The Power of Summer Camp
Written By: Tanner Thompson, Summer Camp Program Director. Every year during our summer camp staff orientation and at our SDP retreats, I talk about the impact that we can have on the campers here at YMCA Camp Benson. I truly believe that summer camp can impact a child’s life in an incredibly positive way and I would like to share with you a story from this past summer that demonstrates that.
During our first session of camp we had a camper come to our two week MEGA Camp who had never been to an overnight summer camp before. Her mom told me that she went to summer camp as a kid and thought this would be a great experience for her daughter. This camper struggled adjusting to camp life the first few days. She was very quiet, not social and had her hood up over her head most of the time. On the second day of camp she painted two pictures in Creative Arts. One said “I Don’t Like It Here!” and the other said “It’s boring. The Food is Nasty.”
Their counselor never scolded her and did not have the Camp Director talk to her. Her counselor simply collected drawings away and asked her to create something more positive. As the week went along, this camper began to feel more comfortable and confident at camp. She still did not participate in evening games or sing any songs, but she did not ask to go home. Her counselor and other staff members never gave up on her and continued to chip away at the wall she had put up.
After the first week of MEGA Camp was over, I think she realized that she could either step outside of her comfort zone and embrace the fun of summer camp or continue to be one of the only ones not enjoying camp. We really saw this camper transform in front of our eyes during that second week of camp. This camper participated in their cabin’s skits, she dressed up in a costume for the block party, and best of all she was always smiling. Her smile would vanish as soon as the Social Media Director came around with his camera, but that was okay! After just two weeks of positivity, encouragement, and acceptance at YMCA Camp Benson this camper was singing songs at the top of her lungs and was having fun doing it.
Our ultimate goal at YCB is build stronger campers and help them become the best version of themselves. I can safely say that we were able to do this with this camper. Before she left she signed up to join the Staff Development Program. This is a teen leadership program focused on developing great future staff members. This camper’s Camp Benson journey is not over yet, it is just beginning. We have those two paintings she drew hanging up in the office to remind us every day of the power of summer camp.