Have you noticed subtle pleasant but odd changes since your children returned from summer camp? Have you peeked into your son’s room and noticed that he made his bed? Were you tempted to take your daughter’s temperature the other night because she volunteered to clean up her room? Maybe they just seem calmer or are better about sticking to routines about which you went hoarse more than once preaching to them before you put them on that bus or plane headed to their favorite summer zip code. Perhaps they’re better about saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ or spend less time all out at war with each other over little things like the remote control and whether they’re going to watch The Voice or Modern Family. Did they really mature that much at summer camp?
Not that you’re complaining. It’s a nice, unexpected bonus. When you initially enrolled them for camp, you were thinking it would be good for them to spend their summer working on arts and crafts projects, learning how to sail, going swimming, doing the silly things that kids do at camp, and playing sports instead of using up your entire cell phone data plan during twelve hour texting marathons or playing the Kinect so much that you can no longer tell whether you’re watching a video game or an actual television program. You thought, ‘Maybe they’ll even make a few new friends.’ But, oddly, it’s the smaller things they seem to be bringing away from their summer camp experiences that you find yourself enjoying the most.
Sure, you read all about the benefits of sending children to summer camp before you decided to send them. But you didn’t allow yourself to actually have expectations that your children would come home friendlier, more dutiful, more flexible, able to manage their time better, and generally happier–in short, more mature. Those are the special changes that you enjoy seeing and that make summer camp that much more valuable your eyes.
Every year around this time we pause to reflect on those aspects of our lives about which we are most thankful. To celebrate this turkey day, we thought we’d share what makes us most thankful for summer camp:
Our camp families: Without our campers, there would be no summer camp. We’re thankful you value your summer camp experiences so much that you return every summer, and that you continue to build and carry on the traditions that make America’s Finest Summer Camps so special.
Our camp family: The unique family we are all a part of each summer. The bonds that campers and staff create truly do last a lifetime. We love every moment of the summer when we are laughing, playing, singing, and sharing together.
Camp Memories: Every year we bring home new memories that motivate us to make the next summer even more special than the previous. Talking with our families and camp friends about our summers and sharing in each others’ unique experiences while at summer camp are some of our favorite times during the winter months. They help us get over our “camp sickness” and carry us through those months between summers. Speaking of camp friends…
Camp Friends: Every camper knows that camp friends are friends for life. Our camp friends share some very special memories that one can only get at summer camp. Our camp friends are also great at helping us get through those ten months that we’re not at camp by reminding us of just how special summer camp is, whether it’s through the distance that makes seeing each other at camp every summer so special or the closeness of having a camp pal who “gets it”.
Amazing Staff Members from all over the Globe: Summer Camps are only as good as their staff, and we’re thankful that we have some of the most amazing staff anywhere in the world. Each summer, you come from all over the world and commit yourselves 24/7 to insuring our campers have a safe, amazing summer. We know it’s hard work, and we are grateful that so many of you find the experience so gratifying that you return year after year.
The Breathtaking Scenery of Maine and Northeast Pennsylvania: We love where our camps are located almost as much as we love our camps. The beautiful woodlands of Maine, the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania, hiking paths, the lakes that are such a big part of our camp experiences and traditions, and the wildlife all make the perfect backdrops for our amazing campuses.
The Beautiful Campuses that are our Summer Homes: Just like the houses we live in the other ten months of the year, each of our summer homes has its own energy, homey feeling, and special places for gathering, playing or contemplating. We’re proud that ours are some of the most awesome facilities in camping and look forward to continuing to build and improve them each summer. We know our campers eagerly await opening day when they finally get to see how camp has changed since the previous summer and what new additions might be waiting for them.
Our Year-Round Staff: Yes, even summer camp requires a staff to work year-round. After each summer, they go back to their offices and immediately begin planning the next, thinking about what new programs we might add or how we might make existing ones better. They begin traveling, recruiting new staff members. They create newsletters, Tweets, and blogs. They answer the phones when you call. They plan the menus. In short, they tirelessly build each amazing summer day by day.
Being a Part of Such an Iconic American Tradition: All over the world, American summer camps are an icon of Americana. They’re unique to America and so many have found them inspirational that there have been movies and television shows that feature them, as well as books and songs written about them. We are also grateful that many of our international friends are beginning to see the value in the American summer camp experience and, increasingly, are joining us from all corners of the globe.
We hope this holiday season that we’ve inspired you to contemplate what it is about camp that you’re most thankful for and how it has enriched your life. We encourage you to share those thoughts with us. We’d love to hear them!
Sure the kids are home from camp and are settling back into their school routines. Maybe they’re still a little bit camp sick, but it’s possible to keep the camp momentum going throughout the year. Here are a few suggestions we thought we’d pass along.
Talk about camp with them. Not only do children love talking about their camp experiences, but doing so helps them process the events of the summer. In sharing their experiences, they’re able to gain perspective about camp. If they haven’t already told you by now (and they probably have a hundred times over), ask them to tell you about their camp friends, their favorite activities, and favorite events.
Encourage them to keep in touch with their camp friends throughout the year. Of course, summer camp draws campers from all over the globe, so play dates and get-togethers might not be realistic for everyone. But in the age of email, Skype, and Facebook (for some older campers), maintaining contact is easier than ever.
Encourage children to read camp literature, such as newsletters, and to keep up with the blog on your camp’s website. Parents should regularly read camp literature and blogs as well. Not only will they be informed, but they can pass along useful or exciting information, such as news about new camp activities or facilities, to their children.
If your children just can’t stop singing those camp songs, encourage them to teach you one or two. Then you can sing along with them…It’s fun. Trust us.
Encourage your children to share anything exciting that happens to them throughout the year with the camp. Summer camps love to know what their campers are up to over the winter and are thrilled to share in something special whether it be winning a spot on a traveling sports team, landing a role in the school play, or earning a place on the honor roll. Many are also happy to pass this information onto other campers and their parents via a special section in their camp newsletter.
Make a big deal over any projects they brought home. Whether it’s a scented candle, a leather purse, a clay vase, or a wooden birdhouse, chances are they put plenty of time and energy into creating something special to bring home to you. So display it somewhere prominent, even if it does have to be “archived” each year to make room for the next summer’s treasures.
Show them that you got their camp letters. Point out your favorite parts. Tell them which were your favorites, maybe even keep the letters in an album from year to year. Children are much more excited about writing home from camp when they really feel that their letters are being read. Someday, a scrapbook of camp letters might even make a neat gift to give back to them.
With a little bit of help from you, your children can keep the camp momentum going all year long!