps in the United States. With that many camps, there are obviously numerous differences between one camp and the next. Some camps have lakes while others have a pool; there are full season, 7-week camps and there are multi-session camps. The list of differences could go on forever, but while all camps are different, there are certain aspects that stay the same. These aspects are “perennially camp” and are the reason that summer camp is so important to those who attend. Without these staples, camp just wouldn’t be the same!
Campfires and S’mores
When people think about camp, one of the first things that come to mind is a campfire…and no campfire is complete without s’mores! But campfires and s’mores represent way more than just a mellow night with a delicious treat — they represent bringing people together. At any campfire, campers are surrounded by friends and counselors. There is no need for television, phones or technology of any kind. Instead campers enjoy each other’s company. There is a quaint and quiet simplicity that in today’s world is very hard to find.
Songs and Spirit
If campfires and s’mores are the first thing that comes to mind when people think about camp, songs and spirit are a close second. And similarly to campfires and s’mores, songs and spirit are about bringing people together. The unity that is formed from learning a camp song or from having pride in your camp is unmatched. This unity is not the only benefit of the songs and spirit of camp; they also instill a sense of tradition in campers. Many of the songs sung at camp have been around for decades. They are a great way to connect current campers to alumni and form a bond between generations who might not have had anything in common otherwise.
Campfires and s’mores may bring people together, and songs and spirit may keep traditions alive, but ultimately camp would not be camp without positive energy. No matter what camp you attend, the amount of support, love and camaraderie is unlike anywhere else in the world. While all camps differ for various reasons, perennially camp traditions are alive everywhere.
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.
There 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.
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.