Follow me down memory lane… back to when you were little and saw your first magic trick. You didn’t really understand it, you couldn’t fully explain it, but you know that it amazed you and exceeded all your expectations of what you thought was going to happen. This is how I try to explain sleepaway camp to those who have never been. For people who have never experienced it, it is hard to understand the obsession that is camp. And those who are part of it can never fully explain it, but they definitely know that it was amazing and that it exceeded all their expectations. This is my answer to the question, “why go to summer camp:” because you too will be part of the group that understands the unexplainable magic.
The camp magician has taught me how to master ten magic tricks.
FIRST TRICK: CONFIDENCE
The trick of being confident. Schools have tried, parents have tried, friends have tried, but I have never seen anyone do a magic trick on children the way that camp can to bring out a child’s inner confidence. It can sometimes be a hidden gem in a child that camp manages to find and bring out.
SECOND TRICK: LOYALTY
The trick of being loyal. It’s the magic of friendship that camp teaches children. Your bunkmates quickly become your family and your loyalty to them is extreme and it is real.
THIRD TRICK: RESPONSIBILITY
The trick of learning responsibility. The magic of camp is that children grow up more in those short 7 weeks than they do throughout the whole year. It’s no longer a nagging parent that instructs a kid to do their duties (brush her teeth, clear his plate, make her bed), rather it is the child who takes on responsibilities to take care of him or herself, to take care of his or her belongings, and so much more.
FOURTH TRICK: BRAVERY
The trick of being brave. Getting on the bus that first day requires a new level of braveness that children have yet to experience at that age. Once at camp, being in this magical place, kids are able to conquer their own fears of touching the bottom of the lake, going down the zip line, trying out for the soccer team, or even just trying new foods.
FIFTH TRICK: TEAMWORK
The trick of teamwork. Camp is a magical community and doesn’t function without the happiness, spirit, and personalities of each camper. Whether it is partnering up with a new friend, working together on a color war team, or just sitting by the lake, the bonds in this community are unlike most others.
SIXTH TRICK: SECOND FAMILY
The trick of creating a second family. Living in a place where you are surrounded by hundreds of people who genuinely want you to be your best self is magical. Camp creates a second family in which children find role models to look up to, people who look after them, and a place where kids learn the great life skills and values from great people.
SEVENTH TRICK: ACCEPTING OTHERS
The trick of accepting others. Camp is a place where being called “weird” is one of the biggest complements one could accept. Children learn to open up their eyes to people similar and different from them. Camp teaches everyone to find the magic within each other. There is magic within each person, camp just helps people see it.
EIGHTH TRICK: SPORTSMANSHIP
The trick of sportsmanship. It is just as fun to lose as it is to win at camp. Camp teaches the magic of focusing on the positives of every situation. You can ask any coach, teaching sportsmanship is not an easy task, but somehow camp counselors have mastered this. Children actually cheer on the opposite team as much as they cheer on their own. Now that is MAGIC.
NINTH TRICK: LIVING IN THE MOMENT
The trick of learning to live in the moment. In this day and age children are surrounded by technology, electronics, and are always diving into the “next thing.” At camp, life slows down. Each day, children learn the magic of embracing the moment, making the best of each day, and being outdoors and in nature. It is not about doing an activity so you can Instagram it, it is about doing an activity because it is fun. Camp brings back the magic of the world that isn’t based around technology.
TENTH TRICK: HAPPINESS
The trick of happiness. My dad always asked my camp director if he put something special in the water at camp that makes every kid so happy. Camp makes you smile a little wider, makes your adrenaline rush a little harder, makes your nose crinkle a little more from laughing too hard, and truly makes your heart beat a little faster. If that isn’t magic, then I am not sure what is.
I have yet to learn the magic trick that lets me stay at camp for 12 months of the year… but I am working on it…