April 13, 2021
It is a true joy spending the summers of my life working at a summer camp. The challenges and rewards of working with children and making lifelong positive impressions and memories on a younger generation are enormous. To this end, there are many layers involved in creating our camp community. Many of these layers include marketing, programming, upgrading our campgrounds, recruiting, and hiring the most talented staff out there. While the summer season is 8 weeks, it takes the other 10 months of the year to plan every day of the summer.
During the off season, I spend a lot of my time recruiting new staff as well as communicating with seasonal staff that will return for another summer. Staff members who are able to return for another summer understand the magical nature of our community and the benefits of working with children in our beautiful shaded outdoor environment. In my interviews with new recruits, who never experienced camp as a child, I always get the same question: “what it is like to work at camp?” I enjoy sharing many of my own fond experiences along with those of my colleagues.
Make no mistake, working at summer camp is a very hard job. At the end of the day, you are often exhausted and sometimes frustrated. In my experience, I’ve learned that if you allow yourself to put everything you have into each day, it doesn’t feel like a job at all. Rather, you come to realize that you have found yourself a second home. You will spend your day with children, co-counselors and experienced supervisors laughing, learning and bonding together. Everyone will enjoy their usual favorite activities, but the reward of exposing the children to new and exciting activities is exhilarating. Helping a child realize they can do something they never believed they could accomplish is an extraordinary feeling.
You are going to get very close with your campers and take on the role of big brother or big sister; you become their role model. If you’re really great, you’ll feel like a rock star, who is greeted daily with much love, excitement, and a million questions. “What are we doing today?” “What is the snack of the day?” “Is Adventure Park on the schedule?!” “Can we go to Arts & Crafts for lanyard?”
During lunch, you will ensure your kids are refueling and hydrating amidst the giggles and chatter. When it’s pool time, you will help them apply suntan lotion and change into bathing suits. For your younger campers, you will tie their shoelaces at least six times a day, singing a catchy tune along the way. You will also find yourself at the “lost and found,” where inevitably your campers have misplaced their precious “things” that you warned them not to bring to camp in the first place. Your patience will be tested multiple times daily! When they excel at an activity, you will cheer their name and celebrate alongside them. At the same token, you will empathize with their hardships and guide them through disappointing moments when they’re struggling.
Friendship is such a significant puzzle piece to the summer camp experience. You will help foster relationships among each of your campers. While some children are born with the gift of making friends easily, others are not and will need your help. A camp friend is priceless and insurmountable to other friendships we have. It has always been my goal to have campers make one meaningful bond that lasts well beyond the two months we are physically together at camp.
You will sing and laugh with your campers and co-counselors as you walk from activity to activity. You’ll find yourself singing these tunes, even when you are alone. You’ll comfort your campers and dry their tears when they scrape their knees or find out they haven’t been chosen to be the lead in the camp play. You will channel your inner patience as you mediate arguments among campers. Most importantly, your job is to create an aura of comradery by sharing the positive values your camp holds dear.
Spending every moment of the day with your co-workers lends itself to discovering the small things that make them who they are. It is only natural to develop these unique bonds at an expedited pace and feel as if you have known your co-counselors for far longer. All of a sudden, you’ll realize that you too have made meaningful relationships that continue long after camp ends. This is the magic of summer camp.