Welcome to 2023: The Gift & Power of Sleepaway Camp
A few weeks ago, we asked our community of Pioneers on social media to answer the question, “What do you love about Camp Wekeela?” The answers, although not surprising, were very reassuring. Many of the answers reflected on the friendships, bunkmates, and the overall sense of family. Both campers and staff shared how much they loved their campers or bunks, referring to them as my campers or my kids/girls/boys. (See some of the answers below).
The gift of camp – what do you love about Camp Wekeela?
My best friends
Ephram hitting the griddy
My friends x2
My girls x15
My boys X15
Dogs at Wekeela
The amazing campers and staff that make camp feel like one big family
MY CAMP FAMILY
15 of the best summers of my life
The kitchen staff
So that brings us to this, what is the power of camp?
We know that camp is a place to create lifelong friendships and incredible memories (like Ephram hitting the griddy), but also a place that helps campers and staff to grow & gain independence. Not a single one of the answers above was “the dining hall” or “the basketball court”. Although we have some amazing activity areas at Wekeela and awesome facilities, the power of camp is built on the foundations of what the summer camp experience is: the people. It’s the nature of going away – the away-ness of camp – that is different from the relationships our campers build in school and during extra-curricular activities. At camp, kids and teens learn challenging things, like rock climbing, waterskiing, or fire building and are also encouraged to perform in front of many people. Our campers take the leap of faith from a high ropes course, trusting that the staff will get them to safety below. At camp, campers are taught to handle all feelings – good and bad – and not to be ashamed of them, learning how to cope and grow.
Did you know that over a 7 week span at a summer camp, campers will spend more time engaging and learning than in a 10 month school year, simply based on the hours in the day. Although some parents will merely see camp as a mechanism to get their child away for a few weeks, summer camp is an all encompassing experience.
Summer camp is a challenging and interesting business, let alone experience. There are so many different perspectives and personalities to juggle. Think of camp like a cycle with many different stakeholders. Directors, staff, campers, parents, and sometimes, alumni, all simultaneously interact, sometimes without seeing the other. You can think of each level of the each group’s experience by what they hope to gain from the camp experience:
Directors want a successful and safe summer for their community. Staff hope for a fun work experience giving back to campers and teaching them lifelong lessons. Campers wish for a memorable experience making new friends, memories, and learning new skills. Parents want their child(ren) to have the experiences above and come home happy and confident. Alumni enjoy the chance to see their childhood home thrive.
However, the above relationships work together as a cycle, not a trickle down or up phenomenon. Every element must be satisfied or happy to affect the other positively. Happy & competent Directors usually hire, train, and retain good staff. Those good staff then feel more reliable and usually work harder to give the campers a good summer; which ultimately means parents are happy because their children are happy, therefore allowing them to confidently send their campers back to camp and building the relationships that are so important, happy directors. Happy directors hopefully means a thriving community, meaning happy alumni. However, the parents rarely see the directors or staff in action, and can only rely on the word of their child and photos. Ultimately, it’s a very different situation than, say, a school, where parents have become largely involved in their child’s experience and are able to meet regularly with teachers, principals, and other school staff to receive updates (sometimes daily) from the school, or the child themselves, about the school experience.
The power of camp is best viewed by taking in the happiness of all its stakeholders. It’s a place where kids are given more than just the tools to succeed and have others around them teach them new skills and be role models. We work hard to maintain all of these relationships throughout the summer as well in the off season. We truly believe in our motto that Camp Wekeela is a place where friends become family. Nothing is more powerful than that.