Yesterday I spent much of the day meeting with a Wisconsin state legislator, and the directors of two local camps to attempt to lobby him to support a bill making it easier for summer camps to procure Epinephrine auto-injectors to have on hand in case of an emergency. (You would not believe the hoops that we need to jump through to make sure that we have this life-saving drug on the shelves in case something unexpected happens here. We find a way to have more than enough every year, but it ain’t easy!) Despite the fact that I truly enjoy the two other camp directors, and it was really important and kind of fun to represent our issue to someone that can actually affect the legislative changes we need, it was…..well….a meeting with a couple of other business owners and a politician. It was just about the furthest thing from a day at camp imaginable.
Luckily for me, I arrived back at camp just in time for G-swim on one of the most perfect days of the summer. (G-swim is a period in the late afternoon every day when, among other things, the boys may choose to free swim down at our waterfront.) Given the incredible weather, there was quite a good crowd of campers at the lake, swimming, splashing, and playing in the water.
I love this part of the camp experience. Lake Nebagamon is not a waterpark, not a fancy swimming pool with fancy pool toys, there are no giant blobs, and it certainly is not a beach resort with jet-skis and wakeboards. This is a lake….just a plain old lake…with the only adornments being a pretty rudimentary waterslide and a diving board attached to a wooden raft. (Well…maybe not a plain old lake….we are talking about, hands down, the best swimming lake in all of Wisconsin with a clean sand bottom and clear spring-fed water!) The fun in this lake comes from one primary source…. it comes from the kids themselves. The games played at the lake are largely kid-invented games, with kid-invented rules, and kid sensibilities dictating them. (With staff making sure that kid safety sensibilities do not rule the day!) They are great games that involve running in the water, splashing, and excellent flying knee drops (performed with just about the same levels of reality and true contact as one would expect in the WWF!).
Now, like virtually any camp in the country, one of the methods that we employ to maintain safety during G-swim is the buddy system. Each camper pairs up with another boy for the time they are in the water to make doing counts easier for our lifeguards, and also to look out for each other in the water. At the very beginning of the summer, I noticed that the boys chose very predictable buddies for G-swim. They would choose either their friend from home, or the boy that they had been in a cabin with before, or someone they already knew quite well. But in just the nine days since these guys have been here, they have already abandoned the need to stick with what they already know. Yesterday, I was struck by the diversity of our buddies out there. I noticed a 3rd grader buddied up with a 6th grader, another 3rd grader with a 7th grader, and a 4th grader with an 8th grader. These were clearly not their “buddies” from home. These were friendships and mentorships that were spawned here at camp. They played games in the water and engaged in easy conversation with each other as though they were “buddies” from home…or brothers. Yes…that’s it….like they were brothers.
This very same phenomena was pointed out to me by a visiting prospective family that I was giving a tour to this morning. As we were walking by the art shop, the mom stopped with a surprised look on her face and said “So, wait. It looks like all age groups are here working on this project? Is that right?” I puffed up into my most proud camp director mode and bragged about how we love that our community is so healthy and complete here that indeed, our older boys and younger boys work together on art projects, on canoeing skills, in fishing, and just about everywhere in camp. (There are a few projects separated by age groups when it makes sense. For example, we tend to separate ages when the boys are playing basketball. However, there are few things more gratifying then when I get a chance to post up a 2nd grader on the 8-foot basketball courts! Gotta show ‘em who is boss from time to time!)
Things feel just great here.
This morning I called one of the dreaded “Bell Meetings” for the entire staff. The “Bell Meeting” is an uncommon event and typically means that there is some bad news to relate to the staff. Usually it is a venue for me to vent some frustration at the staff for some way in which they are not meeting the standards we set for ourselves. But today’s “Bell Meeting” was just the opposite. I pulled the entire staff out of breakfast just to tell them what an incredible feel camp has to it these days. I told them that they were creating a level of camp magic that I had very seldom seen in my time in this job. I told them that they were indeed a special group (more on that in a later update.) And then I told them there was too much trash on the ground around camp….Gotta show ‘em who is boss from time to time!
All is well in the North Woods.