Watch out NFL…. The WFL is right behind you in popularity and about to take over! As football fever reaches the highest pitch with the upcoming Super Bowl, we are reminded of all the fun we have at Camp Weequahic while playing flag football.
Much like our very popular Weequahic Basketball League, campers are divided into teams of equal ability, gender and age groups. Boys and many girls love flying around the fields running, catching, avoiding and ‘tackling’ (pulling the flags) for at least one period a day. Our coaches are collegiate athletes who love to develop drills, plays, and practices that increase our campers’ understanding and enjoyment of the game each time they arrive at the field.
Campers who have never played the game are just as likely to love being a part of the flag football program. Whether they are learning the basics and practicing their new found skills in the flag football ‘class’ activity, competing with the SEC Dragons or the Big Ten Demons of the WFL, or representing Weequahic on our Wayne County Flag Football team, the campers do their best and have a blast.
What is the Wayne County team, you ask? It is just another one of our many competitive and completely volunteer teams that plays against 26 other camps in Wayne County, PA. Campers of any ability are welcome We compete across all ages and the kids love to play!
We hope you’ll come out to play with us this summer!
The following was written by Noah S., an 8 year camper at Camp Weequahic who finished his last summer as a camper in 2013.
Camp Weequahic has been my home away from home for the past seven years. It was a place where I could escape the stresses of everyday life and relax with those whom had become my summer family. Though my time as a camper ended this past summer, the lessons and values I took away from my camp experience are ones that have molded me into the person I am today and will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Weequahic has taught me that staying true to oneself will always lead to friendship. Living in a bunk with other kids my age for the first time was a daunting task. However, because I was myself and did not pretend to be anyone I was not, I formed inseparable bonds with my bunkmates, all of whom I am now proud to call my best friends.
Having made these friendships also taught me how to maintain friendships across a large geographic area. I am one of the campers who does not hail from the Tri-State area. The distance between us during the winter encouraged me to keep in contact and maintain the friendships, so that when we returned to camp, it was like we had never left.
Weequahic has also taught me leadership skills that apply to everyday life, such as how to take different people and make them work together in a cohesive unit. When leading my color war team, I had to make sure that each and every kid was engaged and having fun; otherwise, the mere thought of him or her respecting me and color war in general would be long gone. This is where I learned how to make everyone come together, to lead the way in having fun while working together to achieve a common purpose: winning.
In doing so, I learned possibly my most valuable life-lesson. Here is a quote from Maya Angelou that epitomizes my new mantra: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Staying true to this belief has not only furthered my relationships with those around me, but it will enable me to easily form relationships in the future.
If it were not for camp, I would have never understood this quote to its full capacity. The lessons I learned at Camp Weequahic are ones that will follow me for the rest of my life, guiding my choices and experiences. If it were not for Weequahic, I would be a completely different person than I am today.
Arrival: The time has finally come and you have one million different thoughts racing through your head. I can’t believe I am here! Will I fit in? Will I make friends? Will the kids like me? How am I this excited and nervous at the same time? Did I pack enough socks? These feelings are par for the course when coming up the camp road for your first summer at Weequahic. It’s a feeling that any returning staff member remembers vividly and one they are not likely to forget.
Orientation: It’s officially started; your bags are in a bunk, you’ve exchanged a few smiles or started small talk with a couple people, and you are wildly curious as to what a week of training will have in store. You attend meetings that are less of meetings than they are events. Chants, cheers, and skits may not be in your normal comfort zone, but here at Weequahic you have flipped a switch you never knew you had. You have immersed yourself with this group of complete strangers to make a week of learning fun and the nerves of where your summer is headed completely vanish.
Campers Arrive: The nerves are back as fast as they went. The two weeks of orientation felt a lot longer (in a good way) and you’re not too sure you want anything to change. You are attempting to perfect your bunk for the campers’ arrival and also trying to decide how much paint to put on your signs. Cheers erupt as the buses emerge. Nerves are at an all-time high, but the energy of the moment is temporarily paralyzing any fear that attempts to escape. Camper after camper joins your group until the last makes it and you begin introductions as you head towards your bunk; relief sets in.
Week 3: You are at the end of the first session and the halfway point of your summer. Just a few short weeks ago your campers knew more than you did, but that seems like an eternity ago. You are now proficient in the camp schedule, spirit, and probably even the songs. Nerves, what nerves? Only half of the summer has gone by and you are determined to make the most of it. You are sad to see your first session campers leave but can’t wait to meet the new campers who will arrive in a couple of days.
Closing Time: You are in the final days and are trying to relive your summer as it has flown by way too fast. Every “last” moment brings both cheers and tears; you really don’t want to leave. The kids board the buses and the magic of Camp Weequahic has come to an end….for now. As you pack your bags and say your goodbyes to friends who you are so thankful for meeting, you realize a few things: you’ve made friends and memories that will literally last a lifetime, you can’t wait to come back next summer, and when you do you will most assuredly bring a few more pairs of socks.
The typical image of evenings at summer camp involves campers sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and singing songs. While campfires are an essential part of the camp experience and some camps enjoy campfires nightly or weekly — they’re only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to after dinner activities. While some nights, particularly those following busier than usual days, are “chill” nights at camp during which campers watch a movie, enjoy a camp show or, yes, sit around that infamous campfire, on most nights when the sun goes down at camp, the action heats up and things get crazy—sometimes really crazy—and maybe even a little goofy.
Whether it’s a dance, an evening of games or a scavenger hunt, it’s important to dress for the occasion and costumes are often encouraged. Acceptable attire often includes tutus, crazy hats or wigs, temporary tattoos and face or body paint. When competition is involved, dressing in team colors is also a must. Friends or even entire bunks/cabins often try to mirror each other with matching outfits, and showing team spirit typically becomes a competition within a competition. Clever cheers (often involving inside camp jokes), singing, and loud encouragement provide the soundtrack to a night of activities designed to help everyone let loose, be themselves, and, most importantly, have fun. So what is the point of so much silliness after a full day of activities? It’s simple. Play. Play has long been touted by child psychologists as crucial to social and cognitive development. At camp, however, the kind of play that happens during evening activities takes on a much bigger role as an avenue for inspiring campers and staff alike to embrace camp values and put them into action.
At least one of these three key words consistently appears in camp mottos: “tradition”, “family”, “friends.” All three are emphasized during evening activities at camp. Whether it’s to win a competition or a race, playful evening activities are a fun way for campers to come together as a family to achieve a common goal. More importantly, individual age divisions often spend time together during evening activities. During the day, campers go in many different directions, depending on their interests and program schedules. In the evenings, however, they come back together as a group. In the midst of lighthearted moments, friendships are born and strengthened.
Sleepaway camp traditions don’t begin and end with campfires and sing-alongs. They are evident—or sometimes born—ineven the wackiest moments of evening activities. Those activities become perennial favorites to which campers look forward all year. They spend time during the winter contemplating ways in which they can enhance tradition and future memories by building upon previous experiences of those activities. They communicate with each other, brainstorm ideas and even make plans. In short, through play, campers take ownership of their camp experience as well as their camp traditions. In doing so, they embrace camp values.
Raise your hand if this happened to you this year—as it does every year right about now. Just when you thought you’ve finally—FINALLY—heard the last of the camp stories, it arrived. Maybe it was the camp video, the camp newsletter…even an invitation to a camp reunion. Whatever it was, it was about camp, reminding you that we’re halfway to another summer, and now you’re hearing that waterskiing or baseball story for, oh, about the 27th time. And raise your hand if you ever find yourself questioning how a few weeks each summer can have such a profound impact on your children that they’re still talking about it in the dead of winter as if it was just a couple of weeks ago. Not that you mind. You’re very happy that your investment in summer camp has been a good one. But you still wonder. Well, here are a few things to consider.
1.) At summer camp, campers get to spend all day, every day with their friends. Before you argue that they get that at school too,consider this: At summer camp, campers not only spend all day with their friends, they get the opportunity to interact with them. When you think about it, interaction with friends at school is primarily limited to hallway conversations between classes, recess (for younger children), and lunchtime. Sure, they may steal a few exchanges during class at the risk of detention, but for the most part, talking while teachers present lessons (which comprise the bulk of the school day) is generally discouraged. In juxtaposition, summer camp is more like a sleepover that lasts several weeks, and everyday campers get to do something special with their friends. Beat that on the fun-o-meter!
2.) Children can be themselves at camp. Not that there aren’t rules to follow at summer camp, too. But the rules tend to be the kind that promote being at ease. They are considerably more relaxed than those imposed at school, and even those pertaining to appropriate conduct in social situations are somewhat lax in comparison to those they have to follow the other ten months of the year. Most restaurants (or their patrons) probably aren’t too excited when children start singing or cheering in the middle of their meal, for example. Most summer camps encourage it.
3.) Children get to be independent at summer camp. Not that your children don’t love and adore you, but they like doing things on their own too. Children take a lot of pride in accomplishing something they tried for the first time at camp on their own (with the support of their fellow campers, counselors, and a host of other camp staff as well, of course…but in their minds, it was all them, and that’s okay). It gives them a sense of pride to know that they don’t need Mom and Dad to do everything.
4.) Camp is a youthful environment. Camp is an environment dedicated to youth. Even staff members are young at heart. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but think about the “real”world from a child’s perspective. It’s basically a place where they are constantly put in check by grownups and reminded about all of the things they can’t do until they are grownups. Camp, in contrast, is a place all about pleasing kids and where they are constantly reminded of why it is so sweet to be a kid.
5.) Children observe time differently at summer camp. Really! They do. When the school year begins, so does a countdown that children measure in “months still to go.” It’s a slow moving countdown of which children consistently consider themselves on the back end. There is always still time. When summer camp begins, a countdown also begins. But this countdown is measured in “weeks that have already passed.” Children place themselves on the front end of the camp countdown. In other words, they know that their time at summer camp is limited. From the second they arrive, they set out to make each and every minute count, which increases the intensity of the experience. That’s why those seemingly mundane ‘It’s a camp thing’ or ‘You had to have been there’ stories you hear over and over are so revered by your children. They were actually living so vividly in the moment they experienced them that the moment sticks with them. Not many children share quite the same enthusiasm about, let’s say, their last math exam, for example.
So when the next camp reminder arrives in your mailbox or your inbox and the stories start again, just remember that, for campers, an arrival of anything from camp is like receiving a postcard from Neverland.
A popular question that a lot of prospective summer camp counselors ask recruiters is about the difficult aspects of the job. After hearing about how much fun they will have, about the amount of time they will get to spend outdoors, about all of the friends they will make, and how much money they can save, it all sounds a bit too good to be true. Candidates want to know, ‘So, what is the hard part?’ It’s a good question because, while it’s true that a simple internet search will produce article upon article about all of the great aspects of working at a sleepaway camp, few highlight the difficult parts of the job. In the name of bucking the status quo, this blog is going to take a stab at it.
First, camp ends. That’s probably the hardest part. From an outsider’s perspective, a couple of months never seems like a long time, certainly not long enough to form any permanent bonds or attachments. What a lot of people fail to consider, because it’s just such a foreign concept to most people, is that those two months aren’t 9-5, 5 days per week months. They’re 24/7 months—including meal times. That’s roughly 1,344 hours of constant interaction with campers and co-workers compared to the 320 hours those people who just do that daytime thing get. A little basic math establishes that’s roughly eight months of regular work time crammed into two. Eight months is the better part of a year and plenty of time to get pretty attached to new friends as well as campers. That’s why tears are usually inevitable when it comes time to say goodbye. Goodbye is always hard. But it’s even harder when you know that you may never have the opportunity to see some of the people with whom you’ve just spent the equivalent of eight months of your life again.
Second, you have to be comfortable around children. This sounds like a no brainer, but if you’re used to spending most of your time around adults, spending most of your time around children requires a bit of an adjustment. It goes without saying that interacting with children requires a filter of sorts. Obviously, you don’t share everything with children that you would with other adults. Interacting with children also requires a great deal of discretion. They’re looking at you for answers. Not only knowing what answers to give but when to give them is important. Knowing when it’s not your place to answer but to escalate the issue is even more important. Also, successful interaction with children is all in the presentation. You have to be a good salesperson to a certain extent. Before signing up to work at summer camp, think about the fact that convincing at least one camper to do something he or she does not want to do and to have fun while doing it is likely going to be a daily occurrence. If you’re a person who is quick to lose patience, summer camp may not be the right fit for you.
Third, stepping outside of your comfort zone is difficult. Think about it. When you’re feeling like pizza, do you pick up the telephone and call a different restaurant to order each time or do you call that place that you know makes a killer pie? There is nothing wrong with comfort. It certainly makes life (and decisions) easier. But leaving friends and family and going to a completely foreign environment to live and work for two months is definitely taking a giant step out of the comfort zone for most people. A lot of first year staff members arrive at camp thinking they’re prepared…and then reality sets in. Just accept that you will feel disoriented for a few days and definitely out of your comfort zone, which is hard. But if you stick with it, you’ll find that stepping out of your comfort zone to work at camp is one of the best hardest things you will ever do.
Finally, working at camp is exhausting. Seriously. You need some serious stamina—both mental and physical–to make itthrough the summer. The days are long. The sleep is short. You will likely be given one day off per week, on which you will still find yourself spending time with the same people with whom you’ve been working for the past six days and with whom you will work for the next six days. Obviously, if you’re a person who values a lot of alone time, you might find working at camp a bit hard.
There you have it. The hard part. The fine print. The ‘What’s the catch?’ If you’ve read all of that and are ready to take on a bit of difficulty in exchange for a whole lot of fun, then a summer at camp just may be the right fit for you.
Admit it. During the summer, you just scroll through the camp photos looking for any part of your child—a pose with friends, a smiling face, an arm, a shoe, a finger—anything that you can bookmark and study intensely to see what information you can garner using every technique you’ve ever learned from Law & Order. But have you ever gone back through the photos months after camp ends and just browsed at large, not just at your children, but at camp at large? If you haven’t, you should.
Camp photos aren’t just random shots caught by the camp photographer as he or she casually passed by. They tell astory. The story of camp and how the summer unfolds. The camp photographer is, undoubtedly, one of the hardest working people at camp. In fact, the work is so difficult, that many camps employ more than one, plus a videographer or two. Camp photographers are some of the first people out of bed each morning and some of the last to go to bed each night. Daily, they are charged with capturing the spirit of camp in pictures. If that sounds easy, try making around several hundred acres to capture about twenty activities happening simultaneously. On top of that, you’re taxed with trying to capture images of each and every camper each day. It’s a task. But a valuable one. Because, at the end of the summer, what a camp photographer leaves behind are images of the best moments at camp.
If you look back through the camp photos, you see friends enjoying time together in arts & crafts, sports teams in action, candid shots of campers living in the moment of whatever activity in which they are participating, being reflective, or just taking it all in. You also see moments of true surprise, awe, joy, and even disappointment. You can literally relive the summer by looking through the camp photos. If you want to know what your child is up to, scroll for the photos of our child. But if you want to know what is happening at camp, take the time to look through the camp photos…again.
There comes a point for everyone involved when we finally stop wishing for it to still be last summer and begin looking forward to this summer. The beginning of the new year is the perfect time for this. The new year is a time of new beginnings for most people and, although that long list of resolutions most of us start out with in January has already been all but forgotten by the time the first spring blooms begin to peep out of the ground, there is always the promise of camp. January starts that final countdown toward summer. We’re finally in the year 2014, and it is only a matter of months before we arrive at the Summer of 2014. And a fast six months it always is! We spend cold winter evenings watching our camp videos or reading our camp newsletters. We attend camp reunions and follow our camp Facebook pages. By spring we’ve ordered all of our new camp gear and are eagerly awaiting for it to arrive. We start to set goals for the summer with our camp friends. Then we blink, and it’s May. It’s time to start packing! School ends and the countdown is down to days…days that seem to take longer than all of the months we’ve waited put together. But it comes, the new summer of the new year, faster than we ever thought it would a year ago.
Most children step off the bus and get their first glance of summer camp as eager, excited, and slightly nervous seven or eight year olds. It’s their first time away from home and they’re not quite sure what to expect. Few register those first moments as the first of a seven year adventure. It’s just the first summer, after all. Even parents sometimes forget that summer camp isn’t just one summer and, in that regard, is much more than a campus. It is a place where children grow up, and it should be a place where campers are every bit as enthusiastic about stepping off the bus their seventh year as they are their first. It should be a place where they feel an integral part of something larger.
Relationships form early at camp. The friends campers make their first year are often their closest throughout their camp careers. The adrenaline filled first meeting is the beginning of several years in the making. But the accepting environment of camp that encourages children to try new things also facilitates the promise of new friendships each summer. What campers learn as they progress through summers is that at “their camp,” no two summers are quite the same.
There is always the element of the unexpected at camp. Anticipation throughout the winter to return to camp is driven by the mystery of how the next summer will be different than the last. The ability to envision the campus as pretty much the same way they left it (with maybe a few upgrades or improvements) eliminates the element of fear in change for children. The stability of the campus itself makes change something to which campers can look forward. Boating docks, dining halls and arts and crafts studios become favorite spots as the settings of memories from summer to summer. Although they are the same places they were the summer before, the memories campers associate with them make them slightly different.
That first exploratory summer, young campers are also able to observe and begin to anticipate the various rites that occur as they age. They look forward each summer to special trips and activities that are exclusive to their second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh summer. In the end, summer camp isn’t a singular experience. It’s the sum total of many summers and a culmination of friends, activities, traditions and memories that builds from that first welcome on the first day of camp that first summer.