By Evan Wofsy
There are a lot of camps on Long Island for parents to choose from. But one of the reasons so many people are loyal to Camp W in Melville is that we really try to make camp a truly spectacular for every kid. We earnestly strive to meet all of the goals that parents have, so that each kid ends the summer not just with an enormous smile, but also having grown tremendously – socially, athletically, emotionally, and intellectually.
At the beginning of the summer, parents will often discuss with me the goals they have for their kids and what they want them to get from camp. For some, the main thing is just to get the kid out of the house, away from their Wii and out under the Sun. Others tell me that seeing their kid make new friends is the primary purpose. Both of these are noble goals, but there are actually a host of benefits to sending your child to camp for the summer. I want to take a moment to discuss these benefits and explain how our Long Island day camp, Camp W, makes them happen for kids.
Let’s start with the goal of getting kids out in the Sun. We take this very seriously, doing everything we can to not just show kids a multitude of sports and other outdoor activities – from baseball to basketball to mini-golf and Zumba – but also to teach them skills so that they’ll want to stay active and involved. Our counselors bring intensity to every game, and campers feed off that energy. We don’t want kids sitting on the sidelines – we encourage them to get in there and make a contribution, even if they’re not the most skilled athlete on the field. It’s not about being the best, we tell them; it’s about doing your best.
Which brings me to another great benefit of camp: learning to have a positive attitude and to persevere against adversity. Camp teaches kids to be resilient, to push harder, and to try new things. That might be trying a new sport, a new technique, or even a new type of food. We want kids to have their eyes opened – to have experiences that just might show them that they can do more than they thought they could.
This happens more at camp than at school because the environment is very different. At school, things are much more restrictive: everything is about following the rules and keeping quiet most of the time. Camp is a great relief for kids because they can run free, be a little goofy, and not feel judged. Sure, we do have some rules in order to keep everyone safe and organized; but kids aren’t pent in like they are at school, and that allows them to be themselves more, show their personalities, and forget their fears and inhibitions some.
That’s why kids have an easier time making friends at camp: they’re able to let their guards down a little and open up. And unlike school, where they’re doing a lot of things on their own, camp is all about being together. There is no “I” at camp; it’s all about “we.” The very nature of the set-up makes it so that kids feel a natural camaraderie: they have to be mutually supportive because they’re on the same teams, or in the same group, or on the same bus. And (again, unlike school) they’re constantly interacting with one another in a positive way. That’s why camp friendships often last a lifetime, as I’m sure some of you reading this already know.
Learning new skills, making new friendships, running free in the Sun – all of these are great benefits that come from camp. But there’s one more thing, though it’s not always so easy to describe, and that thing is magic.
Reading this now, you might think I’m crazy. “Evan has finally lost it,” you’re saying. But I’m serious. Camp is magic. Maybe not magic in the David Copperfield sort of way, but magic in that it somehow is more than the sum of its parts. If you went to camp as a kid, you know what I’m talking about. When was the last time you felt the same sort of wonder you felt at camp when you were that age? Every day at camp brings new adventures – new things to see and do and tell stories about later. Camp is magic because it puts kids in awe and makes them think that the world is a truly remarkable place. It’s magic because it leaves kids with a feeling they’ll never forget. And it’s magic because, when they get off that bus and come running inside, you know you’ve given them an experience that’ll benefit them for the rest of their lives.