OH BOY!!!!! Have you heard?? See whats in the picture? You’ll have to excuse us if we seem a little excited these days around camp. You see, we had our shipment of new ropes course poles arrive and the final plans and drawing were sent to us and everything is starting to come together for all the new elements and excitement we’ll have here at camp.
At first glance of the picture, you might think theres a new new horse barn going up since thats where the poles are laying. Theres plenty of “new” thats being built in the horse rings and stalls, but for these poles, that was the best place for us to store them until they’re used.
By the end of this week these poles will be put into the ground, and will become a multi layered addition to our ropes course. They’re will be 16 new elements that the campers will get to challenge. Some will be dynamic elements with a counselor on belay, and some elements for the older campers will be static to complete with the assistance and support of another camper. All these are great additions of challenge and fun, but thats still not as exciting as whats being built here at Camp Skyline.
You see, a new barn, riding ring, or yes, even a new and exciting ropes course is not exactly what Skyline is about. They are just physical elements, that your campers and counselors use every day to build what we’re really excited about. As I walk around camp, as the sessions go from start to finish, its on these as well as other elements, that I get the opportunity to witness our campers build up their own confidence, trust, faith, friendships, memories, communication skills, sense of adventure and loyalty.
It’s watching that camper that, at the beginning of the session, wouldn’t get on the horse without her counselor by her side, build her experiences and trust so that by the end of the session, she’s riding not only by herself, but maybe even trotting and smiling as she’s cheered by her friends who were, a few weeks prior, a group of “other girls” from “somewhere else” she didn’t know or have the confidence to talk to. Watching as her smile and confidence grow wider and wider with each telling of her accomplishment to her other friends throughout the day, now THAT’S what were excited about building up here!
Its seeing that camper, who on the first day at the ropes course said they would maybe, and thats a MAYBE…. climb up, and back down, but not go off the element, be encouraged and challenged by her friends and counselors to reach out, and overcome any fears or self doubts about their ability to walk on a thin wire 30 feet in the air. (ok…maybe that ain’t for everyone, I get it…but you won’t know for sure until you try it, and thats your first step in overcoming any pre determined doubts you might have). This is where the trust, face to face communication and faith come in, as a whole group of friends and counselors encourage her and cheer her on, even if its only one step farther each day. To see campers push themselves out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves, (or grow), is a wonderful thing. What makes it so great is that “special moment” they achieve by having faith and the support of their cabin mates, friends and counselors that will live with them in their memory forever.
I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t get the same result if they tried to Instagram or text in their support for each other in the same situation. Theres something about cheering someone on to do what they thought was impossible and being there to look them in the eyes when they need you. Having the camper unplugged from technology allows them to actually talk to each other, face to face (remember when we used to do that???). It helps them learn about each other and see what the direct and immediate impacts of words of encouragement and even not so encouraging words are. It takes much more than a “smiley face / thumbs up / thumbs up” to convince someone to concur their sense of adventure or fears and doubts.
Its not about what (new) activities we have at Skyline. Its about what happens on these activities and how these activities are tools the counselors use to build confidence, friendships and trust in their campers. The ropes course, horses, circus, canoes, archery and even arts and crafts are not magic by any means. They are here at camp everyday. They’re tons of fun to play on, but if we built the worlds greatest challenge course, that doesn’t mean every camper that signs up for ropes, will be magically transformed into a confident young woman. That happens when they believe in their abilities, and have the continuous support form their counselors and friends in there cabin and clubs.
This same confidence will last long after the camping days ore over. Many campers and counselors have spoken about how going off to college was so much easier and less of an adjustment for them (and their parents!!) after having several years of camp experience under their belt. And it was easy to pick out the new college students (and new student parents!) of kids who had never spent any serious time away from home. Ones who hadn’t learned how to live in a dorm setting, respecting roommates privacies, much less cleaning duties. These are all things that are learned, reinforced and built on every day at camp.
The “camp friends” are some of the best friends they’ll ever have. There’s something about the person you learned to share a bathroom with for two weeks or the one who helped you go down the zip line, hit a bullseye in archery or ride a horse that will stay with you for a lifetime. As a matter of fact, there are many campers that found their college roommate while they’re at camp and just didn’t know it yet. These friendships are not only long lasting, they’re long impacting. Each year at camp we’re visited by groups of ladies that were campers back in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and more. Whats amazing to me is the fact these ladies will talk about camp moments that happened 40 years ago and remember every detail like it was yesterday. Now thats quite an impact on long term memory!
Yea, theres a new ropes course going up, new archery and rifelry equipment, maybe even a new building or activity here or there. There’s all sorts of excitement being built every year. But none of that is as exciting or makes us as proud of what our counselors and campers build every day at Camp Skyline. Confidence, Faith, communication skills, trust and friendships that will be around long after the activities and buildings have been replaced. Now thats what were excited about!!
thumbs up /smiley face / thumbs up!!!
Look for Sally’s post next week!