Camp Ledgewood. A girl scout camp situated in Peninsula, Ohio on the boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. A place that soon became my home away from home.
At first, the thought of living in a rustic environment, with little to no time for makeup or nice hair do’s scared me, how would I cope? What will I look like?!…but it soon become second nature, and I was preferring life without it. Camp is the place you feel comfortable to just let go of everything, and be yourself. Khaki shorts and wellington boots soon become my go-to items of clothing and, with a pair of funky knee – length socks, a disney T-shirt chosen by my campers, and a bandana across my head, I definitely looked the part. Of course, I was not 100% ready until I bathed myself in insect repellent and sun screen; a routine that was done multiple times throughout the day, but never seemed to do the job for me…being fair skinned, I burnt within my first 24 hours at camp, and the bugs must have been attracted to the no makeup and messy haired me. Oh, and of course. The fanny pack. The size on these things is deceiving. Yes, they may look small, only big enough to fit a smart phone, but until you clip one on and start filling it up, it becomes like your very own Mary Poppins bag. My counsellor essentials all fitted nicely into this compact bag around my waist, and I was ready for the day; hand-held fan? check… band aids? check…sharpie? check…tissues? check…weeks schedule? check…hand sanitiser? check…emergency (friendship bracelet making) yarn? check… I felt ready to take on the world!
Anyway, camp life was, and still is, the best life. It’s true when they say one summer can change your life. Don’t get me wrong, working as a counsellor can be tough, and it’s long hours, but if you have the right mindset and personality, you’ll get the most out of it, and you won’t consider it as a ‘job’, more of something you enjoy doing, and look forward to each day. Camp makes a difference in both your campers lives, and yours. You will learn as much from the children, as they do from you, and you’ll soon come to discover the role of a camp counsellor is the most rewarding job you could ever have. Nothing compares to seeing the growth in confidence and independence in each individual camper over the course of their time at camp. My resident camp was run weekly; at the start of the week, girls would arrive at camp rather shy, quiet and weary of trying new things, but, by the middle of the week, you see a massive progression into wanting to try new things, bringing new ideas and leading activities, then to the end of the week watching as they exchange addresses with one another…the start of a very good friendship – camp friends are the best friends, and that goes for the counsellors too!
A life at camp is completely different to a ‘normal’ life… it’s a life you won’t understand until you spend a summer there yourself. Each day is a new challenge, a new experience and a new story to tell. I was pretending to be a raisin bran at opening camp fire one day; waking my campers up by singing a made up song another day; going down under in a cave another; getting cheered on by my campers to jump in the pool fully clothed the next; having a movie night with spa treatments another day; cooling off with water games the next day; to having a dance party during a storm the next. However, some things would never change. Camp wouldn’t be camp without the singing, dancing and acting. I mean, who wants to be on a hike without leading a repeat song? who wants to attend meal time without the opportunity for a little dance? who wants to go to a campfire without skits? You’re right. Not me. The variation of camp activities was endless, and every week I waved my campers off reminiscing all the crazy and fun moments we shared within only 6 days!
Some may ask what my favourite part of camp was, but that question is like asking a fish to live without water…impossible. I loved being able to have and provide fun without the use of technology, something that would prove to be extremely difficult in the ‘outside world’. Campfires will always be one of my favourite memories of camp, for many reasons, along with the weekly treat of a s’mores session!! I loved having a positive influence on my campers lives. Working at camp, you’re not only a camp counsellor. The kids come to camp, leaving their family behind for what may be the first time ever, and over the course of their time at camp, you become like a mother to them, a sister, a best friend, a coach, a teacher, a hero…a role model. I loved the routine that came with camp life, early starts, late finishes, it sounds tough, and don’t get me wrong, it is, but you’d understand the enjoyment and rewarding feeling camp provides after just one summer.
Red skin, an arm full of friendship bracelets and a stomach full of s’mores later, the bittersweet feeling of the last day of camp hit, and I found myself struggling with the reality of leaving my ‘family’ behind. I had the idea of returning to camp half way through the summer, but after experiencing a full summer at camp, and driving out of camp for what would’ve been the last time, I instantly knew returning to camp was the right thing to do and I couldn’t wait to get home and re-submit my application! Camp gave me confidence and taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to.
I wouldn’t have had the words to write this blog post if it wasn’t for my incredible camp director, Sassy, for believing in me, and hiring me at the Camp America recruitment fair. I can’t thank her, or my fellow counsellors enough for welcoming me, putting up with me, giving me the experiences, providing me with the most amazing memories and being the best friends I could ask for.