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Why Every Child Should Go To Sleep Away Camp

Updated on July 10, 2017
My first year at Sleepaway Camp, July 2010
My first year at Sleepaway Camp, July 2010

No Judgement LIKE EVER

The camp I went to Lindley G Cook 4H has become my home away from home. When I first came in 2010 I was an insecure, nervous 13 year old going into eighth grade. I had a hard time socializing with peers, so I just assumed I would never fit in. Boy, I was wrong by a long shot. Less than two days I knew every girl in my cabin by name. It was as if we were childhood best friends who knew each other since kindergarten.

You have the freedom to be silly. Every night, during dinner we have a theme, one of them is cabin representation. One cabin dresses like their cabin mates. Mismatch seems to be a favorite. Where in public can you go out with socks over leggings or plaid over plaid? At camp you can!

Bracelets from the 2014 camp season
Bracelets from the 2014 camp season

Want to add me on Facebook?: Camp Version

Every Parent's dream is for their kids to get of their phones, and outside during the summer months. In a sleepaway camp where there is nothing but trees, a lake, rustic cabins, and no wifi, phones become obsolete. At camp no hashtags or friend requests are required to seal friendship.

At camp it is all in the bracelet. Better known as a Friendship Bracelet. Legend goes that the maker of the bracelet ties it on their friends wrist, their friend makes a wish, and the wish will come true once the bracelet falls of. I am not sure about other sleepaway camps, but at mine, string is as important as Viking Dinner (A night were no utensils are used, and you stuff your face in Lasagna, and... freakout, the camps specialty dessert).

Over my years as a camper, a counselor in training, and volunteer counselor, I can probably cover my entire bed with the ones campers, friends and even counselors made for me. At the bedpost of every cabin or on water bottles you are bound to find a bracelet in the making.

Life Lessons not Taught in The Classroom

Sleepaway camp gives you a chance to explore, and discover. For some it is their first time away from home. Here they are, in a cabin sleeping on a sleeping bag, laid across a plastic mat, with probably a bunkmate above them who tosses and turns at night. For another, it is their last year as a camper, and their 5th summer there, and they are trying to enjoy every second they have left before they may become a counselor. As you overcome the fear of being away from home, you develop confidence. You realized that you can be independent by yourself, and don't necessarily need to depend on your parents. Something you probably won't learn in math class.

As you learn how to cast one time, and fail, then cast a second time and unknowingly hit a thankfully empty paper wasp nest (true story, I did back in 2010), then on the third succeed it pushes you to keep going, keep persevering. It teaches responsibility, we all had "chores" around camp. Whether it is setting up for meals, sweeping the cabin, or cleaning trash around camp, everyone has a role. You may build teamwork skills in classwork, but you sure do not build responsibility and teamwork by getting points for finding golf balls when cleaning campgrounds anywhere else.

Leadership skills are built at camp. The youngest look up to the oldest, and as you come again and again back to camp you learn the ropes. Even though you may be a camper, you find yourself helping a younger camper. After all, you were in his shoes years ago.

Lastly, friendship. Yes, a very much important lesson that teaches the importance of strong relationships between people. The friends you make at camp stay with you forever. I met my friend Courtney my second year of camp. To this day we still laugh about the memories we had when we were in the same cabin, and sharing the love of camp. You might just find someone special at camp like two of my friends did. Thirty years later you may find yourself laughing with them about the night you face painted each other, made cookies, and played musical kayaks (musical chairs with kayaks) on Monday night we call Cabin Choice night.

Signatures of campers and staff from the 2014 camp season. The clover stands for 4H (head,heart,hands,health) In the center, we come from the mountains, fire, and lake. It is the symbolic song for LGC 4H
Signatures of campers and staff from the 2014 camp season. The clover stands for 4H (head,heart,hands,health) In the center, we come from the mountains, fire, and lake. It is the symbolic song for LGC 4H
Camping class 2011 Even in classes we become a family
Camping class 2011 Even in classes we become a family

One Big Ever Expanding Family

It is a bit weird if you graduate high school with the same people who have been in the same elementary school classrooms with you, and even had classes together in middle and high school, so you sit there thinking, "Woah we all grew up together...weird." Well camp, not much different. As you grow up ending in the same cabin with a bunk mate from the summer before, and later both apply to work at camp, boom! Both end up going from cabin mates to co counselors. That's what makes a sleepaway camp amazing, the staff you'll meet once you drop your child of, were campers once too, probably in the very same cabin your child will be placed in.

Only At Camp

Chants, memories, lessons, and an all camp capture the flag in torrential rain (true story, Summer 2010 and 2013) only is appreciated by the camp family. For me, whenever I hear Greenday's Good Riddance (Time of your life) it will bring me, and all of those in my camp family to tears. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. Those tears are filled with sorrow, as that's the last song played at the camp dance, but also laughter, remembering the memories from that week.

Every morning before breakfast, we start with a song, or a chant. We yell and scream, jump up and down singing to the songs we sung in those very spots, on the flagstones outside the dining hall, awaiting to start yet another day at camp. Doubt you'll find yourself doing that at school, or even work.

Where the oldest members can release their inner kid

Don't you wish you can act like a kid and not be judged? At camp the adults release their inner child, while being responsible adults of course. The counselors are being silly letting campers deck them in ice cream and whip cream in Kangaroo Court (A Lindley G Cook olympic event), and laugh their way through it. It is where to oldest of campers can sing chants written for kids at the top of their lungs, carefree, with no fear of judgement.

A scrapbook of memories

To this day I remember my first year at camp in 2010 how for our talent show skit, my cabin used a song called the Banana Song to make our faces look like sundaes. We each partnered up, and one of us would be smothered in chocolate syrup, whip cream, and sprinkles. Of course I volunteered to be covered in chocolate syrup and cream, all of us laughed, and it was worth the long shower to get everything out of my hair. 7 years later, and these memories keep me laughing. As I stated earlier, my last year as a camper in 2013, our cabin choice was facepainting, baking cookies, and musical kayaks. The smell of the cookies, and our drenched hair from swimming in the lake still stays with me.

If I could list every fond memory I have, the list would be endless. The end of every summer brings sorrow and happiness. However as our favorite, bittersweet song Linger states in the last line, This is goodnight but not goodbye.

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