Reflections on overnight camp

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Trending News, Youth

For day campers, camp instills lessons, skills, and experiences that are not found in most classrooms . . . including learning new games, spending days with new friends, perfecting the best- looking roasted marshmallow, and just plain having lots of fun.

Overnight camp offers all of that, plus living among bugs, exploring varied athletic and creative interests, cohabitating with peers (all day, in any weather, for an extended period), and learning to navigate social interactions.

All these experiences and situations can create life-long bonds and enhance personal growth . . . skills that may come in handy for the future. . .whether for college, employment, or relationships.

Three “campers” share how their weeks (sometimes months) spent at overnight summer camp continue to shape their adult lives.

Elena Barr Baum

Nestled around a rocky cove near Burlington, Vermont, Brown Ledge Camp has shaped the lives of thousands of girls with its “Freedom Plan,” a radical philosophy when introduced by camp founder Harry E. Brown in 1926. He believed that, by age 10, girls were mature enough to live together with minimal adult supervision and decide what activities they want to pursue throughout their summer days. Apart from riding lessons and rehearsals for weekly theater performances, their schedules are their own. Campers look at the offerings and decide what they want to try, what will light them up, and how much they can achieve over the course of the summer.

In this environment, I excelled not only on the swim team, but also in archery and riflery, activities I never would have tried at home. I learned lessons about creating and maintaining healthy relationships: living with peers, sharing victories, and working out issues on our own first, as counselors do not live with campers. The sense of personal potential and power, self-esteem, and team spirit engendered at BLC have followed its campers, particularly graduates of its junior counselor program, into their adult lives.

Alumna Elena Barr Baum canoes with friends while visiting Brown Ledge Camp.

David Calliott

I attended Camp Tall Timbers the summers after sixth and seventh grades, where I did not know anyone (at least the first summer) and was forced out of my comfort zone for two weeks.

The personal freedom one experiences at summer camp is unlike anything that can be replicated at home, because there are no parents watching over you, and you sink or swim based on your own choices; it is like a practice round before college.

Being put in a situation where I was out of my comfort zone was a huge benefit to me looking back on it, as it allowed me to be comfortable in a lot of different social situations.

Camp also helped me to develop my individuality and learn how to manage my time better. Camp is full of activities, new friends and romances, staying up late, and maximum fun; however, it is also a chance to grow and develop as a person. Whether you realize it at the time, overnight camp changes you as a person for the better, and I am glad I got to experience it those two summers.

David Calliott (right) and a friend joke around at overnight camp.

Sam Zelenka

From 2011 through 2014, in the summers, I attended Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pa. It was, simply put, the best three summers of my life!
While I had a blast partaking in all the great activities, trips, and meals the camp planned out for us, what I enjoyed most did not become clear to me until many years after I had left – the lessons I was learning along the way. From basic knowledge concerning nature (what to eat and what NOT to eat), to rope skills, practicing my Hebrew, and getting concerningly skilled in Gaga Ball, there are too many to count.

If I had to choose just one which still resonates through my life today, it would be how to work well with others and as a team. From conversations and games with bunkmates came valuable communication and teamwork skills which I can confidently say I use every single day
Without the foundation of learning to work well and problem solve with others, I am not quite sure if I would be able to work in group settings cohesively and effectively. I cannot thank the folks at Capital Camps Retreat Center enough for all they have taught me and for the wonderful memories I will cherish a lifetime.

Sam Zelenka (first row on the right) and campers at Capital Camps in 2014.