Hi, I'm Brian, living in Melbourne, Australia.
I first did camp in 2004. I had heard of the American Summer Camp experience in high school, as friends of my older sister had done it. I had known them since we were young, and seeing them return home after doing camp - they were different people. They couldn't stop raving about the experience they had. It was then, at age 16 the seed was planted firmly in my mind.
I eventually made it to camp as part of a one year travelling adventure that took me around the world. I went to the London Recruitment fair and walked around a room containing 35 American Summer Camps. I was nervous, not very confident but mainly just excited to just be at the recruitment fair at all. I came across a table for Summit Special Needs Camp, located in Pennsylvania. The hirers from Summit saw something in me that day, and offered me a position. I didn't know it at the time, but my life was about to be changed forever.
Arriving at camp in June, I dove straight into the experience. There was a large staff at Summit, many, like me, there for the first time. The kids arrived, and it was like a rollercoaster ride. I didn't know one place could be so fun, so challenging, so different and so special all at the one time. In a matter of one summer - 9 weeks - I grew in many ways, and became a different person. The friends i made, the memories I created, but mostly the kids I got to know and see develop all combined to create the best experience of my life to date. I returned to Australia in late 2004, knowing that I wasn't done yet and would one day return to camp.
Camp inspired me to become a Youth Worker, which I still do to this day. I studied my qualifications to become a youth worker, gained employment in a high school working with the students with disabilities and learning difficulties and continued to grow and grow. In 2006, I made my return and headed back to Summit as a returnee. Seeing the same kids now two years older, grown up and still as affectionate and happy as ever was great. They told me it was great to have me back and I went on and had another amazing experience that year and once again in 2007.
Work and study took over after my third time on camp, but I stayed connected by becoming an interviewer for Camp America in Australia. I still had so much passion and enthusiasm for the program, I wanted to share it with the world and help the next generation of counsellors get over there and do the same thing. I began interviewing and speaking at info sessions, meeting many eager young applicants and preparing them for the summer of their life. All very rewarding. It was also during my early days of interviewing that I my met my wife Nicole. She had also worked on a camp in Indiana for 3 summers.
It was in 2010, with the summer camp experience still running through our veins, that Nicole and I returned to America. This time, I worked on Nicole’s camp - Crosley YMCA Camp. A completely different experience from Summit but equally as fun, special and rewarding. I had come a long way since 2004, and by my fourth time at camp i felt very confident and skilled as a counsellor and was welcome on my new camp. I also found myself being the mentor for many first time counsellors who were about the same age I was when I first did it six years earlier (21).
And now, my wife Nicole and I are expecting our first child in the coming weeks. We still have friends from all over the world who we worked together with on camp. Some of them even came out for our wedding in 2012, and we are planning another big reunion in Hawaii for 2015.
Camp changed my life. It woke me up to what I believe is my purpose in life; working with young people, inspiring them to discover who they are through fun and play. I would give anything to go back again, but I settle for encouraging young Australians to apply and give it a go. I let them know they will never regret it and will come back a changed person.
To take away this opportunity for many Australians wishing to do the summer camp experience is heartbreaking. It is imperative it stays alive, for the sake of future generations of counsellors, but mostly for the young children and teenagers who attend their camp each and every summer. They learn about the world, people and themselves through their counsellors. They bring their energy, ideas and personalities from all over the world, and to deny American children that extraordinary privilege would be a real shame.