Summer Camp was a place where I first understood what it was to be ME. The joy and skills learned through eight years of camp in the foothills of western North Carolina became a touchstone that remains. It was a camp that I was free to express myself as a competent young adult – to feel myself as the master of my own body (climbing, archery, kayaking, swimming) and social relationships (problem solving, cabin life, and making friends).
As a child, I had the realities of home, school, sports and a myriad of activities.The rules and expectations that surrounded me were intense. The ME I knew in that environment was studious and artistic (and a bit creatively scattered). I was a definite people-pleaser. I wanted badly to impress my parents and peers and followed a regimented schedule of classes, after school sports and homework.
At camp, while there were rules and standards of conduct, there was a new kind of freedom and a chance for me to express myself outside of the confines of our home and school life. I understood the beginnings of self-fulfillment, beyond that of pleasing others. I felt it when I stood up on water skis for the first time, or when I looked out of my tent atop Chimney Rock to the expanse of trees in the Blue Ridge mountains. It was a positive self-possession: a sensation of being full within myself and fully present.
I wanted my girls to have that same chance at summer camp.
My husband and I waited until our girls were 8 and 10 years-old before we began to seriously look at camps. Living in Maine afforded us the chance to see a multitude of options. We shopped around for camps – we wanted a non-denominational, co-ed camp that offered a long enough stay for the girls to have time to develop their skills and touch upon that freedom and positive growth.
While the prospect of leaving them was hard, my husband and I put on a brave face as we packed them up for three-and-a half weeks at our best choice, Kamp Kohut. I reminded myself of that joy I felt as a young woman. We met their counselors, helped them make their beds and said our good-byes, leaving them in the able-bodied hands of the Kohut staff.
Kamp Kohut had become our choice after we met with one of the camp’s directors, Lisa Tripler. Lisa visited us in our home and spoke with our girls for over three hours. Ellie and Ava resonated with excitement after she shared details of the daily life and adventures. She understood when I recounted my own stories of camp, sharing that she too had experienced the same kind of growth and joy. It felt right, and we saw the same grins curl across their faces the day we drove them up to camp.
Next up: The letters home: “Mom, I am having the best time of my life!”
Have you gone to summer camp?