Practice, Practice, Practice

Today is an exciting day for me. I’m heading to Chicago with a group of staff to pick up our first session campers. We also have a group of staff heading to the Minneapolis airport to pick up all the campers flying in tomorrow from 42 different cities. While today is exciting, it’s no match for what tomorrow will bring. Dinner tomorrow night will feature 225 campers and 140 staff cheering louder than you can imagine for the start of camp. Today’s preparation will allow tomorrow’s excitement to happen.

During a conversation I had at lunch I was reminded of the 20 years that I have been doing this job. Over that time our practices and procedures have had time to adapt and grow. In fact this is the first time in 20 years that I am writing my Fathers Day blog during the day instead of at night. Normally on Father’s Day we have a morning of staff training, then I say good bye to my family, and hop in a van filled with our staff and drive down to Chicago. The staff and I will then ride the busses with the campers to camp the following day. This year we are catching a ride down to Chicago with the bus company, so as a nice surprise, I don’t have to spend a large portion of my day driving and instead get to catch up on emails, phone calls and get to write this blog now instead of late at night in my hotel room in Chicago. While I enjoyed my tradition of writing in the hotel room every Fathers Day, this new tradition is much more efficient and might even afford me some more sleep tonight!

The preparation that goes into running an intentional summer camp program is a tremendous, coordinated effort. We spend a large portion of our year planning our staff training, consulting with experts in the field of child development, attending conferences and workshops and hiring the best staff to carry out our mission. It’s a area that we are always seeking to improve, because even though our camp is successful and our staff training is great, we always want to do better, and there is always new research that leads to new and improved techniques.

Birch Trail is a beautiful camp and our 480 acres are a breathtaking backdrop for your children’s growth. The tall trees, blue skies with eagles flying overhead and the amazing sunsets that lead into brightly shining stars at night are quite a sight to see. However, when it comes to the man made aspects of camp, so much of what the campers will see tomorrow has been carefully put together over the past 6 weeks. Caring staff members have raked the leaves from the villages, cleaned the cabins, installed docks and boats, set up sporting areas, set up the climbing wall, washed every dish, organized costumes and much, much more. The dedication and hard work these staff members have put into our camp set up is no small feat.

Between the year’s worth of planning for our intentional programing, the 6 weeks of physical labor that goes into setting up camp and that past 8 days of staff training, it’s quite a bit of preparation. This preparation goes through changes every year. Much like my bus ride today is a new improvement on a journey I’ve made for 20 years, we have some new ideas and improvement for camp this summer. We pride ourselves on constantly working to improve and update our camp and it’s program. We have upgraded multiple activity areas, worked with leading psychologists to create a new camper goals program, remodeled a number of cabins and so much more.

While it means that we have to work harder each year to design and upgrade our programs and incorporate those changes into our staff training, the benefits to our campers and staff are vast.

I tell people that the 8 days of staff training are my most important 8 days of the year. If staff training goes well, the summer goes well. And boy, has this year’s staff training been great. So while I am excited today, I really can’t wait for tomorrow!

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