Friday, May 29, 2009

The Power of Camp! - Keeps em’ Coming Back

Over the past 34 years I’ve spent at Cali-Camp I have seen campers grow up, go through our camp program, become junior staff, staff members and am even spending time getting to know second generation campers, their children. It is very exciting to me to be able to talk to a child about how I knew their mother when she went to camp. They get a kick out of some of the stories. I would like to share a few stories with you about what keeps em’ coming back – The Power of Camp!

First of all, let’s go back to the late 70’s, early 80’s and meet Evelyn and Jamie. They started together at camp when they were Ducklings (probably age 4/5). One of them lived in the valley and one lived in the city, so they didn’t see too much of each other throughout the school year. Come the first day of camp they would be looking for each other, run into each other’s arms and were steadfast friends till the last day of camp when they would cry and promise to see each other next year. Thinking back to those times brings a big smile to my face. As they grew, they grew closer and created many memories together. One, which makes me laugh, happened at the pool when they were about 8 years old (plus or minus a year or so). They were holding hands and singing a little song they made up entitled “We’re Jews in Space” then they would jump up and twirl as they went into the water. Each time they would come up laughing and do it all over again. They both had infectious laughs and had many friends that went through camp with them too like Andrea and Devrha. (Picture from left to right – Devrha, Mindy (used to be their counselor), Jamie, Evelyn and Andrea. Jamie and Evelyn, Andrea and Devrha all grew up and became volunteer junior counselors, then counselors and when they all graduated from college and had to go get “real jobs” they somewhat lost contact with each other for while, but…

Just recently Cali-Camp celebrated our 50th Anniversary and they all came. It was like old home week with all of them hugging and sharing stories and memories about their childhood at camp and how much they missed each other over the years. It was as if they had just seen each other the week before, the comfortable feelings flowed back and they all re-connected. We decided to begin an alumni group on Facebook that now has 250 members. Campers from the past, who became staff members galore all sharing the fun times and memories they had together has been rewarding. The pictures they have shared have brought back even more memories with everyone commenting and sharing their take on what happened when they were there. We are even having a get together in a couple of weeks with people flying in from as far as North Carolina and Las Vegas. Camp has totally touched all of our lives and the lives of the campers who have come through our gates for the past 54 years.

Many of our alumni and friends in camping have written blurbs about why they kept coming back to camp. Here are a few:

“The Power of Camp is really the power of leadership, being a good sport, experience, self-sufficiency and memories. I have been fortunate over the years to travel the world, to participate in thriving businesses and charitable works, to be a Captain in the United States Army, and to be surrounded by loving family and friends. But I can say without hesitation that my fourteen years experience as a camper and counselor have had as profound an influence on my life as any others, and resulted in memories that are as vivid as if they happened yesterday. Thank you, Summer Camp. And thanks, Mom and Dad.” ~ Henry M. Skier, President AMSkier

Because of Camp...
1. I made soooo many fabulous friends from all over the world that have been long lasting and true; friends who have shaped my life and my direction.
2. I have shared difficult experiences with others that have helped shape my core values and character.
3. I learned and practiced valuable leadership skills in a safe and forgiving environment and was able to transfer those skills into my personal and professional life.
4. I learned compassion through helping children learn and grow up to be productive, confidant adults.
5. I was a much better teacher; knowing that children learn differently; knowing that children need to experience things and have FUN doing it.
6. I learned about the democratic process; the value and power of volunteerism and organizations.
7. I learned to value and appreciate the out-of-doors and man's impact upon it.
8. I learned teamwork and the power of working together.
9. I learned to trust.
10. "I yam what I yam" ~ Pam Hawley – Cali-Camp Director

“I came back to camp each summer I could, a total of five. The simple camp fun, joy of seeing old friends and the excitement of giving kids the best summer of their lives was always my motivator! I created lifelong friendships from those few weeks a year. Longtime friends, numerous weddings and entire families created from the endearing relationships that camp helped foster. Cali-Camp was one of the best times of my life.” ~Donna

“What kept me coming back summer after summer were the friendships that were built. Each year I looked forward to seeing everyone I became friends with the summer before. To this day, from age 11 (I will admit it...I am 40 now), I am still friends with Angela and Tammy Mandel. Two people that lived 45min.away from me, who I only saw in the summer until I could drive, still to this day remain my closest and dearest friends. They are family to me, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Cali-Camp played a huge part in the person I am today. I also gained a great work ethic that steams from working at Cali-Camp. I don't think you see much of that anymore. Maybe EVERYONE should have to work at Cali-Camp! A huge THANK-YOU, to everyone that touched my life at Cali-Camp!”

“It's simple really. There's something about being a camper that's unlike being a student, or teammate, or employee. It's the privilege to play, to explore, to laugh, and to dance beneath the sun. Camp memories are special memories, memories that a tight knit group of people share together. So why keep coming back? I think it's to keep those memories going, forever. “ ~Tanya

“A Camper sees the camp through their own eyes, A Counselor sees the camp through the Childs' eyes, A Cali Camp Alumni can't wait for their own child see the camp through their own eyes....And when that happens, the circle is ready to go round again. Warm friends, warm hearts, warm memories....that is CALI CAMP” ~Jill

“What can I say about Cali-Camp? Other than IT ROCKS!! I'm sure you've heard this from every other alumni listed, but I've made true lifetime friends from camp! I can't imagine my life without it. Seriously! I have yet to have another experience like it. The memories that will stay with me forever are the best! I can't thank you enough!” ~Jen

"It was and IS my extended family. I gained more self-confidence every year I would come back. I met some of my closest friends there. I have MANY happy memories and hope my children have the same positive experiences and memories, if not more!" ~Amy
"Cali camp kept me coming back for so many years because of everything it offered. I got to enjoy time with children while at the same time helping them learn to have fun. In addition, with so many jobs in keeping you trapped behind a desk, Cali-Camp offered just the opposite. I was able to enjoy the great outdoors while helping kids to smile. That alone kept me coming back." ~Kyle

Written by Pam Hawley- Cali-Camp Director 5/29/09

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Off To Summer Camp We Go!

How can you as parents insure a positive experience for your child in summer camp? This article is written in order to guide parents through some of the adjustment problems that both parents and children often experience before or at the beginning of their first summer camp experience.

As a licensed marriage, family and child therapist and also co-owner of Cali-Camp Summer Day Camp, it is my hope that the following ideas and information may help you to give your child the gift of an incredible summer at camp.

The camp experience, above all else, needs to provide your youngster with a safe physical and emotional environment. This safe place should also provide lots of interaction with other children and adult staff. These conditions allow your child to acquire social skills and to engage in activities that develop a sense of mastery over one's surroundings---one of our most important developmental tasks. Assuming that all of these criteria are met then, "having fun" is the operative phrase.

There are, of course, some variables that can influence a positive adjustment to camp. One of the most important factors is "separation anxiety" in either child or parent---and usually both.

Separation anxiety occurs in most children. It is developmentally appropriate from ages one to four, and manifests itself differently at each age. How a child resolves the issues around separation from parents is greatly influenced by the way in which the parents handle their own levels of anxiety about the camp experience and facing new situations.

It is normal for a child to feel some anxious moments before camp begins; it is even appropriate during the first couple of weeks. It is also appropriate for parents to be concerned about their child's adjustment to camp. However, be ever so mindful that your "worry mode", although often disguised and suppressed, is very apparent to your child. Their antennae are always up, and worry is very contagious.

For example, if a child repeatedly hears concerns of the parents about the bus ride, or sunburn, or his need to be with someone he knows, or negative messages about a parent's camp experience, this child will most certainly develop anxiety about going to camp.

As a therapist my message is: Be a concerned parent, but direct your concerns to the camp staff. Talk to them about your fears. Make a tremendous effort not to share your anxieties with your child. If your child voices fears then it is most important to hear all their worries. And then reassure! Reassure! Reassure! Try to separate your fears and concerns from your child's.

A child's anxieties are present in many different ways. Some are much less obvious than others. Behaviors to notice are as follows: verbally or behaviorally expressed resistance to going to camp such as stalling in the morning; or not getting out of bed; or clearly stating, " I don't want to go"; tears; bedwetting; or regressed behavior; sadness or withdrawal: that is not joining the group; boredom; dislike for counselor; hostile behavior towards other campers; and in some cases making up negative stories about other campers.

What are some of your options when a member of your family, perhaps even you as a parent, is experiencing anxiety about camp? My first suggestion is to call the camp office and ask to speak to a senior staff member or therapist if available.

I recommend that you bring your child to the facility several times before camp begins so that he or she can become familiar with the environment and learn the locations of the bathrooms, group meeting area, lunch area and the various activity areas.

I also recommend that campers ages 3-5 enroll for three days per week for at least two weeks at the outset; then after assessing the child, add or drop days accordingly. Days may be added provided there is space in the group and the bus. Although your child goes to pre-school or kindergarten 5 days a week and has fully adjusted; camp is an entirely different experience. One of the major differences is the fatigue level, especially in the beginning days of enrollment.

Campgrounds are usually much larger than the local school. Covering longer distances between activities is tiring for small people with little legs and little feet. An exhausted child can become a very cranky and unhappy child. Although our program at camp is developed to accommodate the needs of children ages 3-14 we have found that when camp begins it requires a stamina adjustment for all ages, including staff!

We invite our parents to visit anytime, and you may stay with your child for part of the day if arranged with staff. If you are noting anxiety we recommend that you try to bring the child to camp and stay an hour or two, then leave and pick the child up at an agreed upon time (the time could be earlier than the normal camp dismissal). It is very important that you are not late. Be there early or at least on time. Children suffer extreme anxiety when left waiting for a parent to show up.

When you put your young child on a camp bus, if he or she has a favorite toy or item to share with his group, encourage your youngster to do just that.

If something unusual has occurred at home let your child's camp staff know. Children often act out family trauma even though they don’t relate problems verbally.

We insist on a minimum 5-day enrollment because our experience tells us that some children need a fair amount of time to adjust and thus insure a positive camp experience. We hope that you as parents follow through with this by encouraging participation for at least five days. We want your child to have a wonderful summer and we need your help to achieve our goal.

We feel there are many options to look at before withdrawing a child from camp. However, if all else fails and withdrawal is the only solution we encourage you to applaud your child's effort and we hope you let your youngster know that next year there will be another opportunity to meet the challenges of summer camp and the joy that comes with all the successes that a child experiences when his camp experience is a happy one!

Written for parents sending children to camp for the first time, by Susan Rowen, a MFC Therapist for more than 29 years, and co-owner of Cali-Camp Summer Day Camp.