It’s February. Which means we’re in the thick of all things cold, gloomy, icy, and gray. And to make matters worse, that pesky groundhog saw his shadow which means winter isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Still, if you squint real hard, you might see something. A light there in the distance. A glowing beacon on the horizon. If you rub your eyes and you look again, you’ll know it for sure. You’ll know that reprieve is coming. And though it may not seem like it yet, the inevitable will hold true: summer is coming, friends. And with it comes an entire new season of the jam packed, non-stop, awesome adventures and the silly shenanigans that BYM Camps is known for. But because summer fun might be a little hard to see behind a groundhog’s shadow, we thought we’d take a moment to remind you of a few of reasons why camp is just so darn great.
No! Stop that! Quiet down!
Out of all the things a child hears during the day in school, those three commands have to make the greatest hits. It might even be a necessary evil sometimes; school is a place for focus and concentration. Well, at camp we have a different philosophy. We believe learning and growth can not only still happen once you knock down the walls, but that it can be ever better once you do. So we tell ‘em to get loud! Be proud! Embrace the goofy! The sillier the better! Camp is a place where you can run around to your heart’s content, have free reign over the art room, and let your imagination go wild.
And we’ve got an entire staff committed to being the same. They’re not just performing for the campers, they’re standing alongside them, joining them in the games, modeling how to let loose, have fun, and leave it all behind because they’re doing it themselves. At camp, it’s cool to not be cool.
What do you think of when you think of roughin’ it? Muddy boots? Sleepings bags? A mosquito bite or three? Well how about authentic African peanut stew? Or a lovingly created, artisanal chicken pot pie? How about a homemade Pad Thai with hand rolled spring rolls prepared by a homegrown Los Angelino chef? Because those were just a few of the many mouth watering meals served up at our camps this past summer.
While camp may be synonymous with classics like GORP (Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts!) and trail mac and cheese, we’ve been blessed to have in-camp kitchen staff who are as crazy about camp as we are, and they bring their wide range of cooking talents with them. We definitely embrace the gritty life at camp which promotes fun without the comforts of home, but you better believe both campers and staff alike are spoiled rotten for three meals a day!
“Hmm, I don’t know. What do you want to do?” is the typical counselor response.
“Um. Can we play Ga-Ga-Ga all afternoon then jump in the pond!” Asks the camper.
“Sure!” Responds the counselor without hesitation.
“Of course! We’re here for you!”
Children are used to having their fun set for them. Sometimes, if they’re lucky, they’ll have some options in school. But at camp, we truly build our programming from the ground up for them. That means when counselors are planning afternoon activities or workshops, they’re doing it based on what the campers request and want to do. They then present those choices, and – because we listen to everybody – there’s a wide range of options that appeals to everyone. Camp is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” story of fun.
There’s just something special that happens in every single cabin unit. That, no matter the age, once cabins are assigned and counselors and campers are able to settle in, pick a bed, look around, and take it all in, the bonding is almost instantaneous. It’s the woods equivalent of the Harry Potter sorting hat. Each tight knit unit forms its own identity. They live together, work together, and laugh together. They swap stories at night and share interests. They get to know one another and support each other through challenges and triumphs. Indeed, they form bonds for life. It is not at all uncommon, for campers to come through, become adults, and reflect back on how camp was the first place where they learned what a real friend was.
Friends, food, choices, and goofiness is all well and good, but these are all things that can happen in the “real world”. Camp is obviously the best thing ever, but camp wouldn’t be camp if it didn’t come with a healthy helping of epic adventure. Which is why every camp in the BYM Camping Program sends campers out into the wilderness overnight on multi-day trips to experience the wonder of nature through incredible journeys. Canoeing, rock climbing, and hiking are all par for the course, and it’s not just about being able to be on an exciting outing: it’s about being able to have a story to tell. Campers return having accomplished something; many accomplishing something they did not think themselves capable of or ever having had the opportunity to do. Back at camp, each camper has the opportunity to share their story around the campfire to allow this affirmation and sense of validation to sink in.
If you ask someone to define outdoor summer camp, they’ll probably tell you that it’s a place where you can live in nature for a few weeks away from home. But if you’ve experienced it for yourself or sent a child to find out you might know different. You might know that, once you add it all up, it can be nothing short of magical. So the next time the sun comes out of the clouds on a cold winter day, take a look up and just know: summer is waiting. We’ll be here.