Today's story comes from Katelyn Gillum, who now works for her camp fulltime! Send your story from the summer to media@ACAcamps.org .
If you would have told me nearly four years ago that being a camp counselor was going to change my life, I never would have believed you. I walked into my first summer at Camp Walden in Diamond Point, New York, thinking that it was merely going to be a two-month experience that would give me the opportunity to work with kids and boost my resume as a prospective teacher. What I didn't know is that it would change my world forever.
Having never gone to a sleep away camp as a child, I entered the camp world knowing nothing aside from what I had learned through movies such as The Parent Trap and shows like Bug Juice. I was expecting to find campers sneaking out of bunks, being sent to isolation cabins, and playing poker without any adult supervision. What I did find, however, was quite the opposite — an environment where people take care of each other, where long-lasting friendships are created, and where being yourself and trying new things is strongly encouraged.
After experiencing the beauty of sleep away camp, I began to wonder why everyone wasn't involved in summer camps. The sense of family, the amount of growth, and the ability to be 100% yourself is enough to make anyone want to spend two months in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Try explaining that to someone who has never been to a summer camp before, and the idea of it all seems a bit whimsical and unrealistic. That's when it suddenly dawned on me that part of what makes the sleep away camp experience so special is the fact that only a small percentage of us really understand the impact it has.
It's not only the special bonds created between campers and counselors alike, but it's the lessons learned and the ability to give and share with others that truly makes the camp setting unlike any other. I know that I would not be the person that I am today if not for my time at Camp Walden. Walden has allowed me to create lasting relationships with my campers and co-staff and has allowed me to find another place that I can call "home." I don't think I will ever truly be able to repay Walden for what it has given me, but I do know that I can share my experiences and encourage others to experience what the camp setting is all about!
Happy camping . . .
Photo courtesy of Camp Aranzazu, Rockport, Texas