Blog 1

Visiting Day

We had so much energy, fun and enthusiasm at camp this past session. Campers made new friends, tried new activities and expanded their horizons. We sent out 34 trips including: two sea kayaking trips to the apostle islands, two hiking trips to Isle Royale, two Boundary Waters canoeing trips, eight canoeing trips down the Namekagon river, two rock climbing trips, a paddle boarding trip, a sailing trip and many more.

We had incredible evening programs, including last night’s camper favorite Tiki’s Last Laugh. If silly and messy activities are your idea of a good time, check the photos online. https://birchtrail.smugmug.com/Evening-Program-Tikis-Last-Laugh/

Our activities this session were wonderful. Campers not only achieved new levels in their activities, but they had a blast while doing it. Perhaps even more importantly, our campers made real connections and enjoyed some quality downtime.

I spend a fair amount of time during the “off season” attending child development conferences, meeting with authors, therapists and trainers. There is a wealth of great information out there. We have compiled a ton of it on our parents university page. Take a look at the articles when you get a chance. I love learning about new research and techniques that we can use at camp to improve our program.

One of the buzz words people have been talking about the past few years is grit. There is a growing epidemic in universities of students who can’t function on their own. They have trouble with decisions, normal obstacles in everyday life and a major fear of failure. One of the biggest messages coming from educators and therapists is to let kids have independent experiences (and failures) to better prepare them for the real world.

Camp is the perfect independent experience. Campers get a chance to partake in a world of their own. They can be a different person at camp than who they are at home. They can make new friends, learn new skills and make mistakes without the fear of academic consequences. They learn that failure and mistakes are ok. At camp there are bumps in the road and our campers learn to navigate them, learn from them and move on.

I wish that you were able to see what I see here every day. And that’s one of the things that I love about visiting day. For a day, parents get to see what I see. Parents get a glimpse into their children’s world. It’s so amazing to see our campers welcoming their parents into their special place. They introduce them to their friends, their counselors and show them what they have learned. It’s truly wonderful to watch.

At camp, our campers have freedoms and abilities that don’t exist at home. When we believe in our campers abilities to control their own destinies and handle their problems they are unstoppable. If we show them that we believe in them – they will prove us right. If we show fear and put up messages of doubt, they see it and show fear. It’s no wonder that they thrive at camp. We remove social media, magazines and tv. We replace those things with supportive and encouraging staff members, positive messaging, a nurturing culture and a message of unconditional love. In short it’s a recipe for growth and success. Sure, there are bumps in the road- but those are part of the process- every flower that blooms has to go through some dirt.

Thanks for sticking with us, believing in us and more importantly believing in your daughters abilities. I hope you see the results in your 1st session campers tonight. If your daughter is an 8 week camper I hope you get a glimpse of her growth before you send her back for another session tomorrow!

One thought on “Visiting Day”

  1. Gabe,You probably would not remember me. First and foremost, I am Dena Kandelman’s “Ems” and Maddy Stein Kandelman’s Mom. Maddy forwarded your letter to me and tears welled in my eyes when I read it. This was such a beautiful written piece and should be modified to be included in new camper materials and on the website. Your philosophy is the reason BT has been so important in our family and why I have always talked so proudly of “our” camp. I have witnessed how Maddy thrived as a camper for so many summers and now marvel at how last summer helped Dena to gain confidence, meet new friends and be so happy with herself. As you know she arrived tonight for her second summer and she was so excited to be back at Birch Trail. I know this summer will be special as each and every one is. Know that BT grandparents (like us) are so proud of you and your camp philosophy and your dedication to making each and every girl have a great summer. Please say “hi” to your Mom from Marley and Gary Stein. Have a fantastic four weeks!

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