September 23, 2013

Guest post by Marla Coleman

10-for-2. It often feels like we live 10 months for 2 months! Campers. Staff. Directors. (And dare we say parents, too?).

Sadly, those precious months have drawn to a close. We intentionally design the last week or few days to ensure that it seals our memories forever. Whatever the traditions of each camp — Olympics, candles flickering on the lake, “burndown” of the year, closing ceremonies — they really are one giant zip-lock bag. These rituals allow us to preserve the fun, the growth, the challenges, and the triumphs.

We can expect a letdown of sorts when it’s all over, not unlike the experience campers have. After all, we were on quite a high for those 8 weeks or so, delivering the ultimate experience: It’s exhilarating to be at camp every day — be yourself, be appreciated for who you are, know that no one is judging you, and feel liberated to leave your comfort zone and expand your stretch zone.

The good news is that while they have left the physical space that has been home, they are taking much of their camp experience with them on their journey through life.

Campers have truly reinvented themselves this summer, and I posit, so have we as a result; we’ve had the privilege of having ringside seats as they have begun to describe themselves with some pretty authentic and empowering labels they have attributed to themselves:

Courageous. Compassionate. Cooperative. Creative. Considerate. Charitable.  Caring. And those are just the “C”s!

And we share another quality with our campers: passion. We know this, because we live it every summer — pursuing a passion can change the course of your life. It helps us thrive because we are using our talents, finding our joy, learning from mistakes, and helping others. Camp is where all of us discover our future best self.

The children, as we, may need some transition time to readjust and reconnect with the pace, pressures, and demands of life outside the cocoon of camp: school, grades, schedules, electronics . . . . Celebrating recent successes, staying connected with camp friends, having tangible remembrances all help to realign a galaxy that encompasses new stars in our personal constellation, helping to light the path to happiness and success.

Camp, after all, is the compass that points true north. No wonder we are so passionate about it.

Marla Coleman is a past president of ACA and a spokesperson. She is a founding director of Coleman Country Day Camp on Long Island. She also serves on the board of Roundup River Ranch in Colorado, a SeriousFun camp (formerly Hole-in-the-Wall) for children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses.