Empowerment, self-confidence and bonding are words that are often used to describe camp. However, as parents, you don’t get to see that happening in real time. Sure you get letters from your daughters and see the photos online, but it’s not the same as being here and witnessing it. That’s a privilege that I never take for granted. And I often wish that I could share it with you. In that sense tonight’s blog is a special blog. I want to let our campers share some of their experiences with you.
Here at Birch Trail we take part in cabin nights once a week. This past cabin night, cabin TM participated in an activity that brought us all closer. Patty, a leadership team member, brought out a long piece of poster paper and cut out letters that spelled the word ‘stereotypes’ and laid them out on the poster. Patty and the counselors then filled balloons with air and paint. Each camper took a balloon, and on it, wrote a false belief someone had about them. We all made a horseshoe around the poster and shared them with the group. After sharing what our balloon stood for, we popped the balloon- splattering paint all over the poster. When the paint dried, we removed the letters spelling out the word ‘stereotypes.’ It felt very liberating for many of the girls to get those stereotypes or misbeliefs out in the open, and then, pop them.
“On my balloon I wrote that because I’m short, people feel that they have power over me. Really, I’m strong, outgoing and powerful. Smashing the balloon helped me to “smash” the stereotype. The burst of the paint was empowering as well as freeing. I feel safe in my cabin and know that they’re there for me.”
“On my balloon I wrote just because I’m blonde doesn’t mean I’m dumb. We went up to the stereotype background and popped our paint balloons. It felt so good to share my stereotype with my friends and popping my balloon lifted a weight off my shoulders. Seeing my friends pop their balloons made me feel proud of my friends. None of us, or any other girls, should be held back by their stereotypes. Now that I’ve expressed myself to my cabin mates, I feel like we’ve bonded and become closer to one another.”
“On my balloon I wrote that because I am Catholic I am narrow minded. I have had friends who think I am not with the times because I am Catholic. They could not be more wrong about me. I did an English project about world religions. Learning about culture and religion is a big passion of mine. Another stereotype people at home have of me is that since I go to camp I don’t love my family. I have always been very hurt by this assumption because it’s just not true and it was made by a close friend.”
“On my balloon I wrote just because I don’t play sports doesn’t mean that I am lazy. It felt great to just talk about it, but then popping the balloon made me feel even better. It made us closer as a cabin and helped all of us understand each other much better. No one should be judged by stereotypes and this really helped us bond ever further as a cabin.”
During our second activity we sat in an outward facing circle. We all closed our eyes as a small group of girls were chosen to stand in the middle. Counselors would read prompts such as “tap someone who made you laugh” or “tap someone who inspires you.” The girls in the middle of the circle then tapped the shoulders of the girls in the outer circle. One girl in the cabin made the comment that the anonymity of the game made her feel so much more confident and made her realize how important she is to her friends.
Activities like these are valued at camp because they help our campers to grow, verbalize their feelings, and see things from another perspective. I feel strongly that these activities are an important part of what makes Birch Trail a special community.
As a camp director, it makes me proud when people outside our community comment on our campers. This past weekend, our water ski team was invited to participate in the Midwest Open Water Ski Tournament. The girls had a blast at the tournament and skied well. What I liked most was how the tournament organizers noticed our team out of all the teams and made the following comment to our longtime coach and waterfront director, “Your group is so cohesive. They all cheered for each other and showed great sportsmanship and teamwork. You can really notice the spirit of your team.”
I know that our cabin nights strengthen the bonds in our cabin groups, but it’s nice when other people see it too. Check out the photos and listen to your daughter’s stories when they come home. You’ll see it too.
As always, this summer is going by way too fast, and just like every year, we’re having a wonderful time here at camp.