Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Change Awaits Us

Friday, January 12th, 2018

“Change awaits us. What is decisive is our deciding.” – Father G, Tattoos on the Heart

One of my teachers this week talked about epiphanies. We all have them from time to time. They are a moment of clarity when things ‘click.’ I find most of my moments of clarity involve being re-introduced to something I’ve long known but from which my attention had wandered. Father G’s quote represented an epiphany for me.

Thoughts are easy. Living out a new decision, though… that is challenging. Not eating those foods. Getting up off the couch and running. Writing those ‘thank you’ notes each week. Reaching out to a new friend. Going to camp for the first time.

These changes are hard. But, until we are challenged, we cannot change.

Staying where you are – emotionally, physically, mentally – that’s easy. You are already ‘there’ – wherever there is. And, you are as happy as you are going to be ‘there.’

Camp is set up to challenge and, thus, create change. Going away from home, from what and who you know is challenging. Especially if it’s the first time you’ve done so.

That’s why all of our new campers live with and connect with other new campers. They need to know there is someone around them going through the same challenge. We draw strength from shared experience. Its incredible the number of lasting friendships born out of that first summer together.

Second Summer

You know what else is challenging? Coming back to camp for a second summer.

Everything should be the same, right? You loved it last summer. Your counselors were amazing, the friends fantastic, and activities incredible. Sure, you missed home but everyone does there first summer, right?

Here’s the thing: while so much of camp remains the same, things change each summer. We have to! If we don’t change, we can’t get better at our unchanging goal: creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet.

Another thing that changes? YOU DO! Yes, you may feel the same but every year you get older, you can’t help but change. You’ve experienced more. Your eyes have been opened to a larger world. In lots of ways – some big and a lot small – you are a different human being each time you return to CW.

Let’s embrace that change. Let’s celebrate it – together! And, are the challenges worth it? Without a doubt! Whether it’s your first, second, or 22nd (you rock, Camp Mom Judy!), we are excited to have a blast alongside you this summer!

Camp Poetry

Friday, January 5th, 2018

I’ve shared a lot of poems at Campfire over the past decade for good reason: they share a message much better than my meager abilities! We’ve listened to a lot from Dr. Seuss – Oh, the Places You’ll Go and Yertle the Turtle come quickly to mind. I’ve read Invictus by William Henley, If by Rudyard Kipling, among others.

In reading through a new book recently, I came upon this one:
With the Moon Language by Hafez

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course, you do not do this out loud, otherwise
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
Full moon in each eye that is always saying,
With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in
This world is dying to hear?

Hafez lived in the 14th century in Persia. But he just as well may have been writing specifically for us. Every child who walks into camp is yearning to connect. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been at Weequahic for 9 summers or getting off the bus for the first time.

All have this great pull in them to connect. Want to know a secret?

I feel the same way.

At Camp

At Weequahic, we get to drastically decrease the ‘noise’ of our lives. The cell phone and internet are left at home. Video games are not at the finger tips. Homework? Well… only if you really, really want some. Too competitive? Raise your hand if you want to play and let’s just have a blast. The afterschool run around? Non-existent.

This decrease in the noise only helps to foster connections between the campers and their old friends, new-found friends and mentors. It’s a complete blessing… if we do it right! That’s why we spend 10 months planning for the experience.

So, in this new year, I highly recommend adding a little poetry to your life. It may remind you about what’s important. Have a great week!

Out with the Old, In with the New (Year!)  

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

I’ve spent the last several days thinking on the past twelve months. They’ve been among the most exciting and interesting I’ve enjoyed. It’s been a year marked with a lot of positive experiences, moments, and memories.

It’s also been a year marked with failures from which, I sincerely hope, I’ll learn.

The Positives

Lots of great new camp families joined along with a couple of amazing full-time staff – Scrappy and Maintenance Director Alex.

We created a brand-new program (and huge new building) for our Senior Campers. Based on the comments and the returning campers, it’s been very well received.

It looks like our our campers and staff enjoyed an amazing summer. This thought comes from enjoying the highest return rate on record for both campers and staff members. Wow – that’s pretty awesome! Thank you to all!

We also hit on a few new ideas at Weequahic that look to last:

  • What will be your September Story?
  • We either win or we learn.
  • Don’t let the small rope hold you back.

Areas for Improvement

We want to be better at communicating with our camp families and our staff and will continue to work on ways to improve. Better systems and technology to support the fantastic people we have with us will make a positive difference.

We’ll continue to update the bunks. Inter and Senior Girls – you all get brand new bathrooms, siding and windows for Summer ’18. Gentlemen, you’ll be next. (Ladies first, after all!)

New ideas for activities, special events, and evening activities for our campers are high on the list as well. Thankfully, we have an amazing group of people thinking on this very subject. We can’t wait to watch everyone enjoy this coming summer!

Finally, we want to be better at staying in the moment and enjoying every aspect of the camp experience. The more we model this for our campers, the more they’ll do it themselves.

Welcome 2018

I enter 2018 with a full and grateful heart. Thank you to all who were a part of our community in 2017. We’ve learned so much from so many, it would take too long to list everyone. But, we certainly appreciate everything you’ve done to be alongside us.

It’s going to be an amazing year. Why? Because we’ll make it so… together!

As far as resolutions, I have two that I’ll share:

First, I want to know the people’s names who I see all the time at the grocery store, our UPS person at home, our dry cleaner, etc. Why? Because we interact often enough to know each other’s names.

It’s something we pride ourselves on at camp. I want to make it a bigger part of my home life, too. So, that’s one.

The second? Lay off the Canteen!

I hope you and your family has a wonderful end to 2017 and a safe start to the New Year. See you in 2018!

Can’t wait for camp,

Cole

A Camp Ode to Joy

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in…that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” – Jack London, Call of the Wild

I love this quote from Call of the Wild. It encapsulates what one sees walking around Camp Weequahic during our evening activities, seeing the kids in the dance hall performing with their friends, sliding around Sly Lake on the tube, and dashing up the sidelines with the ball in hand:

Joy.

The gift of camp is, for many, the experience of joy. While we can’t live at camp year-round (mores the pity), it doesn’t diminish our need for joy. So, in a season that talks about joy often, the question is a natural one: how do we get to ‘joy?’

Here are a few ideas from some authors (and campers) who often teach me.

It’s About the People

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

When our campers do something amazing, they share it with their friends. Most of the time, their buddies are right there alongside them to celebrate. However, our choice-based program allows great friends to try different things – a little separation is a good thing!

Walking through the Dining Hall at lunch illustrates this perfectly. The conversations are full of laughter, cheers, and wonder. “You did that?! That’s amazing!” Campers are not bragging – they are searching for joy by sharing it with their friends.

This is why we spend so much time and effort helping campers build friendships at Weequahic. First-time campers are justifiably nervous about the new experience. Once they have some friends with whom they share their joy, the first-time camper blooms.

Have something joyful? Get the most out of it by sharing it with a friend who’ll love it, too.

It’s About the New

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” – John Krakauer

With the holidays upon us, there will be many gifts given and enjoyed. So many will be treasured and loved for a long time. Other gifts won’t be so lucky in their length of service.

There are many times that I received a gift that brought some joy quickly. However, once the ‘newness’ of the thing – a video game, a toy, etc…. – wore off, it was no longer fun and quickly forgotten. I see it in our own boys from time to time.

Joy comes from exploring and finding something new. Discovering something you did not know before brings delight – a new skill, a new idea, or a outlook. Pushing past (normally self-set) boundaries opens up new realms of joy because you now have a larger world.

Combine these new discoveries with those close to you and you’ve got a potent ‘joy mix’ on your hands!

It’s About the Attitude

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Let’s be honest: sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Here’s my train of thought on this point.

Point #1: Our minds are set up to ‘value’ negative things three times more than positive things due to our needing to survive way, way before Starbucks and cell phones. While saber-tooth tigers are no longer a threat, our brains haven’t much changed their weighting system.

Point #2: We’ve gotten to a place of ‘happy stimulus overload.’ As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane flying at 35,000 feet from Tel Aviv to London (and then, hopefully, to Atlanta!) I’ve got 42 moive options, a whole host of tv stations, books, newspapers, and games at my fingertips. Meh…. It’s ok.

We fail to notice the pleasures around us because there are so many! (Personal note: As someone who travels a lot and has been incredibly lucky in life, I find myself being ‘meh’ too often about these incredible experiences. I’m a work in progress, too!)

Point #3: When you smile (with both your mouth and your eyes), you physically and chemically alter yourself, if ever so briefly, into a new state. You become happier along with being more receptive, patient, and empathetic. It also changes the sounds coming out of your mouth.

What do these three ideas have to do with joy? They tell me we have to decide to battle our natural setting (attending to the ‘bad’ a lot more than the ‘good’), treat the world around us with more gratitude, and smile. That combo will give joy a great chance to enter our lives.

Last Days of 2017

So, in these last of 2017, join me in taking a few minutes (or more) to reflect on joy. Watching our campers each summer has taught me a lot about the subject. Their joy has reminds me that sharing new experiences with friends (both new and old) brings even more joy. And, smiling will help joy walk into my life more often.

I hope these ideas will help you en-joy the last handful of days in ’17. Have a great week!

Are You Trying or Doing?

Friday, December 15th, 2017

We’ve done a bit of a movie marathon in the Kelly house lately. Cold days coupled with a few sick kiddos made it a good use of our time.

With the new Star Wars coming out, I thought it helpful to walk the boys through a few of the great ones, just to prime the pump, so to speak. “The Last Hope”, “Empire Strikes Back”, and “Return of the Jedi” got us ready. (No, we didn’t watch the ‘first three.’)

For those who don’t know, Yoda, the Jedi Master and teacher extraordinaire, features prominently in the latter two as he prepares and guides Luke Skywalker towards his confrontations with Darth Vader and the evil Emperor.

Luke trains. He listens. He sweats. And, like any student, he whines, pouts a bit, and questions.

When tasked with something seemingly insurmountable, Luke sullenly replies, “Ok, I’ll try.” Yoda, not waiting a bit, jumps on this waffling with:

“No. Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.’”

Ok, I’ll Try….

Why do we use the word ‘try?’ I think it has a lot to do with setting ourselves or others to

be ‘ok’ with our failure. We are putting our toes half into the water, risking a little rather than a lot. Rather than diving in a getting after whatever it is in front of us, we waffle.

I’ll try to climb the wall.

I’ll try to be nice to her.

I’ll try that new food.

All of these are said in a way that is half in, half out. When you put yourself into such a situation, you go at ‘it’ with half a heart, half a mind – and normally get half the result.

Wax On, Wax Off

If you’ve not seen the classic ‘Karate Kid,” you should. (The new version is good, too, but I’m partial to the older version.)

It’s a true underdog, ‘hero’s journey’ story. Teenager Daniel moves to a new state and new school, wants to fit in, and gets bullied. Daniel then stumbles onto a wise teacher who helps him gain both the tools necessary to defend himself and the wisdom to know when to use those tools. Daniel is challenged and comes out the other side victorious… and different.

In the middle of the dark period, our young hero is trying to make a deal on something big. “Maybe I can do just this much and that will be ok,” Daniel is saying. His teacher, Mr. Myagi replies:

“Daniel-san, walk on one side of the road, ok. Walk on other side of the road, ok. Walk down middle… SQWEECH! Crushed like grape.”

Let’s Do

When we decide to do something, we aren’t always successful. We can put every ounce of effort into the task, do all of our homework, have a great attitude and… we do not succeed. That’s just life. And, you know what? That’s totally ok!

At Weequahic, we’ve adopted a saying that fits: ‘Either we win or we learn.’

The key is to really get after it – whatever that is. To DO. When you approach tasks this way – leaving nothing in the tank – you not only give yourself the best chance of success, you avoid the mean big brother of “I’ll Try”: “What if…”

You want to have a lot of friends? Then be a friend. You want to climb the wall? We’ll support you all the way up (and down!). All you have to do is commit. Trying a new food? Act like you are going to love it.

And, should things not go the way you wanted, then you’ve learned. Keep learning! It’s the only way to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Go on. Give it your all. To borrow Yoda’s voice, ‘happy for it, you will be.’ Have a great week!

A GAC Swim

Friday, December 1st, 2017

When I visit a family in their home, we sit together and look through a big book of pictures from camp. Arriving at the picture of our big, beautiful Sly Lake, I normally make the joke, “As long as you have on your life-vest (which is required, by the way), the only thing you really have to worry about is the shark.”

Sure, it’s corny but more often than not I get some huge eyes and a ‘REALLY?!?’ from the camper. “No, I’m just teasing,” I tell them. “There is no shark in our lake. (The monster squid however….)”

We laugh a bit about it and keep on going.

But, in reading a book by Mark Batterson lately, I’ve learned the story about one person who really did swim with the sharks.

Gratitude, Attitude, Courage… and Sharks

Diana Nyad wanted to see Cuba when she was 9 years old. Looking out from the beach in Fort Lauderdale, her mother pointed her in the right direction and said, “It’s there. You can’t see it but you could almost swim to it.”

Fifty-five years later, and after several attempts, Diana did just what her mother said – she swam to Cuba. At 64 years old, she had become the first person to swim the 110 miles, shark and box jellyfish filled waters between the US to Cuba… without a shark cage.

But, she didn’t do it alone. And, she did have a message to share. Upon completing the feat, Ms. Nyad had three things to say:

“First, we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

Here is a person who had just swum over 55 hours straight to cross 110 miles from Florida to Cuba, and she is passing along wisdom and drawing attention to the 30-odd people who helped? Incredible.

Swimming, Laughing, and Learning

At Weequahic, we have a tradition of swimming the lake during our Olympic Session. A flotilla of lifeguards patrol the path and over 100 kids a summer take the plunge during the early morning hours. While there are no sharks (I promise!), it takes a lot of courage to even attempt.

When the campers complete the feat, they are greeted with hot chocolate, warm towels, and high fives. They have swum together with friends, showed a ‘let’s get this done’ attitude, and accomplished something memorable.  All are grateful in the end and thank everyone who helped.

So, take a page from Ms. Nyad. Never give up. You are never too old (or young!) to chase your dreams. And, remember: this thing we are doing here called ‘life?’ It’s a team sport.

Have a great weekend.

Cole

We Get To….  

Friday, November 24th, 2017

What are you most grateful for in your life? When you think of it, what does it feel like? I’ve got several things that come to mind and, as you may imagine, one of them is Camp Weequahic.

Kate and I are so lucky to get to do something professionally that we enjoy so much. And, even better, we get to do Weequahic with friends who are as close as family – Chopper, Dana and Scrappy, Jerry, Cammie, Nuge, Food Fairy Leigh, the Overfields, Chef Daniel….

And, even better, we all get to work with amazing young women and men from around the world to create a remarkable experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude and courage.

Even more, we have all of these incredible young people who are the biggest part of our community. Coming from 15 countries and 14 states around the US, they bring their laughter, curiosity, joy, and huge open hearts to Weequahic each summer. We’ve watched many of them literally grow up in front of our eyes; many of the ‘kids’ who leave one summer return as young women and men ten months later.

Even more, we enjoy the trust and support of so, so many families. Without the support, belief, and trust of our camp families, many who have become friends as well, none of this would be possible.

We are lucky at Weequahic to have so many who love the experience of building a community together each and every summer. This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m thankful for each and every one of you!

Where ever and whenever this finds you, Happy Thanksgiving. Cole

How Summer Camp Cultivates A Growth Mindset

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Camp Weequahic is focused on developing the whole child in a way that is healthy and fun. And although all of the running, jumping, swimming, climbing, dancing, and playing is great for their physical health, working on their emotional well-being, their character, and their self-confidence is just as necessary. This is why we put so much emphasis on having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.

 

By definition, people with a growth mindset “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

 

Campers come to camp with the labels and expectations that the world has put on them, and many have come to believe that these traits, both good and bad, are just an integral part of who they are. Some have been told they are smart their entire lives, and their fixed mindset makes them believe that their intelligence is something that comes naturally to them and doesn’t require effort to improve upon. The same goes for athletic performance, relational ability, and their character. Campers who have been told they have anger issues will begin to believe that they are incapable of handling their anger; it is a fixed part of them that can’t be changed or improved upon.

 

At Camp Weequahic, we focus on fostering a growth mindset in each camper. When they succeed, we praise their efforts by saying things like “you worked so hard at that” instead of “you are awesome!” Although the latter can be helpful to hear, hearing specific praise acknowledging the effort that the camper put into a specific task is more rewarding and builds their self-esteem. Camp staff and counselors work hard to praise the process instead of just the person. Campers will hear us say things like:

  • Tell me more about what you did
  • How did you figure that out?
  • Are you pleased with how it came out?
  • You must be so proud of yourself

 

We try to avoid labeling campers or putting too much emphasis on the labels they put on themselves. We want to encourage them to see themselves as capable and worthy of improvement in all areas of their lives. We want them to strive to be the best versions of themselves instead of being complacent with the label they’ve grown so comfortable with.

 

As campers step out of their comfort zones and try new things, they realize that they are capable of so much more than they thought and that their qualities, strengths, and abilities are not fixed. We want campers to be intrinsically motivated; to try new thing and preserve through hard things to feel good about themselves, not because they are seeking the approval of anyone else.

 

A summer at camp is about growing, maturing, and improving in all areas of life. Our goal is that campers leave with new friends, new experiences, and a stronger sense of who they are and what a valuable asset they are to the world. And it all starts with how they think about themselves.

 

The Best Thanksgiving Sandwich

Friday, November 17th, 2017

I’ll admit it… I really enjoy watching Iron Chef America. For a person who likes to cook, what the men and women are able to create in such a short period of time is stunning. One night recently, I caught the tail end of the Thanksgiving Leftovers battle. Alton Brown, the host, quoted Cicero at the end.

Cicero? The Roman writer, philosopher and statesman who lived over two thousand years? Yep, that guy. At the end of a food show. But, it was a completely apt use. Here’s the quote:

A thankful heart is not on the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.

I really like that quote. And, as you would expect, it (along with the sweet potato soufflé and turkey tortellini) got me thinking about our upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the States.

Thanksgiving Daily

When I’m in the homes of prospective families, our major values of gratitude, attitude and courage come up at least a few times. And, when I ask the prospective camper what gratitude means, I get a quick ‘yes, I know what it means.’ When pushed to define it, however, I normally get a smile and a shrug.

To me, gratitude means be thankful for what you have in your life and reflecting on them. And, there are a whole host of reasons why practicing gratitude on a daily basis is good for you: you become happier, more patient, more thoughtful with others, and calmer.

So, if I told you that one five-minute daily practice would lead to those results in your life, would you do it? We are talking about .5% of your normal waking hours. So, what is this magical practice?

Simple – take 5 minutes each day, think of what you are grateful in your life, and write it down.

That’s it! Well… kinda.

In Walks Courage

While I do love the Cicero quote, I don’t think I completely agree with it. I do absolutely agree that a thankful heart can help you practice all other virtues fully. But, I think we have to add courage into the mix? Why? Let me quote two other great thinkers for my back up.

Aristotle said that “courage is the mother of all virtues because it makes all others possible.” And CS Lewis said “courage is not just one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

So, does it take courage to take 5 minutes and write down what you are thankful for in your life? Actually, I think it does.

If you don’t already practice the habit, then it’s a change. And any change, if you are going to make it permanent, takes the courage to start the perseverance to stick with it.

A GAC Thanksgiving Sandwich

So, if you want to be happier, more patient, calmer, and better with those around you, it’s time to make a new kind of Thanksgiving sandwich: one slice of gratitude and one slice of courage. The middle? That’s for the great attitude that you’ll continue to practice.

Regardless of where this note finds you, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving and re-double your efforts to practicing gratitude daily.

Have a thankful week!
Cole

It is OK to Act Your Own Age – How camp allows kids and young adults to enjoy being young

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Many first time parents are guilty of rushing their babies from one milestone to the next, pushing them to sit then crawl then walk, while seasoned parents have learned to appreciate each step and understand how fast each stage flies by. As kids grow, they too can find themselves wishing their childhood away, always wishing they were older and on to the next stage of their lives. In this fast-paced world, kids are hurrying through the most joyful times of their lives in pursuit of freedom and independence, and before they know it they’re paying bills and reminiscing about “the good ‘ol days”

 

Camp strives to meet kids right where they are; to embrace their innocence, their goofy-ness, their awkwardness and their curiosity. Camp is a safe place for kids to act like kids without the fear of being judged. Camp Weequahic is serious about fun, and has become a place where kids can be fully immersed in childhood play. Instead of taking selfies and worrying about where they fit in with their peers, they are chasing lightning bugs, judging belly flop contests, singing songs around a fire, and putting on shows. They are being kids, which is exactly how they should be spending their summers.

 

And kids aren’t the only ones acting like kids. Camp counselors come back year after year because of the freedom and joy that comes from being at camp. Camp counselors use their summers at camp as a way to escape the rules and restrictions of adulthood and embrace their inner child. They play games, dress up, sing songs and fully engage with the campers every day. They use this time to free themselves from the ridged expectations of their everyday lives and participate in the activities that make them feel like a kid again.

 

The school year is full of schedules, deadlines, and commitments that can sometimes overshadow the importance of play. With clubs, sports, family obligations and school expectations, kids can bogged down with responsibilities that takes the fun out of being a kid. Although a healthy balance of work and play is vital for growing minds, the summer should be a time where kids can relax a little and enjoy this fleeting time of their lives. As adults, we know how fast this time goes, and we should encourage the children in our lives to spend as much time as they can playing, laughing, getting dirty, trying new things and being silly. And that is exactly what Camp Weequahic aims to offer each and every camper.