The following blog was contributed by camper Leah C., New York:
Everyone gathered around the flagpole slowly, shoulders drooping, feet dragging in the grass, arms draped tightly around their friends’ shoulders. The traditional wooden “W” stood sturdily on main campus, waiting to be burned, waiting to wordlessly proclaim the end to our summer. Long, erie shadows, created by the glow of the moon, stretched out in front of us as we approached the flagpole. I sat down on the wet grass with my friends surrounding me and lifted my head to look at the black, clear, starry sky. Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see my friends doing the same, drinking in the sight of our last night at camp.
The flames engulfed the “W” quickly and within minutes, it was burning so brightly, it was hard to look at it. Yet it was hard to take our eyes off of it. Realization slammed into me, and suddenly it hit me that I wouldn’t see my summer family for another ten months. We would say our good byes, depart on our buses and planes the next morning, and talk to each other all year… but it wouldn’t be the same. With tears in my eyes I glanced away from the W and faced my friends. Looking at each other, and knowing from the expression on their faces, the same realization had struck them too. Tears streamed down our faces and we clung to each other, not wanting to say good bye to our best friends.
The W burned fiercely now, as if determined to end our summer. Everyone stood up and huddled in a group as we watched the “W” collapse. Sparks flew up from the pile of burning wood as it hit the ground with a heart breaking sound. Smoke billowed in the air, stationary above the ruin before drifting up into the night sky.
Every family wants their camper to have an incredible time at camp. Building relationships with campers and staff members from all over the US and world, enjoying activities they only get to try at camp, and being a part of the camp spirit and traditions certainly allow for fun. We want more for your child, though, than just a good time. We want to make a difference in their lives. And that is where our values of Gratitude, Attitude and Courage come in.
Gratitude: ‘A gracious heart is a happy heart.’ We have heard this from a number of philosophers and teachers through the years and know it to be true. Therefore, we spend a few moments each evening thinking about our day and expressing at least two moments that made us happy. That expression of gratitude encourages us to be more thoughtful about ourselves and others and requires us to take a moment to be thankful each day.
Attitude: The only aspect of our lives over which we have complete control is how we react. Attitude, therefore, is a chosen outlook on life and we remind our campers of this fact often. Choosing the type of attitude you want to present to the world, and yourself, is one of the most important realizations our young people can come to at camp. We develop this habit through the modeling of our counselors, gentle reminders throughout the day, and creating a community of fun for all.
Courage: We don’t talk about the courage needed to save someone from a burning building. Rather, we focus on the courage it takes to complete the small, every day actions required to be a good person. Standing up for yourself or another, trying something new, being polite when it’s hard to do so – these are the small courageous actions of good people.
Coupled with the independence gained by living away from their parents in an incredibly fun and intentional community, our campers leave Weequahic with a deeper appreciation of Gratitude, Attitude, and Courage. It is our hope this will only aid them in their paths to being people of good character, which benefits not only themselves but everyone who comes into contact with the Weequahic Way.
There is a wonderful story about developing character in a young person we recently heard and wanted to pass along to our community. This will be an addition to our campfire time for summers to come!
The Story of the Two Wolves
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Simple, isn’t it? However, just because building good character is as simple as feeding the right wolf inside us, the culture around us doesn’t make it easy. Our young people need to know that they have a choice in building character and must make decisions on a daily and hourly basis about which wolf to feed. The Weequahic Way serves to remind our campers and staff members that they do have a choice and guidelines for making ones that will help build people of Good Character.
Much has been made recently about the meals that our children consume in places such as school cafeterias and summer camps. A general sentiment that these types of establishments place cost and convenience over nutrition and well being seems to be developing. In the world of summer camp, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, so dedicated are some summer camps to providing meals and snacks that combat bad eating habits that we’ve decided to dedicate an entire series of blogs to summer camp menus. In this first blog, we’ll introduce you to the basic concept of camp nutrition and menu compilation. In future blogs, we’ll discuss special diet, snacks, and the strategy behind the compilation of camp menus.
Most reputable camps offer a deliberate, carefully planned menu to campers and staff alike. Many camps employ the assistance of nutritionists when planning menus and select food based on the heightened physical activity of campers during the summer. All of America’s Finest Summer Camps, for instance, offer extensive yogurt and fruit bars at breakfast as well as salad bars at lunch and dinner. At breakfast, several different kinds of yogurt are available as well as fruit such as oranges and bananas. Hard boiled eggs, bagels, and cheese are also typically available. For those with lactose intolerance, lactose free as well as soy milk are often on hand. At lunch and dinner, salad bars offer everything from basic staples like tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, olives, cucumbers, and carrots to more progressive offerings like garbanzo beans, tuna, and marinated vegetable combinations, along with several dressings from which to complete the dish. Almost all camps offer vegetarian selections at mealtimes.
Increasingly, special diets are being taken into consideration as well. With many camp leaders and directors themselves learning to live with gluten allergies and diabetes, camp leaders have looked inward when planning menus and are becoming increasingly sensitive to special diet needs. More and more, menu options are being added with these considerations in mind.
Planning camp menus is a special challenge for camp directors. With so many campers and staff dining at each meal, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time. However, there are other considerations when planning menus. Children are very active at camp—often considerably more active than they are at home. Physical activity begins in the morning and often continues into the evening. Many camp menus have been criticized for being heavy in carbohydrates. However, there is a nutritional basis in this. Diets heavy in carbohydrates are recommended for children who engage in heavy physical activity, as carbohydrates convert to sugar very quickly and help replenish energy. While it’s true that many camp foods are high in carbohydrates, it’s also important to consider that such a diet at camp is also responsibly balanced by ample servings of fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Food allergies are also a prevalent consideration when planning camp menus. Nut allergies are the most common, although there are many others. Since food allergies tend to reveal themselves through various levels of sensitivity, it’s not only important to consider what campers and staff might consume when planning menus, but with whom and what they might come into contact during the course of a summer camp meal.
The preparation of food, particularly food that is fried, is another key target of critics. The fact is that even though many camps offer such traditionally “fried” fare as hamburgers, french fries, and cheese sticks, many of these foods, when prepared at camp, are not fried. Hamburgers are often grilled while fries and cheese sticks are typically baked to minimize the use of fatty oils.
In case you have ever suspected that your child’s nutrition takes a back seat to fun at summer camp, we hope this brief introduction has helped put your mind at ease. And if you’re still not convinced, we invite you to continue visiting this blog as we continue our series about camp menus.