To finish out the “What Sustains Us” series, I would like to share the following letter from a senior camper about his camp experience this summer. I hope you enjoy.
A Love Letter from a Camper:
“School is just about in full swing, and I cannot see myself missing camp any more than I do right now. As you know, the last summer of 2015 was my first time ever at Camp Champions, and to be honest I wasn’t so sure about the whole camp experience. I can tell you right now that camp is one of the best things to happen to me in a very long time.
I was nervous wouldn’t meet anyone, and that I wouldn’t know the routines of the day due to my lack of experience, but as soon as I stepped out of my car after passing through that huge spur that I think of as a symbol of home to me now, I was welcomed and brought in immediately. The relationships that I made at camp are stronger and more real than most relationships I deal with back home, and for that I am forever grateful to you, Steve Sir, and to everyone at Camp Champions that I had the pleasure to encounter.
The magnitude with which camp has affected my life is infinitely large. Before camp, I was on track for a pretty dark path, and just at the climax of it all, camp came. After being away from it all for three weeks and being thrown into a world of the innermost beautiful people I have ever met, I changed everything.
Not a day goes by where I don’t stop and think about camp at least once, and I wish for that to never end. Every day while working on my school assignments at my desk, I look up at my Torchlighter medal and my cabin portrait that I have permanently fixed on my wall. This little reminder keeps my mind at ease, knowing that another summer will be here soon enough, where I can be reunited with my best friends again.
The reason that I am writing this email today is to let you know that I will never be able to successfully communicate the impact that your Senior Camper program has had on me, and that every day I look forward to coming back through that spur and experience it all again. Thank you for everything, Mr. Baskin. Summer can’t come soon enough.”
Steve Sir received this email from a male high schooler in our Senior Camper Program this October. He shared it with us here in the office, and I think it speaks for itself. As a camp professional, there are many times during the summer when you know you are having an impact on a child’s (or young adult’s, in this case) life, even during relatively short two or three week camp terms. You see the smile on their face when they accomplish something they never would have tried before, or you hear their laughter in the cabin when they had been shy or quiet on the first day.
But we don’t usually see the impact once the campers leave here. Maybe when they come back next summer, we’ll notice maturity and independence that wasn’t there before, but that’s long 49 weeks to wait.
I’ve shared counselor and parent testimonials in the previous two blogs (http://blog.campchampions.com/what-sustains-us-love-letters-from-counselors and http://blog.campchampions.com/what-sustains-us-love-letters-from-parents), and those messages inspire us. Love letters from campers, however, are my personal favorite. We all work here because we want to have an impact, however small, on the campers that we meet. Most of the time, though, the impact is far from small. For the camper who wrote the email above, it’s clear that camp was truly life-changing. We have (literally) hundreds of messages, letters, or statements of appreciation from campers over the years, and “life-changing” appears with incredible frequency.
And the critical thing is, most people – eventually – will stop coming to camp. After a few years as a counselor or a leadership team member, most people’s lives will change. They will move on to another job, another city, another goal. But when we read letters like this one, we know that camp truly has been instrumental in shaping their sense of self. For so many campers, camp will build confidence, teach independence, and encourage true friendships.
Campers rely on us in their formative years to be a safe haven - a place of support, learning, and love. This responsibility is not something we take lightly. Not during the summer, and not now during the off-season. We cherish each reminder that our work influences campers in immeasurable ways.
In conclusion: Even in the quiet of the fall, we are incredibly lucky to be doing the work that we do!
Want more like this? See: http://blog.campchampions.com/blog/teaching-teens-to-lead