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Bridging the gap at summer camp


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Jan 13, 2009, 11:08 AM

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“This bridge will only take you halfway there, to those mysterious lands you long to see. Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fair, and moonlit woods where unicorns run free. So come and walk awhile with me and share the twisting trails and wondrous worlds I’ve known. But this bridge will only take you halfway there. The last few steps you have to take alone.” – Shel Silverstein

Despite tougher times, you can’t help but be filled with hope and optimism whenever the New Year comes around. “Can-do” fervor easily permeates and overpowers self doubt. Resolutions and determined vows, laced with a unifying theme of being a better or different person, float back up to conscious consideration. It is no wonder then that the start of the New Year is, often and inevitably, a perfect time for transition.

In the camp experience, we are the transition initiators or bridge keepers, if you will, in the young lives we have a chance to touch. On the surface, it might seem that we are just giving children a vacation and pulling them away from reality. In actuality, as camp industry directors and leaders, you know full well that camp offers so much more. We are the door and the bridge to take children beyond what they know. We take them away from their everyday reality (overbearing parents, a role they’ve been assigned to play at school or at home with the siblings, dealing with expectations that have been set, etc.) and secretly place them in a space relieved of those confines and allow them to explore their own boundaries and discover their capabilities. They realize that they can be loved by others outside of the family and have friends. They realize that maybe they ARE good in sports, crafts or music. They find their own independence and surprise themselves with what they can do on their own. Their outlook changes from tentative “Can I?” to declarative “Can do!” Most children probably do not start camp with a conscious resolution for personal growth. It is a great gift to challenge them just enough within a safe risk environment, give them better preparation for the world ahead, and provide them the opportunity to simply be who they are.

Sometimes we don’t necessarily need a full reinvention of the self- just some extra wiggle room to figure out who we are with some help along the way.
Charisse Formanes
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