In third grade, Mom and Dad sent me to a week-long, residential camp for girls in Louisiana; my parents were geniuses. My love affair with camping began at age 9, and, now well into my 50’s, my love for summer camp has not diminished.
My first counselor was Gail Jolly, and she was a joy. My bunkmates and I stayed awake at night inventing songs to sing for Gail about her boyfriend at the time, Ernie James. I can still remember the song to this day, “Ernie James likes all the girls, Ernie James likes girls with big curls…” Gail had straight hair, so we thought that it was hysterical that Ernie James likes girls with big curls. I couldn’t wait to finish the song, so we could perform it for Gail.
Summer camp game me a creative outlet to write and perform lousy songs. By writing lousy songs with my bunkmates, I learned how to work in a team, but, more importantly, I learned to listen to everyone’s input; through this team effort, we developed a product that we so brilliantly shared with our beloved counselor; and with this performance, I learned that shared laughter built a connection with my counselor, my friends, and to the camp. I learned all of this without knowing that I was learning anything, for I was a child singing a song about “Ernie James” at a sleep-away camp for girls.
By learning the fundamentals of archery, boating, swimming, and soccer at camp, I was truly building confidence, courage, and making those connections inside myself that are fueled by passion, compassion, and determination. As a child I thought I was learning archery, but as I grew I knew those archery lessons penetrated much deeper than hitting a target.
Camp changed my life. Camp nurtured my creative impulses; camp gave me a safe place to fail and succeed; camp taught me that mutual respect of each other is a non-negotiable in life; camp prepared me for the ebbs and flows of life; and by living at camp, I feel in love with the environment, and I have protected it ever since.