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


  1. I resemble those remarks! I started Cali-Camp when I was five, and it was truly the formative event in my early life. The experience was built by a combination of the beautiful Topanga environment, the adults (and the people we then considered to be adults, even though they were just a few years older than us...) and of course our friends. I was a camper for nine years and then became a junior and senior counselor, and believe it or not a bus driver. People still come up to me in random places and tell me I look familiar - and Cali-Camp is my first guess. I would literally not be the person I am today if I had not spent my summers at Cali-Camp!!!!

  2. I can say the same. You happened to be one of the most memorable campers of my career and I am proud and glad that I can call you "FRIEND"! Notice I didn't say "favorites", because Cali-Camp staff don't have favorites. LOL