Second Session 2011, Here We Go!

Second session is officially underway, and I’m thrilled to report that we had a happy and successful travel day yesterday. We had a wonderful time visiting with the families of our eight week campers over the Big Switch, took one big breath, had a good night’s sleep, and then welcomed the crew of second sessioners with mighty big smiles and hugs. It was just a little bit warmer than we would have liked, but with slip-n-slides, popsicles, and sprinkler games, the campers managed to do what they do best—have fun!

We had a great time showing all the kids to their new cabins and watching them make new friends at record speeds. For the first dinner of second session, we dined al fresco to help beat the heat. We also took the first bunch of cabin pictures, so if you haven’t yet had a chance to check them out, feel free to take a look at your daughters’ cabin pictures. After dinner, we opened up the canteen (our camp store) to make sure that everyone had a water bottle for the night. And then it was on to the counselor show, full of TONS of silly songs and wacky introductions.

I’d like to take this opportunity to issue a hearty thanks for your patience if it takes us just a little longer to return your phone calls and emails over these first couple of days—we’ll try our best to catch up real soon, but our first priority is making sure that each and every camper feels happy and comfortable. Part of making everyone feel comfortable is our Big and Little Sisters program, which helps give first-time campers a guaranteed, immediate friend and mentor. Every new camper is given a camp “Big Sis,” a seasoned, older camper who can show her the ropes of camp and be a steady confidant in these first few days. Last night as I made the rounds, checking in on each cabin to make sure everyone had everything they needed, I was so pleased to see throngs of Big Sisters making their way to visit their Little Sisters with little gifts.

In fact, something that distinguishes second session from the first half of camp is that those Big sisters and eight-weekers are already so immersed in the camp community that they set a comfortable, positive tone for the newcomers right from the very beginning. In turn, those new campers arrive having already experienced a few weeks of summer at home, and in their eagerness to have fun doing something new, add a sense of renewed excitement for those kids who have already been here for four weeks. The end result is always the same: second session absolutely flies by in a flash.

Though many of the eight-week campers have already made lasting memories with their friends and cabin mates from last session, new cabin groups and bunkmate pairings inevitably result in lots of new friendships. Camp life tends to facilitate the easy creation of friendships, because we place great value on sharing, communication, and fun; the elements that make up long-lasting friendships are constantly encouraged here.

Learning how to seek out and connect with someone who shares the same likes and values helps kids feel confident as they move through their school years and into adulthood. Children who attend camp from a young age have been proven to enjoy smoother, healthier, and happier transitions into high school, college, and work environments. I’ve always thought that this makes a great deal of sense because what is at the core of those life-changing transitions is the quality of the company we keep and how that company makes us feel about ourselves. For those kids who are confident in their ability to make new friends, adolescence and early adulthood are certainly a little bit more comfortable than they might otherwise be.

With this in mind, we start emphasizing the importance of being a good friend from the very first day of each session. Through our Sunday Services, council fires, and our overall camping style, we teach the Birch Trail girls that the key to being a good friend lies in their dedication to being kind, supportive, honest, and compassionate.Remarkably, even those campers who are shy, tentative, introverted, or homesick in their first few days eventually come to realize that the camp environment is a safe one in which they can strike up a conversation with another camper.

I’m pleased to report that already–mere hours into the session–I’m seeing evidence that our methods are working and that in the morning when each camper wakes up, she will know that she has a friend to talk to and share breakfast with. If that isn’t a fantastic start to the session, I don’t know what is.

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