Thank You! From, a Camp Parent
September 9, 2021
I work with camps, but I also put on another hat as a camp parent. I race to get my 3 children signed up for camp every January to ensure we have a spot. I scour the brochures (websites) to find fun programs, I talk to the neighbors to see where their kiddos will be heading. Agonize over waitlists. Plot my spread sheet to make sure I have each week of summer planned out. I am a working parent, so yes I need child care. But I’d much rather my kids be at camp than anywhere else in the world.
What I know from this summer is that my kids had the time of their lives. They were excited to get dropped off every single morning to see what the day holds for them at camp. Every day they came home exhausted. They were dirty. They have been soaked from a day of rain. They have been sweaty because of a heatwave. But most of all they are happy.
This happened because of you.
It was a great experience because of those camp counselors making sure the water bottles are not lost. Making sure masks are on. Making sure social distancing is observed.
It was a great experience because of the camp directors who are taking calls from parents worrying about their children’s safety. The camp directors who are filling in for the kitchen staff to take a day off. The camp directors using every creative bone in their body to make this summer happened.
This summer camp staff were asked to do the impossible. To work short staffed, make meals from incomplete food deliveries, help campers renegotiate a social landscape of play after staring at a screen for 18 months and on top of all that be aware of constantly changing state and local regulations due to COVID.
I know this task was not easy, and the words thank you don’t seem to be enough for what camp staff have achieved this summer.
I have been thinking of something I would read at the end of staff training each summer. Below are two excerpts from, What is a Camp Counselor?
A camp counselor is a rare combination of doctor, lawyer and Indian Chief. They are competent child psychologists, paid baby sitters with neither television nor refrigerator. They are strict disciplinarians with a twinkle in their eye: a minister to all faiths with questions about their own. They are referees, coaches, teachers, and advisors. They are the example of grown-ups in worn out tennis shoes, a sweat shirt 2 sizes too large and a hat 2 sizes too small. They are humorists in a crisis, a doctor in an emergency, a song leader, an entertainer, a play director. Counselors are idols with their head in a cloud of wood smoke and their feet in mud. They are comforters in a leaky tent on a cold night and a pal who has just loaned someone their last pair of dry socks. They are teachers of the out-of-doors, knee deep in poison ivy.
A counselor is expected to repair 10 years of damage to Becky in 10 days, turn Terri in to a woman, rehabilitate Matt, allow Joan to be an individual, and help Pat adjust to the group. They are expected to lead the most prized possession of adults much older than themselves. They are expected to lead them in fun and adventure in the North-woods, even though they spend 9 months a year in a city; to teach ingenious activities-when they can’t even spell the word; to guide them into social adjustment-when they haven’t found it; to ensure safety and health- with a sunburned nose, a band aid on their thumb, and a blister on their heal. For all this, they are paid enough to buy the second text in psychology, some aspirin, some new socks and some tennis shoes. You wonder how they can stand the pace and the pressure. You wonder if they really know how much they are worth, and somehow, you realize you can never pay them enough when, they leave in August, and they wave good-by and says, “See’ ya next summer!
You may be tired and there were some days this summer you were at your wits end. But the kids – they had an AMAZING TIME. They missed camp last summer so much and were ECSTATIC to be back. THANK YOU. I hope after you waved to the last camper as they drove out of camp, were able to go back to your office, put your feet up on your desk and take a nap. You did a great job! We’ll be seeing you next summer.
Elizabeth Snell is the Director of Accreditation Services for ACA, New England. She grew up in Long Pond Pennsylvania. Starting as a camper at age 8, she never left camp. After a short time in Indiana, she was very excited to come back east to work at ACA, New England.
Elizabeth has a B.A. in English from Alvernia College, MS.Ed in Sport Management from East Stroudsburg University and a Masters in Camp Administration from Indiana University.