A Special Place

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At our campfire this week we decided to try something new. Instead of a traditional theme we opted for an open mic night and the kids jumped at the idea. Campers sang original songs, danced, performed skits; we even had stand up comedy. It was amazing! Our campers truly feel that camp is their safe place and they showed some really incredible talents. It made me think about our campers and the support they show for one another. A fun, silly thing that we do at Birch Trail is to say “How” instead of clapping. Campers can also give each other a “how” at announcements to support one another for accomplishing things at camp. One of my favorite things to do is to listen to all the campers giving their friends a how for getting up on water skis, climbing to the top of the climbing wall and/or trying really hard at an activity. At this point the whole camp says how together and it’s a great way for that camper to get recognition and support for their effort.

This support turns camp into a safe haven for our campers and staff. One of our camp parents wrote about this. Here is her letter on what having a special place to call her own means to her daughter.

When Gabe said he was interested in having parents share their experiences with Birch Trail on the blog, I jumped at the opportunity (although my daughter will surely kill me when she finds out… good thing electronics aren’t allowed at camp!) Sure, Birch Trail is a special place to Lindsey.   But it is just as special to us for what it has provided to our daughter. This is Lindsey’s sixth summer at BT… and she is 12 years old. Do the math – she started when she was 7 as a Lower Lower Lower Maple, and she spent five years in Maple before finally making it to Linden this year. People thought we were crazy to ship our 7-year old to Wisconsin for camp. Being from Atlanta, there are many popular camps in Georgia or even North Carolina. I get that every camp can be great, but we wanted a camp that offered more than just summer fun. We wanted a camp that would have a profound influence on who our daughter would become.

Lindsey’s brother, who is two years older than her, has high-functioning autism. He is a fantastic kid – sweet, affectionate and always trying to please – and he absolutely worships his sister. But from an early age Lindsey felt obligated to look out for him; she serves in a “big sister” role even though he has the age advantage. Add to that the pressure she puts on herself to exel in school, to perform on the basketball court and to achieve the admiration of her peers and that’s a lot of pressure for a kid… so we wanted her to have a special place free of all of those pressures – where she would be taken care of, where she could define herself separately from her brother, and where she could be whoever she chose to be. We have found that at Birch Trail.

What makes BT special isn’t the food (although I hear the s’mores pockets are scrumptious), the activities or the facilities. What makes BT amazing is the worry-free environment that fosters strong relationships between the campers. Over the years, we have seen Lindsey’s connections to her camp friends blossom. Birch Trail is more than an annual 4 or 8 week summer experience for these girls; they are truly in touch with one another 365 days a year. The camp countdown starts a week or two after they get home and continues until they jump off the bus. During the interim period, they spend time (too much time probably!) group texting, posting to instagram, facetiming, and talking on the phone (ironic for a camp where snail mail is the sole method of communication with our daughters!) This year, Lindsey knew before she got to camp who had which bathing suit from Target, what color Chacos they each had packed and who would be wearing matching outfits on the first day. Birch Trail has provided Lindsey with the opportunity to form lifelong friendships with girls from all around the country and these girls are truly her best friends.

At BT, Lindsey spends all day having fun, trying new things and being her true self – with no worries about how she looks, how she performs, or (most importantly) what anyone thinks of her. “Camp Lindsey” is our favorite version of our daughter and we will be forever grateful to BT for being her summer home.

Stacey Geer

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