What campers tell each other about the camp experience

Sunday night, we invited our older campers to stay after closing campfire to share about their CIC experiences.

It’s impressive when a teenager will stand in front of their peers and talk about the feelings they experienced during camp.

They stood in the dying light of the campfire, in front of the campers and counselors who had become their friends during the last two weeks. For some the words came quickly. Some knew they had something to say and the words were harder to find. Several repeated what others said before them. None of that mattered as they were talking about why the experience they shared was so meaningful to them.

Camp is a powerful experience and last night confirmed that fact more deeply for me.

One of our counselors, who is a former camper, shared about the first time he saw camp, and how he knew instantly it was a magical place. That was eight years ago. He’s now delivering the magic to others.

One camper shared how her four weeks at camp had opened her eyes to new friends and experiences. She did things she never thought she would or could do. Now she envisions a time when she is a counselor and can share those same experiences with younger campers.

Another camper described moving to California and struggling to make new friends until she came to camp. Camp is her safe place. She can come here and know that she is with friends and can be herself.

Campers talked about the friends they made and the things they accomplished. They told others they loved them and that they considered camp to be their family.

A first-year camper talked about his friend who cancelled at the last minute, leaving him to come alone. He had resigned himself to being alone at camp. He was stunned at how easily everyone became friends and how he was actually never lonely at camp.

Several campers talked about counting down the days to when camp starts every year. One boy described how his parents questioned his countdown when they had a spectacular family vacation planned. Camp trumped the European vacation. I asked the group who else counted down the days; most hands went up.

The most significant topic to me was how kids escape from the drama of home and school at camp. How easy it is at camp to be yourself without judgment or criticism. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Los Angeles, Phoenix or France. Drama rules teenager’s lives in many ways and they treasure the escape that camp universally gives them.

The majority of these campers went home Monday. I asked them to think about how to take their camp experience home with them. I challenged them to keep camp alive with them the rest of the year. There are 120 new campers joining the 20 who are staying for four weeks. I wonder what they’ll have to say in two weeks.

2 Responses to What campers tell each other about the camp experience

  1. Jordan Roberts says:

    This was an absolute delight to read, Tom. Thank you so much for posting it. Cameron, too, was one of the count-down campers. And it’s clear that this year didn’t disappoint. Thanks for providing such a safe, invigorating and challenging opportunity for him. All the best, Jordan (and Marianne)

  2. Liz says:

    I must say that cic is an incredibly magical place that changes lives. I remember when I first arrived at camp. I was 13, insecure, and worried about what others would think of me. That first summer I left cic with some friendships that are still intact today, and I am 22. I continued to come back, whether it was for four weeks or two weeks each summer, it didn’t matter; all that mattered was the friendships I built with the other campers and counselors. After being a camper, I went on to be a CIT for two summers, some of the best summers of my life. For me, it wasn’t just about being at howlands landing at that point, it was inspiring new campers who were new to the island and helping them find a place for cic in their hearts. My last night at camp at cic as a cit, one of my campers asked me why I was crying as closing campfire came to a close. I told her it was because this place held a big place in my heart, meant the world to me, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be back. As it turned out, that was my last summer at cic, but I still see and connect with some of the friends I’ve made and whenever I see the island from the California coast, I get a huge smile on my face and remember the wonderful and influential times I had at howlands landing.

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