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Now that the December holidays are upon us, thoughts turn to family and friends and our collective focus shifts to giving. December provides so many lessons in giving and receiving for children (and for the rest of us). And, there are several genuine opportunities for expressing gratitude. Summer might feel far, far off for some in all the current scurrying about to welcome winter. Not so in the summer camp world! Summer is always with us here at ACA New England. We’re inspired by lessons in giving and receiving that come from belonging to a summer camp community, and reminded that those lessons come in summertime and year-round too.

 

There was a terrible fire on Sunday at Brown Ledge Camp (ACA Accredited) in Vermont. The good news is there were no injuries and the camp and its community of campers, staff, alumnae and families will all recover. The sad news is the fire was started by two boys, aged 14 and 15, playing with matches, fireworks and road flares on a dry, Sunday afternoon as winds at a nearby weather station blew at 35 mph. Heartwarming is the only description for everyone’s response to this fire from the local firefighters and neighbors in Colchester and around Mallets Bay on Lake Champlain, to Kathy and Bill Neilson, the camp directors, who have epitomized resilience. Brown Ledge campers will return in summer 2013 to a camp that won’t look quite the same with its replacement landscaping and a number of new cabins in what’s known as the Grove. 

 

Between now and then, campers will have many opportunities to understand, appreciate, and benefit from the interdependence of their camp in its larger context.  You see, at camp, children learn how to belong—how to belong to a camp family and the smaller circles and groups within it, how to belong to the larger camp family of alumni, and how to belong to the world outside of camp. Camp life is a community life, as campers learn how to be contributing community members. In the aftermath of the Brown Ledge fire, we see a camp surrounded and supported by its community. For Brown Ledge campers, it must be reassuring to witness the swift and loving response of neighbors, friends and former campers and staff.  There are two major takeaways: 1) When bad things happen, people care and respond—giving is important.  2) It’s a sign of strength to accept help—receiving is important as well. It’s equally reassuring to be invited to take action immediately. A work weekend June 1-2 is already in the plans. Donations are already being accepted. And a recent post on the camp’s Facebook page sums it up, “Words cannot express the joy we feel amongst such a sad time. The love, support and reconnecting is so incredible and so heartfelt. Such a bond, with all the decades of BLC merging together so that we can all create a force that no fire will destroy!”

 

A camp does not exist solely on the property, but rather, camp also lives in the hearts and minds of the children who get to go and the adults who are lucky enough to teach, mentor, supervise and inspire campers. Life-long relationships often flourish between the people who share summer camp.  What happened after Brown Ledge Camp's fire is a reminder to us all.  

Because of camp, we’re interconnected; we’re part of something much larger, which is especially powerful in times of sadness and in times of joy. 

When possible, we give, and when necessary, we receive.

We have each other—thanks to this force we call camp!