Today, we started a new tradition with the campers that we hope will last decades. Beside the fire, among friends, kids from each age group were grouped together to form a new ‘camp family.’ Headed by a Senior camper and guided by an Elder (a counselor), the new camp family builds a bond between campers of all ages.
After pairing our campers up with one another across the age groups, the camp families created names for themselves, handshakes, and started to learn more and more about one another. With the guidance of our key staff members, our campers marked one another with color representing Integrity, Service, Courage, Leadership and Wisdom – qualities we wish to develop in all of our campers and staff.
Throughout the summer, these new families will journey together through various activities and will bring a new sense of friendship and connection between campers who would normally not know each as well.
How did it go? Well, as Cole was putting the younger boys to bed, each one of them said ‘my new camp family’ was a highlight of their day (along with tubing, turkey dinner, playing basketball, Camper vs. Wild, skate park, Weelicious, play practice, and more….)
Did you know that there are certain things, certain scientifically proven things, that are shown to create and increase the hormones in our brain that make us happy? This isn’t just some fluffy stuff we made up, it’s proven by really smart scientists who know their stuff!
The amazing thing is, that most of the things doctors and scientists recommend people to do to be happy can all be done at camp! No wonder kids who spend their summers at Camp Weequahic are some of the happiest kids around!
Stop and Smell The Roses: Well, any flower will do, really. A study done from the Human Emotions Laboratory at Rutgers University found that “flowers in general are a powerful positive emotions inducer.” In the study, people exposed to floral scents were three times more likely to have immediate associations with happy and positive memories. Lavender can decrease anxiety and depression and jasmine can have a calming effect. Lucky for campers, the grounds are a hot spot for beautiful fauna, and sweet smelling flowers can be found just about anywhere. There are many distinct smells at camp, including sunscreen, bug spray and s’mores. But the soft scent of flowers will definitely boost your mood anytime.
Exercise in the Morning: Exercise plays a huge part in your mood. When we are feeling slow and lazy, our mood tends to reflect that. When we are active and moving about, we tend to be happier. Exercise releases endorphins and proteins that make us feel happier. Getting active first thing in the morning is an excellent way to prepare your brain for a great day. At camp, kids have plenty of opportunities to start their day with a run, a swim, yoga class or a game of football. Getting an early start is a great mood changer, and can be the first step in a happier day!
Spend Time With Happy People: Everyone has had that one friend or acquaintance who is negative all of the time and who complains a lot. It can be mentally exhausting to be surrounded by all of that negativity, and it’ll eventually take a toll on your personal happiness. Scientists say surrounding yourself with happy, positive people will make you a more positive and happy person. It’s hard to be down and depressed when you’re around people who are hungry for life, laughter and adventure. And, what do you know, camp is chock full of happy people. Both the campers and the staff are having the time of their lives, and their mood, vibes and happiness are totally contagious.
Go Outside: Being outside and connecting with nature can do wonders on your mood. Getting out and about has been proven to increase concentration, reduces stress, and (surprise!) can boost your mood and overall happiness. The fresh air is good for you, the Vitamin D you get from the sun is beneficial, and the ever-changing scenery of the outdoors is an excellent way to get your brain working and help you to focus better. A large portion of a camper’s day is spent outside, enjoying the sunshine and exploring nature, and this helps them to feel energized and excited.
Teachers and parents have said time and time again that they can just tell the difference between kids who go to camp and kids who stay home. “There’s just something different about kids who go to camp. It’s their confidence, their mood, their overall happiness” is something heard quite often about campers. And it makes sense! Spending the summer at Camp Weequahic is the perfect formula for happiness, and gives a whole new meaning to the term “happy campers”
There are many things campers notice when they arrive at camp the first day. They notice the cabins, all of the new faces, the baseball fields, ropes course, tennis courts and acres and acres of open space to run in, play in and explore in. But one of the most breathtaking and exciting parts of camp is the lake. With “so-clear-you-can see-right-to-the-bottom” waters, the lake and sandy shoreline is a popular place for campers to spend the majority of their summers.
When it comes to watersports, campers can try a variety of different options while at Camp Weequahic. Campers can relax and learn the art of fishing, or work their muscles on a standup paddle board, or they can get their heart rate up as they experience the speed and thrill of wakeboarding and water skiing. The lake doesn’t just offer a location to try new sports; it serves as the backdrop for the time in their lives when kids will remember they tried something new. It will be the place they fondly remember as the spot where they faced their fears, tried something new, and had the time of their lives.
The lake also serves as a great place for reflection and peace. A quiet stroll along the shoreline can be a great place for a confidential conversation between friends, a quiet place for journaling or writing letters back home, or simply a place to connect with nature. Warm, sunny days heat the water to a comfortable 80 degrees during the day, making it easy to run, splash and play in the crystal clear waters all day long. (Don’t worry, sunscreen is readily available and lifeguards and other professionals are always around!)
The lake is a central part of camp, and it brings campers together in a variety of ways. Camp Weequahic would feel incomplete without all of the activities, events and life lessons that are centered on the lake. Self-confidence, friendships and trust are all built on the lake. Campers who come from a part of the country where they don’t have access to such a beautiful part of nature really connect and enjoy everything the lake has to offer.
The lake is so much more than just a body of water in the middle of camp. The lake is a place that campers really connect with, and where lifelong memories are made.
It was midway through the fifth week of summer camp that I suddenly realized I didn’t know what day it was.
…Or what week it was.
And you know what the craziest part is? That didn’t make me feel stressed at all! On the contrary, I hadn’t been so happy for months.
After all, who has time to balance a calendar when you’re spending all day and night away from the computer, playing games in the sun and making new friends?
Summer camp has a way of making you “live in the moment” — so much so that losing track of time is totally normal. In fact, it’s pretty much expected by campers and counselors alike.
After a long school year of classes and homework and tests, let me tell you: it’s an incredible feeling to just let it all go.
“Live in the moment” may be a common piece of advice, but truth be told it’s a difficult nugget of wisdom to follow without practice. Back home, the phone was always ringing, the deadlines were always looming, and the stakes always felt high. It wasn’t until I started spending my summers at camp that I started to understand what “living in the moment” really meant.
…It didn’t mean throwing my phone in the lake, or not worrying about grades. It meant simply being okay with my best try — and to keep my mind on the task at hand, rather than always worrying about the next one.
Camp is the perfect place to practice living in the moment, because there is simply less to worry about. In fact, living in the moment is pretty much the default at camp. There simply isn’t much to worry about, and it’s hard to think about the past or future when the present is packed with activities, sports, campfires, and all the rest.
So you see, losing track of time at summer camp is pretty understandable!
However, that isn’t to say that anybody is disorganized. Far from it; if anything, camp will improve your time management skills and help you get used to staying on schedule. The big difference is that everybody is in it together, and it’s not the end of the world if somebody is late once in awhile. Nothing encourages being on time quite like the thing you’re rushing to get to being a ton of fun!
There were many days that I spent on my feet running around for 12-15 hours straight, and yet it always felt like there just wasn’t enough time in the day. The saying that “time is relative” is definitely accurate at summer camp. If time is crawling during an SAT prep test, then it’s flying when you’re at camp, taking a first shot at wakeboarding!
Honestly, the only calendar any of us worried about was the end of camp, when we’d all have to pack up our things and embark on our journeys back home. Leaving camp is always bittersweet, but we all left with a profound new outlook on life. We had learned what it truly meant to “live in the moment,” and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget. Thank you camp!