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Why Summer Camp? I’ll Tell You Why.

By: Tracy Aronoff

For Tamarack campers, the end of June brings endless smiles. School closes for two whole months and campers move to their “home away from home.” Mornings are spent with sleepy-eyed bunkmates and nights come alive with laughter. Days are filled with friends, food-fights, and countless memories.

Ask those of us who went to camp and no matter how long ago it was, we can still sing our favorite song, tell you about our beloved counselors and share our fond camp memories. Those who went to camp were guaranteed to have their life enriched. Maybe you learned to swim or loved Foxfire, our Western-themed carnival. Or maybe that one special staff member helped you see something in yourself you never knew was there. There’s wisdom in summer camp and it seems that it’s not until we leave that we realize the weight of so very many of its gifts.

1. Build Relationships
Friendships forged at camp are some of the best I know. These relationships are true to the core and have helped me grow in ways I cannot count. Camp teaches you to meet people and get to know one another. The gifts in return are endless. We’ve been there for the happy and the sad, both around the corner and across the globe. Today we may snap, insta, and text, but these friendships stand the test of time, and when I forget how a story ends, these are the people I can count on to finish it.

2. Believe in Yourself
Every June I remerged as my “summer self.” Camp provided an opportunity to try new things or things not available in my everyday circumstances. Staff members believed in me and often saw something I didn’t. There’s something special about camp friends and counselors who are with you every waking minute of the day. Even in the world as a grown-up, you may not see those friends or counselors anymore, but somehow you just know that they’re there cheering for you as always. And if you harness that feeling enough, you just might start to believe it, too.

3. Empathize
At camp, I met people who were different from me. It was one of the first times I realized that everyone’s story is his or her own and that often what I thought was “a huge deal” is nothing in comparison. Perspective took shape. Despite many differences, we all had a fabulous time at camp. Camp allowed relationships to flourish and stories to be shared. The stories were varied, and I learned they all deserved respect, kindness, and sensitivity.

4. Embrace Diversity
The majority of people in my school had similar ethnic backgrounds. Diversity was minimal at best. At camp, I met counselors from across the world. Accents and histories different from mine instantly became an interest. My friends came from different backgrounds. One camper came from out-of-state for the summer since her parents were traveling Europe, and others came on scholarship having truly been given the gift of camp. Ideas were shared, new foods were introduced, and friendships grew. Character is what truly mattered.

5. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Whatever it was that seemed different, terrifying, or impossible was achievable at camp. A leap is a leap, no matter how small — and for some, even spending the entire summer in nature is a big one. Dealing with spiders, skunks, and no electricity took getting used to, but for me, they’re some of the best parts of camp memories. I do recall what at first seemed scary, but what I truly remember is the adrenaline-filled delight that resulted from facing my fears.