The TIADS That Bind

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We amplified the energy of camp the last two days by holding our annual second session colors wars festivities, better known around BT as TIAD (short for There Is A Destiny). And what a fun-filled burst of energy these two days have given us! Color wars are longstanding summer camp traditions that span the nation, taking place at all sorts of camps in wide varieties of length and theme. But one thing remains consistent throughout: FUN!

The whole camp has been divided up into teams, mixing cabin groups, age levels and friends in order to create new relationships and new bonds. Right from the beginning of this fantastic departure from the usual camp routine, we all felt a remarkable energy take hold of the whole camp community, a current derived from almost constant action, powerful enthusiasm, smile-filled interactions, and boundless opportunity for fun. It’s an energy that has sparked to life in the context of TIAD— the different creative and sports activities, the awesome leadership shown by the TM campers, and the beautiful theme behind TIAD, which teaches the campers to be kind and respectful, and to be mindful of their time together and of the friendships they will cultivate here.

Each team dressed and painted themselves in their team colors, learned several team cheers and showed incredible team spirit. In the end, it hardly ever matter which team “wins” when so much of the fun and focus centers around the excitement of getting dressed up and singing all day! And let me tell you, some of the costumes were pretty darn amazing! Just a little face paint, a goofy hairstyle, or handmade sign taped to your shirt goes a long way, though most of our campers surely didn’t stop there…tutus, color-coordinated nail polish, and bandanas to match were donned as well. Birch Trail girls know how to dress to the nines for color wars!

It’s so wonderful to see these girls, young girls and teenagers alike, have such zeal for dressing up like this– doubled over with laughter and asking for their picture to be taken so they can scrunch up their faces into an even sillier look. It shows that they are proud and self-confident, they feel safe and cared for, and they are surrounded by friends, completely free of other social pressures (no boys!). I can’t imagine a more wonderful environment for them to come together within, even under the guise of a competitive event.

We talk a lot during TIAD about camp’s history and traditions, using the special opportunity to do a little teaching. The first 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 took 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 asked a trivia question to the maples, who wrote down the correct answer and delivered it to their advisor by skipping the distance; lindens then wheel-barrowed across the grass, tamarack teams army crawled, and counselors leap-frogged. The team that had the correct answer and got to the advisor first won the point. If no team had the correct answer, the most creative answer won. It’s pretty entertaining to watch! After the trivia contest, the linden campers from each team led a song about their teams’ core value. Though one team does always come away as the winner, it hardly matters much, because everyone walks back to their cabins hand-in hand, the colors of the different teams blending together in a rainbow of friendship canvasing the camp grounds. It’s truly a sight to behold.

Everyone knows that camp is a happy, fun-filled place where girls can spend their days enjoying activities, being with friends, and dressing up in crazy costumes for color wars. But I don’t think happiness at camp can be traced simply to these kinds of outward characteristics, to the activities, the incredible surroundings, or even the experience of our staff, though certainly all of these are important ingredients. Outside the haven of Birch Trail, even when every material need is met (and sometimes luxuriously met), the pure joy we find at camp can be missing.

The deep happiness felt at camp blossoms from the positive relationships formed among every member of our community. Free from pressure-filled competition and criticism, the way we interact here is uplifting and liberating. We talk about the power of community, even when we split up into teams for a few hours or a few days, because at the end—we will always come back together as a unit.

Put most simply, a child will begin to find genuine happiness when she feels those around her are likewise genuinely happy to welcome her into the fold, to be with her, and to love who she really is. Perhaps surprisingly, this kind of happiness derives not from what we do or what we have, but from who we’re with. This kind of collective spirit, so beautifully embodied by Birch Trail, is a powerful force.

And it’s something that builds upon itself in a community.  Beginning with our staff and then with our campers, caring inspires care, kindness calls forth further kindness, and happiness leads to the happiness of others. We can already see that the girls this session are helping each other in this way. As they grow closer, support and encourage each other, as they become more comfortable with each other, and as they feel genuinely appreciated, the fun of camp intensifies. It’s no wonder that the girls love TIAD and the message it conveys—every BT camper truly does have a destiny to be a part of something special here, and she sees that destiny realized the second she stepped foot onto these hallowed grounds.

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