Archive for September, 2016

Have a Good Laugh

Friday, September 30th, 2016

I love to laugh. Anyone sitting near me during this summer’s production of Aladdin heard me laugh a lot and loudly. Sorry… I come by it honestly. As a 13-year-old, I spent an afternoon cringing in a movie theater while listening to my mother laugh at ‘The Princess Bride’ – from 15 rows away! (And, yes, it’s a hilarious movie.)ac9u0630

I have a lot of favorite things about camp – the amazing, hilarious campers, working alongside our talented and engaged staff, watching my own boys build lasting friendships. There is so much to love.
My favorite, though, is walking camp just after everyone heads back to their bunk following a fun EA. The sky is dimming quickly, the air is crisping up, and the sounds of laughter, joy, and community jump out of each bunk. It’s a magical time that makes one feel young and connected.

Laughter is a gift we give both to ourselves and to those around us. First of all, it brightens our own outlook, lightens our mood, and helps us see the positive. And, it’s contagious. There is a lot of research on this fact .dsc_0536

Want to grow closer to your friends? Laugh with them. It’s one of the most effective ways to opening the doors to a person’s friendship. Want to grow more comfortable with yourself? Cultivate the ability to laugh – at yourself!

We all make mistakes. We all stumble. All of these stumbles and mistakes are learning opportunities and most give us the opportunity to laugh at ourselves. When you treat your honest mistake or stumble with your own laughter, challenges begin to melt a bit. Time speeds up a bit. Your friends are more likely to join in (in kindness and support). And, most importantly, you grow.

Take some time this off-season to laugh. Find some friends to do it alongside or spend some time thinking about all those moments at Weequahic this past summer that still make you laugh. Was it Miss Weequahic? Seeing the counselors hypnotized? Goofing around at Carnival or just enjoying time with your buddies?ac9u9482

We are blessed to get to laugh. Practice it often. Have a great week!

The 8 Reasons You’re Already Excited About Summer 2017

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

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Your dirty camp laundry might still be in a pile waiting to be washed, and you’re already counting down the days until next summer so you can get back to camp!

If you’re already planning and excited about next summer, you’re not alone. You’re one of the many campers who make going away to camp a part of their summer experience year after year. Here are 8 reasons why you’re already looking forward to summer 2017:

 

  1. You get to see old friends- When asked, most campers say seeing old friends is the #1 reason they are excited to get back to camp. Social media, texting, emails and phone calls throughout the year are great, but there is nothing like after a busy school year reconnecting with old friends!
  2. Campfires- there is something about the singing crickets, the crackling of the fire, good friends all around, S’mores on the fire, and those whacky, silly campfire songs that make summer camp so much fun.
  3. Outdoor Adventures- more than likely, you don’t live in a place where you can easily access an impressive ropes course or mountain biking trails, or the chance to go camping in the mountains. At camp, you have access to all of these adventures just steps from your cabin.
  4. Freedom- You’ve worked so hard all year to get good grades, contribute around the house, participate in sports and other afterschool activities, that summer camp is a nice break from all of those responsibilities. At camp, you’re free to relax!
  5. Special Events- from pool parties and talent shows, to laser tag and MTV night, campers are always excited about special events! You never really know what to expect with these special events, all you know is that it’s going to be awesome and it’ll be a night you won’t soon forget!
  6. Reconnecting with Nature- when you leave camp, it can feel kind of weird to spend the next few months sitting in a classroom, or coming home to sit and play video games. Camp gives you a new appreciation for the outdoors, and being outside all of the time becomes a part of who you are. Many campers are excited to breathe the fresh mountain air, cannonball into the refreshing lake, and experience quiet time with nature throughout camp.
  7. The Food- Even at the best schools, cafeteria food is still cafeteria food, and can get boring after a while. Thankfully, coming to camp means you have a wide variety of food options to choose from, and all of it is delicious! Remember the breakfast sandwiches? Remember the ice cream sundaes? Remember the cookouts? Healthy and delicious options are always available for bust, hungry campers!
  8. The Traditions- if next summer will be your first summer as a repeat camper, you have something really exciting waiting for you! Your time as the new camper is over, and now you’re a P-R-O! You already have a hang of the traditions, the rituals, the songs and customs that happen at camp. You now have the opportunity to teach the new campers! If this is your third or fourth summer returning to camp, you know that even though there are some things that stay the same, every camp experience is new and different and exciting!

 

It’s not too early to start counting down the days until summer 2017. It’ll be here before you know it, and you’ll be packing your bags and heading back to one of your favorite places on the planet. There is so much to look forward to, and these are just SOME of the many reasons kids are already so excited to get back to camp! Why are you pumped about getting back to camp?

 

The Importance of Stories

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

I love a good story. I’ve told a lot of them at Campfire. There are some favorite ones that we repeat like the Giving Tree but many are new each summer.

Stories are important to us as individuals and as a society. When well done, stories stir emotion, share values, and give us a chance consider our past, present, and future in different ways.

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What are your favorite stories? Are they Greek myths? The stories you’ve learned about America’s founder fathers? Something from Dr. Seuss perhaps? There are so many choices and I hope you collect many.

But the stories we listen to are not the only ones that are important. I think the most important are those stories that we tell ourselves.

A great teacher of mine spoke a lot about self-talk and making sure that it was positive, uplifting and focusing all at the same time. Many of us struggle at times with this aspect of our lives and that’s ok. The important thing is to take some time and really evaluate what you are saying to yourself. Are building yourself up or tearing yourself down?

Our campers and staff are amazing. How do I know? Because I get to spend so much time with you each summer and then hear about your throughout the year. You have SO MUCH in your lives of which to be proud. Please make sure the stories you tell yourself are positive, uplifting and focusing.

Have a great weekend!

With GAC,
Cole

What a Campfire Means to a Summer Camper

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

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Camp life may thrive on variety, but the traditional evening campfire has remained constant for as long as anyone can remember. The mere mention of a campfire brings back a flood of memories for many summer campers; memories of friends gained, challenges overcome, and a time when all there was to worry about was playing games and growing stronger. Nothing captures the spirit of the summer camp experience quite like the snap-crackle-pop of the hot fire and the magical smell of freshly split logs waiting to get thrown on the flames.

A day at camp is often hectic and wild, and the evening campfire offers everybody a chance to wind down. Camp simply wouldn’t be the same without it. After all, the traditional evening campfire represents more than just a nice way to stay warm on a brisk night; gathering around the fire represents community, the circle of life, and togetherness with friends new and old.

Tradition

Fire has been a life source for all of recorded history, from the first ancient person to rub two sticks together to the diligent camper wielding flint and tinder. For all that time, friends and family have gathered around the fire to tell stories, play games and enjoy good food. (or s’mores, as the case may be!)

Building a fire with only matches, kindling and elbow grease is a chance to pit your wits against nature and enjoy a connection to “the old days” — before light bulbs, or flashlights, or flashlight apps on your smartphone.

Experiencing a campfire, and perhaps even starting one yourself, is a taste of independence for campers, for whom camp is the one of many steps towards independence and self-sufficiency.

Togetherness

Another thing campfires represent is a time for winding down through songs, skits, and theatrical games. Charades is never as funny as just before bedtime, when your best friend is dancing and gesturing desperately to get everybody to guess the right word. Even if you’re feeling tired after a long day of activities, you can count on this to be true: laughter flows freely by firelight. Just watch out for all the camp-related inside jokes!

And of course no mention of campfires is complete without talking about traditional camp songs, especially the kinds that involve audience participation. (“Hey, Burritos!” anybody?) Legend has it that there are campers out there who know so many verses of “The green grass grows all around” that it would take a whole day just to sing it from start to finish. Even if everybody sings out of tune, the harmony comes from the camp community’s commitment to keeping the traditional melodies alive — even the completely goofy ones.

…And of course we can’t forget s’mores!

One part of the fire nobody wants to miss: s’more time! Crafting the perfect golden-brown marshmallow is an art as old as marshmallows and fires. Like any fine art, roasting a marshmallow to perfection is a tricky task that takes hard work and commitment. (Thankfully, perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and truth be told some folks prefer to let them catch fire for a crispy flavor!)

Whether you prefer a classic graham cracker and hershey’s milk chocolate s’more or have your own special recipe — I for one appreciate homemade chocolate chip cookies — roasting marshmallows on a rip-roaring campfire is something nobody forgets.

Plus, it’s just the right amount of sugar to keep you awake for the closing songs, but not so awake that you have trouble drifting into peaceful dreams after lights out!

Leadership Development at Camp Weequahic

Friday, September 16th, 2016

It’s Friday night and that means it’s time for a little camp-fire chat! I want to spend a moment on our Senior experience at CW. While there are a ton of fun things to talk about, I think it’s the leadership development that’s most important. Our Senior campers are amazing and how do I know? Because we help them become so!

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The Weequahic community is the perfect place for building the emotional tools so important for leaders.  This outcome does not come just from being a part of the magic of camp. At Weequahic, we create specific moments and experience for our oldest campers to develop these important skills.

Camp Families

Each Senior camper becomes the head of a camp family, a grouping of Junior, Jinter, Inter, and Senior campers. These groups come up with their own greeting, family name, and spend time together throughout their time at CW.

Apprenticeship

Our 10th and 11th graders learn how to teach and assist in program areas of their choosing while at camp. Under the direction of our program directors and specialty staff, these young leaders learn what it feels like to be a program area counselors.

Big Sister / Big Brother Program

Our CITs are matched individually with our youngest campers to spend time with throughout the summer, welcome into camp, and creating a lasting bond. Each summer, our newest CITs remember their ‘Big Sister’ or ‘Big Brother’ and cannot wait to give the same type of experience to the newest campers at CW.

Leadership Classes

Taught by experienced leaders, these moments give our oldest campers time to explore their beliefs and values, learn to actively listen and engage, and become acquainted with the questions that need to be asked in each leadership opportunity. Whether it’s leading themselves to a specific goal or an entire bunk of nine year olds in an Evening Activity, we help foster leadership learning in each of our young adults.

These are just a few of the specific leadership development opportunities Camp Weequahic develops for our young adults. And, while they are useful in guiding our young leaders forward, nothing is more important than the bonds they build between each other and with the younger campers.

The Main Point

Seeing our Junior, Jinter, and Inter campers look up to the Seniors is one of the most incredible aspects of being a part of the CW community. These young kids cannot wait to grow up and lead with joy, humility, excitement, and passion.

Our Senior campers shine and not just at Weequahic. What they learn at CW goes home with them to affect all those around them. Whether at home, in the classroom, on the fields or club room, our CW Seniors make their world better. We can’t wait to see what these great young women and men do with their lives.

Friendship Without Borders: A Day in the Life at International Camp

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

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Life at camp centers around the core values of friendship, family, and tradition — and the international camp experience is no exception.

 

Whether campers come from abroad to experience American culture or come from local areas to experience the international camp lifestyle, summer camp has something to offer to everyone when it comes to experiencing a new culture. (And having a blast playing sports, singing around the campfire, and playing around on the lake of course!)

Values in common

International campers may come from countries as diverse as England, France, Spain, Italy, China, Korea and many more, but they all come to camp for the same thing: a traditional American experience that they’ll never forget.

 

International camp counselors place an emphasis on learning to appreciate the things that are different about the various cultures that arrive at camp, but they also place an emphasis on the things we all have in common.

 

We all love family. We all love to laugh. And the first time singing around the campfire is magical for everybody — no matter whether they’ve seen a campfire, marshmallows, or fireflies before.

Fun: the universal language

While English is the common ground for international campers, it’s always fun when campers are able to experience a new language, or even find someone who shares their mother tongue to joke around with. “Oh, you speak Spanish too!”

 

American experiences

Something that draws many international campers all the way to North America is the promise of a traditional American experience… but of course once they’re here, the cultural exchange goes both ways!

 

When it comes to American traditions, it’s hard to find something more quintessential and unique than summer camp. From raising the flag in the morning to singing goofy songs around the dining hall at dinner, what seems normal and routine to returning American campers is exotic and fascinating to campers from Europe and Asia!

 

Thanks to the amazing community of counselors and decades of tradition, no international camper returns home without a few amazing stories to tell.

Campers with culture!

Friendship knows no borders. As connected as the modern world is, it’s surprisingly easy to remain out of touch with peers from other cultures.

 

International camp gives young people the chance to reach out and make contact with new friends from places they might not otherwise even think about — expanding the horizons of every single camper that participates in an international camp.

Passport to fun times

Whether you make new friends overseas, have a fun time guessing each other’s accents, or just learn a word or two in Spanish of Italian, international camp makes incredible memories for everyone that comes out to partake in the camp lifestyle.

 

…You may not need a passport to get here, but you’re guaranteed to have an international experience!

Friday Night Campfire – Friendship

Friday, September 9th, 2016

Well, it’s Friday and I’m wishing I could head down to the lake and spend time with some of my favorite people – our Camp Weequahic family! While we can’t be together by Sly Lake this evening, I still want to pass along a few ideas. Tonight, let’s talk about friendship.

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There are SO MANY good things about having really good friends – they make you happier, help you feel more secure and self-confident, keep you honest, and help out should things get a little crazy in your life. (Sure, they may make you a little crazy at times but that’s also a part of being good friends!)

Sometimes, friends fall together quickly. Other friendships take time to develop and only come together by mutual decisions and work. Yes, being in a friendship does take a little work – it’s just normally really fun work!

The trick to having a good friend is pretty simple: be one. Here’s the thing, though – just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

Now, you should be kind to everyone – it’s the best way to show that you understand we are all of equal value. However, you really can’t be friends with everyone. Why? Because being a ‘friends’ takes the same time and same effort from both people.

Think about it – who are some of the best friends you’ve ever had? Did you spend a lot of time together? I’m guessing you said ‘YES!’ which means that you didn’t do other things with that time. You had to make an effort to hang with your friend. You gave up other options. And, you showed courage by being who you really are. And, so did they!

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A true friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be true yourself and celebrates (and commiserates) with you. This is not always easy and it’s not always possible. And that’s ok! If it were so easy, friendship wouldn’t be as valuable as it is.

So, for the week ahead, I remind you of three things. First, be kind. It doesn’t cost you anything but it’s priceless to those around you. Secondly, if you want to have a great friend, start by being one. Finally, if the person you want to be friends with doesn’t feel the same way, continue being friendly but seek another friend. You are worth the effort!

 

Have a great week,
Cole

Camp Changed My Kid

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

 
AC9U4419I was nervous and excited to send my son Connor to Camp Weequahic this year. Connor’s best friend attended the camp the summer before and could not stop raving about it. So after plenty of research and discussions, we decided to let Connor spend the summer away. I won’t lie, my “mommy heart” broke a little when he practically jumped out of the car at drop off and didn’t look back, but I was pretty sure we were making the right decision. Last week, when we picked him up, I was 100% sure we had made the right decision. The excited, smiley kid who jumped into our backseat was….different.

I couldn’t pin point many differences right away, except for the excitement in his eyes and voice when he talked about all of his new friends and cracked himself up remembering inside jokes and hilarious conversations with his new buddies. One of the main things I noticed when we got home was how helpful he had become. Without me asking, he would make his bed, take his plates to the sink, offer to bring in the groceries or even simply ask if he could get us anything from the kitchen since he was going that way. I noticed a new sense of thoughtfulness when he came back. Not that he was heartless before by any means, but I definitely noticed a change in his willingness to help others and think of others before himself. As the days passed, my heart exploded with joy to see him excited to email, chat and FaceTime all of his new friends. He went to camp a little reserved, and came back social and confident. I loved seeing him interact with his peers, I loved seeing how he was truly listening to what others had to say, and how he felt confident contributing to the conversation.

Just today, he told me he was going to try out for soccer tryouts at school, a sport he had never played before camp. He said he was encouraged to try it at camp and played it almost every day while he was there. As a mom, I am blown away at what positive changes have come from sending my son to camp. I knew he would make friends, try a new activity or two, and learn to live both independently and with a group, but I had no idea about the social skills, character development, relational growth, and boost in confidence that spending just a few weeks away could create.

Any parent that is even thinking about sending their kid to camp should stop thinking right now and sign them up. Not only will you enjoy a few kid-free weeks of relaxation, but when your kid comes home, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at everything they’ve learned, and more importantly, who they’ve become.

Camp Weequahic changed my son for the better, and we are both looking forward to the growth and changes that will happen next summer at camp!