Off and running!!

Greetings from Camp!

Without a doubt, we are off to a great start here. 

Yesterday, our first full day of camp, was a picture perfect day.  The boys spent the first period travelling to both the waterfront and to our CNOC (wilderness skills program) to get learn about safety policies and ranks that can be passed in these two key areas of camp.  They learned about everything from beginner ranks through the coveted Instructor ranks in these areas.  The older boys used the rest of the day to start knocking out their required ranks….in fact, virtually every Lumberjack camper made it through the swim test yesterday.  Our younger boys spent the balance of their day in assigned projects just to get them used to each other and the program.  It will be the only time all summer that they are assigned to projects….this morning, they got to start scheduling each and every activity that they will be doing today, as they will every day…for the rest of the summer.  Indeed, one of the truly wonderful gifts that our boys get here is the chance to plan out their days.  When was the last time that your kid was given the freedom to plan out his whole day? 

A major part of our evening program was the Big Brother-Little Brother Soiree. This is an opportunity for the boys new to camp to spend some time with their camp “Big Brothers” who had made contact with them before arriving to camp. The event consisted of some songs and games, an outrageous story about the invention of the SMORE, and finally a campfire with SMORES. Certainly, the SMORES make this a can’t-miss-event, but there was so much more to it. This event gave the older boys an opportunity to step up and help the younger kids feel comfortable in camp, and gave the new boys yet another person to serve as their “go to” guy. We are a community that welcomes all newcomers and works hard to ensure that they feel comfortable here. We are a community in which the “lifers” make it their mission to show the folks that are just coming in how special Nebagamon is. We are a community that works hard to, as quickly as possible, move beyond community and towards becoming a family. I can’t tell you the pride I felt watching the festivities. It is unbelievably rewarding to watch our older guys take on those mentoring roles with such zeal, to watch our older guys take a little guy under their wing and make it their personal goal to show him a good time, to watch a 3rd grader and a 9th grader laugh and play together as if there was not so much as an hour of age difference between the two of them, let alone seven years….you know….like brothers. Everyone had fun, ate well, and most importantly, made connections. I have to say, I am not sure who gets more out of something like this, the Big Brothers or the Little Brothers…

Camp feels great right now. While we do have a couple of homesick kids, this is normal, and, to be honest, a good thing. It is very healthy for a boy to struggle with, and deal with, a bit of homesickness in his transition to camp. It is one of the things we do here….and one of the real ways that kids grow through their experiences here. I also have to say that as a camp director, it is enormously gratifying to see our counselors, specialists, and, really, any of our staff that is near jump into action to help these guys when they are needed. They do a great job of it.  An illustrative story:  The kid who had the most difficult first night approached me yesterday (I am always leery about the struggling kids approaching me so early in the game….it is rarely to tell me what a fine job I have done establishing a safe and healthy place for children to grow and learn!).  I smiled, braced myself for his pleas and tears, and prepared to shift into full on 21 year camp director veteran mode.  The bomb was coming….He looked at me…..and asked…..if Swampers are allowed to get their Instructor rank in CNOC.  It was that fast… was already working. 

I suppose the speed of it should surprise none of us…We are really lucky here.  We are the beneficiaries of the presence here of a perfect compilation ingredients.  We have kids that are excited to be here, psyched to be here, fun and engaged. We have a staff that is primed, prepared, and totally enthusiastic about their jobs and the kids. And finally, we have the cherry on top….camp itself.   You take a great group of kids, a wonderful group of role models, some rustic cabins, a beautiful natural surrounding and lots of great activities, put them all together…. and…. voila….homesick kids asking about their Instructor ranks…. even just two days into the deal.

Rest assured that if your child is really struggling badly, I will contact you. (And, no, that is not just a clever ploy of mine to prevent my phone from ringing off the hook with panicked parents who just read the previous paragraph!). 

All is well in the North Woods….