As the old saying goes, sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is certainly true when it comes to camp: the most advanced algorithm or equation couldn’t possibly measure thetrue value of a summer of camp by only taking into account sports and activities. Camp is so much more than that – it is a feeling, an experience, an escape. It’s a place where both kids and imaginations run free; where we put the world aside for a while and learn to work together and appreciate one another; and where anything seems possible. For those of us who were fortunate enough to attend summer camp as kids, surely what stayed with us the most isn’t the goals we scored or the home runs we hit, but the people we met, the camaraderie we felt, and the magic momentswe’ll never forget.
Camp has that effect because we learn and experience things therein a way that goes well beyond what we encounter at school. We learn about teamwork and perseverance and the value of friendship. We learn to respect others, to accept differences, and to see the good in people. And perhaps most important, we learn about ourselves, since you’re never freer as a kid to explore your interests and discover your talents than when you’re at camp. For many of us, it was where we sank our first free-throw, wrote our first song, first realized our passion for the arts, or even developed our first crush.
Yet camp doesn’t just build memories; it also builds character. Encouraged by counselors, kids push themselves to do more – to go that extra mile and test out their abilities; to come out of their shells and try new things. The no-pressure environment of summer camp allows kids to shine and to thrive, and even to laugh at themselves a bit.
I spent fourteen summers at camp as a kid and can honestly say that it helped carve me into the person I am today. I met some truly fantastic role models who I still think about on a regular basis. I’m incredibly grateful for the influence they had on me and for the wonderful times I enjoyed and the friends I made. I loved camp so much, in fact, that I really never left it, dedicating the last thirty years of my life to doing for kids what my counselors did for me.
I now run Camp W in Melville. And while we have go-karts and a rock wall and just about every other sport and activity you could think of, what we really have the most of – and what we’re most proud of – is a sincere and unfaltering love for camp and for helping kids. We work tirelessly to put smiles on faces, because we know how much it means to a kid to have a spectacular summer. As parents ourselves, we also understand the importance of having your child return home happy each day, eager to tell you about the latest prank their counselor pulled or show you the newest dance move they learned or the bracelet they made for you.
It’s not easy to be young today – our kids have had to deal with problems, pressures, and uncertainties beyond what many of us countenanced in our own youth. But at camp, all that disappears. Because when you’re busy concentrating on Color War or the softball game or the goofy song you’re singing under the lunch tent, everything else just melts away. You put your arm around one of your pals and don’t have a worry in the world.
And no matter what occurs in life, you know you’ll always have camp and your friends to return to.