Blog 1


At the start of each session when we have our very first dinner together, we have a tradition of reciting a special grace that campers have been using here at Birch Trail since the very beginning. This grace is a poem that reminds the campers to be mindful of their time together and of the friendships they will cultivate over the next four or eight weeks. The poem reads as follows:
There is a destiny that makes us brothers and sisters;
None goes his or her way alone.
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
I care not your race nor creed;
One thing holds firm and fast
That into this fitful heap of days and deeds,
The soul of a man and a woman is cast.

We try to incorporate the message of this poem into many of the things we do at camp, including one very special all-camp program. Our second session color wars program is called TIAD, which stands for “There Is A Destiny.”

Today is the second and final day of this year’s round of TIAD. During TIAD, the entire camp takes a two-day hiatus from projects and the regular schedule for some special events. While there is the usual brand of color-coordinated-to-the-extreme outfits, lots of singing and cheering, and funny games, there is also the constant and underlying theme that the poem expresses. Integrated into the competitions, cheers, and organization of TIAD is the concept that we as a camp community have a responsibility to one another to be kind and respectful.

TIAD is about all the traditions and history of camp, and the core values we try to impart on our campers. The TIAD teams are named after the some of the local rivers we take canoe trips on: the Flambeau, St Croix. Namekegon, Brule and Totagatic rivers. Each team also has a theme that corresponds to one of the five core camp values that we honor at Birch Trail: friendship, tradition, kindness, cooperation and adventure.

We talk a lot during TIAD about camp’s history and traditions, using the special opportunity to do a little teaching. Last night’s program was a camp history council fire, where the teams must answer questions about birch trail’s history and the Native American history in this region. True to BT form, this Birch Trail Trivia game is a little different than your average question-and-answer competition. Each team has four groups of contestants for each age group comprised of two maples, two lindens, two tamaracks, and two counselors. The maple pairs take their turn first, positioned about ten feet from their advisor (a staff member who serves as a sort of color-wars-consigliere for each team). The facilitator asks a trivia question to the maples, who must write down the correct answer and deliver it to their advisor by skipping the distance; lindens must wheel-barrow across the grass, tamarack teams army crawl, and counselors leap frog. The team that has the correct answer and gets to the advisor first wins the point. If no team has the correct answer, the most creative answer wins. It’s pretty entertaining to watch! After the trivia contest the linden campers from each team lead a song about their teams’ core value.

I love how even the trivia contest allows different types of kids to shine; answering trivia questions in order to earn points is a great way for those campers who don’t excel in or enjoy athletic activities to shine and help their teams. Unlike a lot of camps, many of our color war activities are not all athletic based. One of our most innovative competitions during TIAD is a make-your-own-boat contest, where the teams each get balloons, garbage bags, cardboard and duct tape. Using only these materials, each team must construct a boat that one camper can sit in and paddle across the swim area. Our campers get really crafty and creative with their boat-building, and the whole thing is pretty hilarious.

Like first session’s Pandemonium color wars, TIAD is complete with enough songs, chants, and cheers written just for these two days to fill an entire songbook, as well as a whole new world of silly games and races. I love to see everyone get into the spirit of fun and good sportsmanship with extra gusto during TIAD. And at the end of TIAD’s closing ceremonies, each camper understands and appreciates a little better how special camp really is, and how special she is for being a part of it.

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