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I was talking with a few campers tonight in the office and they were talking about the service that they were going to lead tomorrow. The more we started talking about it, the more I realized that they needed to share their story with you. I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed hearing them talk about it tonight.
Birch Trail. A place where one feels included, appreciated, and loved. This is Ashley and Jane from cabin TM coming at you live from Gabe’s office. Being two 6 year campers, we wanted to share a little bit about how it feels to be campers at Birch Trail. At camp we have learned to love and appreciate our friends’ unique qualities and differences.
Tomorrow, we are helping lead a Sunday service with Barbara about this topic. In case you may not know what a Sunday service is, it is a time on Sunday morning where Barbara talks about how we should care for ourselves, each other, and our planet. Specifically in tomorrow’s service, we are going to talk about inner beauty, uniqueness, and acceptance. At camp, we are always in silly costumes, have crazy hair, or are wearing crocs. It amazes us that we can be our true selves without judgment from anyone. We look forward to coming to this safe space every summer so we can have a break from all the negativity at home.
Jane here! Before my first year at Birch Trail, I went to a different camp. This other camp provided a very different environment for the campers. Most every night, there were competitive evening programs, and I did not feel nearly as welcomed there as I do here. In my cabin, most people were from one place, and we did not celebrate each other’s differences. My sister actually went to the camp that year for her 4th summer. I had no idea that I would not be returning to this camp until my sister and mom explained why. I immediately realized why another camp would be safer for me to grow up in. Throughout the next year we looked at camp videos and booklets, but one stood out to my family, and that was Birch Trail. The reason it stood out to us was the positive community it showed in their video. When Gabe came to visit our house I knew Birch Trail was the place for me. As soon as I heard about all of the fun frosting fights, activities, and evening programs my heart was set on this camp. Now, being older and more mature, I have realized how impactful my experience at camp has been on my life. At camp I have learned how to express myself, love my weird qualities, and appreciate others’ uniqueness, which is something that we will talk about and celebrate at tomorrows service.
Now onto Ashley’s story. My first year of camp was in 2013. Camp was a new concept to me because I had never been away from my parents for so long. One of my friends told me she was going to Birch Trail and she described how welcoming and accepting it was. The more she talked about it, the more I knew this was the camp for me. That summer I went to go visit camp during color wars. My friend ran out of her cabin dressed in all purple with her whole body painted. Her cabin seemed so happy and spirited. I had never seen people so dressed up for anything. I was told that campers dress like this for evening programs all the time. As I walked around camp some more, I saw the amazing activities camp offered, and all the signs posted around camp saying things like “no mean girls”. I knew this was going to be my new summer home. My first year of camp I was so happy to be at Birch Trail, but I was a little homesick. I missed my routines at home and the comfort I got being with my parents. But, the more time I spent at camp, the more I saw how the “no mean girls” saying was really applied. I began to make new best friends who I would have never met if I didn’t go to camp. The homesickness faded as I felt more and more of the positive energy camp has to offer. I still continue to make new friends every day and it amazes me how kind everyone here is.
The last thing we are going to talk about in the Sunday service tomorrow is beauty. We went around and surveyed other campers and asked them what their definition of beauty was. Some of the responses we got were things like kindness, being true to yourself, caring for others, and being empathetic. These responses showed us what campers really think of when they hear beauty. Outer beauty never came up because true beauty is what’s on the inside that shines through in a person’s personality. Tomorrow we will also hand out stickers that say “You Are Beautiful” on them. When these stickers are distributed, campers give them to each other or put them on mirrors in bathrooms to show how they love and appreciate each other.
The meaning of true beauty is different for everyone. Core values vary between all of us and that makes us unique. Some define beauty as outward appearances, such as physical looks or fashion choices. Others define beauty as confidence, a kind heart, and the ability to love yourself as well as others. Birch Trail teaches girls how to fully understand and appreciate the true meaning of beauty. At camp, everyone is considered beautiful, not because of what they look like, but because of their personality and their unique qualities.