Helping our First time Campers Feel Welcome

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 7, 2016 8:38:50 PM
Steve Baskin
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Meeting the New Campers
Two years ago, we started a tradition in which we invite the first-time campers into our home after lunch on the first day.  While they are with us, their veteran cabin-mates all meet to talk about how they will make the cabin especially welcoming to their new cabin-mates.

In our home, Susie Ma'am and I give the new campers cookies and milk and let them ask us any question that they might desire.  [Note: OK, you might notice a pattern.  When campers come to our home, we spoil them with a few treats.  Since we strive to promote healthy eating and exercise at camp, why would we do this?  If you guessed “we bribe them so they like us”, you guessed right.  No, I’m just kidding about that. Actually, we also want them to know that we care and that we are always here is they need help or have any challenges. Cookies and milk served in our home makes them feel welcome. ]
We got a ton of great questions from this group: 
They wanted to know why we named the camp “Champions”.  First, we had to explain that the camp was founded in 1967 before Susie Ma’am’s birth when I was a wee lad.  So we were not there.  We, however, speculated that the founders thought “Camp Champions” sounded better than “Camp Quitters” or “Camp Defeated”.
Why do we call the teams “Trojans” and “Spartans”.  Once again, these names were chosen prior to Susie Ma’am’s birth and once again, we could only speculate.  Perhaps the founders thought the Classic Age of the Greeks was a better source of inspiration than something like the “Platypuses” and the “Aardvarks”?  Though, to be fair, the potential “Platypuses vs Aardvarks” t-shirts could be amusing.
Q: Why are the oldest boy campers called “Aquanauts”. 
A: No idea here.  This is our 21st summer and I still do not know what an Aquanaut is.
Q: Why is everyone called “ma’am” and “sir” (including the campers)? 
A: We knew this answer.  Sir and Ma’am are verbal reminders that everyone is worthy of respect.  Susie Ma’am was quick to point out that is sounded very strange to her New England ear when she first moved here, but she has come to love the mutual respect that it brings to our community.
Q: Can we have as many cookies as we want? 
A: That was a simple one – no. 
Q: Is Dodger (the camp Basset Hound) a boy or girl? 
A: Dodger Ma’am is a girl. 
Q: What does she do?
A: Pretty much nothing more than eat and get petted - it is essentially the best job in the world!
[Note: The accompanying photo was taken when a squirrel managed to steal a cookie that fell to the ground.  Susie Ma’am and I assume that s/he is a new camper too, so this treat seemed to make sense.]
More Camper Gems
Here are a few more quotes from around camp.  Susie Ma’am had a Friendship Game with 12 year-old girls.  I am not sure what you would typically expect from girls this age, but this group clearly exceeded my expectations.  When asked “what would you wish for?” one girl responded, “I would like to wish for world peace, but that is kinda cliché.  How about this?  I would wish for an end of infectious diseases . . . I think that would help poor countries the most.”
Soon thereafter, another girl answered the question “what is the most beautiful thing in the world?” with this insight, “A newborn baby, because nothing has more potential.”
Are you kidding me?  Let me assure you that this is NOT the type of conversation I have with the 12 year-old boys.  Do not get me wrong.  They are fun and full of life.  They are enthusiastic and full of humor.  But none of them seem inclined to save the world right now. 
One last note from the youngest campers.  Last night, at least 6 different boy campers assured their counselors that they did not have a toothbrush.  Since this is the first session for some of our counselors, some of them initially believed the campers and came to the Division Leader to request toothbrushes.  A veteran of many summers, the Division Leader asked the following question, “What strikes you as the more likely scenario; a group of parents simultaneously lost interest in health and failed to pack the necessities of oral hygiene OR a group of campers decided they did not want to brush their teeth or search their trunk for a brush?”
After a nano-second of thought, the counselors returned to the cabins and helped the campers find the toothbrushes (which were not particularly hard to find). So you will be happy to know that teeth were brushed!
Steve Sir

Tags: Goofy, Camper, Counselor