Around the end of January each year when I was a kid, a letter would arrive from Brook lake Day Camp updating campers and parents about the oncoming summer. In deep, dark winter, this was a moment of light for me, serving as a reminder that camp and my friends there weren’t too far away. I’d put that letter on the fridge to act as a daily reminder; just seeing it every day made me feel good. By the time the first day of camp actually arrived, I was on cloud nine.
When I think back on that feeling – on what made me so excited to get off that bus on the first day – I realize that it wasn’t all the sports and games I’d be playing or the great special events that had been planned for us or even the prizes or trophies I could win; it was my friends, pure and simple. It was the fact that we shared something deep and personal, yet free-spirited and filled with all of the restless energy and endless possibilities that ought to accompany childhood. “Camp friends,” as we would say, belonged to a special category: they were our buds, our pals, our teammates; they were the ones we confided in, trusting them with our most sacred secrets. And though I did not know it back then, they would prove to be the ones with whom I would build some of my strongest relationships and fondest memories.
The best friendships are founded on shared experiences, and there’s something about camp which makes it the ideal place for developing tight bonds. At camp, your group is a unit, indivisible. You do everything together: eating, swimming, competing, encouraging one another. You find mutual interests, be it at soccer, softball, Arts & Crafts, or Nature. Camp creates an atmosphere that allows everyone to just be themselves – to goof around, tell stories, make silly jokes –without fear of judgment and without concern for the troubles of the outside world.
Each Friday over the summer, my camp buddies and I would sleep over one another’s houses and stay up all night talking about everything we had done during the week and everything we would do the following week. These are friends I stayed close with long after our camp years had passed and we had moved on to college, marriage, and kids of our own. I still talk to them regularly and the bonds we established at camp have never dissipated. Working at camp from my teens onward would also produce friendships that have endured for decades.
In establishing Camp W in 2015, my priority was to give every camper not just the opportunity to participate in a multitude of sports and activities, but also the chance to develop the same types of friendships I benefited from as a kid. Our slogan became “Where Friendships Are Made” because my staff and I strongly believed that that’s what camp is really about. We made it our goal to make Camp W feel like a home to all of our campers, a place where they knew they would always be welcomed with smiles, and where they could always be sure that they would connect with friends old and new.
I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful summers I had as a child and the friends I came to know and love. Camp made all of that possible, and that is why I strive to give the same thing to my children and others today.
This article is in honor of the wonderful people that I call my friends from
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