Archive for Camp Stories

The Threat of Physical Violence

This is (hopefully) a rare occurrence in a camp environment, a situation where a camper is in a position to be a physical threat to her/his counselors. In order to place this in context, I’ll talk about a scenario that I found myself in two summers ago, and explain how I dealt with it.

To use the kayaks in boating sessions, our campers have to complete 25 lengths in our pool, and to help them achieve this, counselors sometimes get in and complete it with them, cheering them on. I was doing just that. I had not swum properly for a while, and so was finding it just as hard going as the campers! When I had finished, I got out of the pool to an ongoing situation with my co-counselor and a camper. The camper had become aggressive, and was shouting at my co, and flicking a towel around at him. Rightly so, my co was not reacting to that, and trying to get him to calm down, my co-counselor was doing everything right, but it just wasn’t working.

I volunteered to be a ‘new face’, and take over where my co left off, just as the camper ran into the pump room of the pool. I followed him in, and he continued to be verbally aggressive, and to flick the towel at my face. I continued my co-counselors responses, trying to calm him down and get him out of the pump room. As he didn’t get the response he wanted, he picked up a wrench that was nearby, and started waving it around.

This is the point where the situation changed from inappropriate, to dangerous. As this was not going to resolve itself in a favorable manner (well for me anyway!), I took the wrench from his hands, and escorted him out of the pump room, where I made it quite clear how unacceptable this was. He was then passed over to a member of our Support and Intervention Team [SIT].

I think that this is the crux of my argument, that when circumstances like this occur, as rare as they are, they have to be resolved quickly, and in a way that you may not usually want to conduct yourself. At camp, I am easy-going and will attempt to talk to campers in a way that doesn’t show anger or condemnation, but helps to reason through their behavior with them. After this event, I had a long talk with my Unit Leader, as I felt very guilty and upset about how I had handled it, but now I don’t believe there was another way, because of what could have happened.

Camp Story: Full Life

There was this kid in my bunk last summer, let’s call him Johnny. Well he was really into video games. His favorite video game was Half Life. This was also Johnny’s first summer at camp, so he obviously didn’t know anyone.

One day, he was telling me about how he loved to play Half Life. I thought nothing of it, but I humored him and talked to him about it. A few days later he was having a bad day. He’d get to camp really early, and before any of the counselors in our bunk got to camp, some of the kids were making fun of him. When I got to camp I saw him sitting at our bunk table crying. So I started talking to him. He told me what happened and I told him I’d deal with it. Then I started to try cheering him up. I remembered he told me his favorite game was Half Life. Well to be creative, I told him I created a game called Full Life. At first he didn’t believe me, but I kept telling him I really did create that game. (In reality I didn’t.) He got really into it and started talking to me all about it. It was like the sadness he just went through went away. He had a big smile on his face and he was pretty happy. The rest of the day he was in a good mood. I was just glad I could help him feel better on a day that started off pretty badly for him.

For the rest of the summer, we’d talk about Full Life. I’d tell him that there were really 20 games in the series, and that the newest one was based right at our camp. He loved that. Every day he’d come in and tell me how he beat another level of Full Life. He had a good imagination I guess. I’m sure he knew the game was fake, but I think he had a good time making up stories about how he beat a level and whatnot. So I played along. It was our little thing for the rest of the summer no one else understood.

On the last day of camp I got a note from his parents with my tip. None of the other counselors in the bunk got a note. It said that they wanted to thank me for helping him have a good summer. They said he was nervous before the first day of camp, but after a few days (probably after I told him about Full Life) he’d come home and tell about how good his day was. Apparently he mentioned my name a lot as well. That was really nice, I thought. I was glad I could help him have a good first summer at camp. I’m hoping he comes back next summer so I can talk to him again.

Camp Story: My All-Time Favorite Camp Moment

I’m pretty sure this was my favorite camp moment of all time. It’s a little thing, but it meant so much. This story happened two summers ago, my first year as a camp counselor.

It was the third week of camp and it was one of those excessively hot days. Like my other counselors that day, I had little patience, little tolerance, and I wasn’t really in the mood to be at camp that day. We were at basketball. The courts we played at had really low baskets because they were for little kids. Anyway, me and my senior counselor were standing around at one of the baskets talking. We both had a ball. One of our kids walked over. He wanted us to pick him up so he could do a slam dunk. (Obviously they weren’t really slam dunks. We’d give the kids a ball and we’d pick them up and they’d put the ball in the basket and hang on the rim.) We weren’t really in the mood to but we did it anyway. I gave him my ball and I picked him up and he “slam dunked”. And when he was hanging on the rim he started cracking up. He was laughing so much. He must’ve really been enjoying himself. Well me and Eugene (the S.C.) looked and we saw him laughing. We both got the biggest smiles on our faces. It cheered us up so much! If I had a video camera with me, I definitely would’ve recorded it. In fact, I’d have to say that it was my best camp moment. I really felt good when I saw him laughing.

It was at that moment that I realized what it meant to be a camp counselor. It’s not about the money or the free food. I didn’t do the job so I’d get out of the house during the day. The job isn’t really about you at all. It’s all about the kids. We’re there to make sure our kids have the best summer possible. And that moment was just one of those times where I felt I was doing just that. Unless you experience something like this yourself, you can’t really appreciate the feeling I got. But let me tell you, it was great. I’d give anything to relive that moment again.

Camp Story: Making an Impact

If you post on this site, you must be a dedicated counselor (or you were at one time). So I’m sure you’ve all made huge impacts on your campers’ summers, hopefully in good ways. 😛 So my question is, do you think you’ve ever made a big impact on a camper’s summer? How do you know?

I know I have. I found out one day last summer while we were at the pool. I usually don’t go swimming at camp, and there are some kids who don’t swim either. Those who don’t usually play run-the-bases in a shaded area near the pool. One day, I was playing with a bunch of kids. Some of those kids were from my bunk the previous summer. Also playing was their counselor for that summer. Well, one of those kids had to go to the bathroom. So he came up to me, and asked me to take him to the bathroom. I asked him why he didn’t ask his counselor, who was standing right near me. He told me that he liked me better and he wanted me to take him. Keep in mind that this was already about halfway through the summer so he had plenty of time to become friends with his new counselors. But he still asked me to take him over his counselor.

It was a small event, but for him to ask me over his real counselor to take him to the bathroom, it meant a lot because I must’ve made such an impact on his previous summer that he still liked me over his actual counselors.

(Oh yeah, in the end he had to go with his real counselor because I would’ve gotten in trouble if I took him.)

What Makes Camp Special

There are lots of different features that are specific to your own camp. These could be little things, ways of lining up, a weekly show or the music played between activity periods… if any are played at all!

At my camp, for example, at the end of every meal the Program Director gives out announcements about what is happening in the day. To get all the camper’s attention, he crouches down, while everyone bangs on the table, and then they all shout something out, and he calls back at them. After the announcements, he will choose which table to go first and second.

This is a very poor description, but makes my point: how exactly do you tell the people around you (or even people from other camps!) all the little things that make your camp special. They are usually mundane, tiny things that happen every day, but make it a unique special place to be in. How exactly can you tell the people back home about your summer?

I think my ineloquence here highlights my point, that it is difficult to fully describe your camp experience, because — regardless of whether a day or overnight camp — it is such a huge all encompassing experience, and as such is like trying to describe an eight week holiday or traveling excursion: either way it usually involves taking lots of photos!