The 5 Coolest Things About Night Time At Camp

Posted August 20th, 2018 by

There’s something magical that happens at camp when the sun goes down at Camp Weequahic. Of course, we have the fun and excitement of our evening activities. Yes, there is so much more that sets the scene for some of the fondest memories of the summer.

Here are the five coolest things about night time at camp:

Stars

When the sun goes down and the moon rises over the camp, the entire vibe changes. What was just a high energy playground of fun and adventure turns into a calm, peaceful retreat in the mountains. And away from the city lights, the stars shine brighter than you could ever imagine! Just picture sitting with your fellow campers, searching for shooting stars and admiring the overwhelming majesty of the nighttime sky. Campers and counselors enjoy sitting their everyday chairs and finding constellations in the sky. Not only is it a great way to relax and unwind after a busy day, but it’s also an opportunity for exploration.

Campfire

The campfire is a traditional part of the Weequahic experience and brings campers together unlike any other part of camp can. The bright reds and orange flames dancing against the black sky create an intimate and exciting environment in which campers can talk, sing, roast marshmallows, be silly and make memories. A campfire is a place where campers can reflect on their day, where they can share their adventures and stories with other campers, and where they can feel connected with nature. Many campers say that campfires are their favorite part of camp, as it was a special way to end the day.

Fireflies

There’s nothing more endearing than watching a camper experience the magic of fireflies for the first time. Fireflies put on a illuminated show for campers as they make their appearance each night. The laughter and excitement that comes from catching one of these little creatures and examining them up close is an experience that many campers have for the first time at camp. These bright little flying bugs turn night time into a light show!

Night Time Sounds

While many of the nighttime aspects of camp can be seen, there is something to be said about the unique sounds of camp at night. From owls calling in the distance to the songs of crickets and the crackling of the fire, certain sounds will stick with campers forever. These sounds, many of which can only be heard once the noise of the day has faded, serve as a soundtrack to the summer nights that campers will never forget.

Bunk Time

As the campground settles down and busy campers head back to their bunks, more memories await. Bunk time allows campers to have quiet conversations with their bunkmates and share stories and details about their lives. This low key, quiet time is a great way for campers to connect with each other without the distractions of the day. This time gives campers a chance to journal or do some self-reflecting, prepare for the next day or simply get some much-needed rest.

A summer at Camp Weequahic is packed with fun, new adventures, new friendships, and excitement all day long. But when the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t stop. Campers love night time at camp because it brings a whole new feeling and vibe to sleepaway camp. Each night, campers fall asleep with images of campfires and fireflies dancing in their heads and wake up from a good night’s rest ready for another day of fun.

Rhythm of Children

Posted August 17th, 2018 by

A few random thoughts this week has me thinking about the experience our campers enjoy each summer in a slightly different way. Bear with me a bit here – I promise I’ll get to the point!

Youth and Tours

I spent some time reading over my notes from a summer book yesterday at the home office. One of the dog-eared passages was the speech from Gen. Douglas MacArthur I mentioned this summer. A refresher:

“Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste for adventure over the love of comfort.”

Not long after reading this quote, I gathered and studied information about our tours from Summer 2018. Just over 75 children and their families got to experience Weequahic this summer, even if just for a moment. Strikingly, this number has remained incredible consistent over the past five years.

Of those that visited with us this summer, about 35 will enroll for Summer 2019. The majority of those new campers will come from our Camper for a Day kids.  A handful will come from the families who walked camp with Scrappy, Nuge or me for just sixty minutes.

Questions and Answers

A couple of questions come to mind: Why the difference? And, when you compare the number of new campers enrolling after a tour or Camper for a Day experience to the number of siblings enrolling for the first time, siblings beat the new kids handily.

As I pondered the conundrum, something one of mentors told me popped into my head. Camp is one of the few places on earth that runs at the rhythm of children.

When parents tour Weequahic with their children, they look at experience through the eyes rhythm of the adult-world. Their past makes them focus on safety, the movement of the day, the supervision. (Explain how the daily program works again?) They do their best to pick apart what separates Weequahic from the other (very good) camps they’ll see.

Their child sees Weequahic through a different lens: how much adventure does this place offer? Will I fit in? What would it be like to do this or that or….  In essence, the child is seeing camp through the lens Gen. MacArthur introduces: imagination, adventure, courage, ideal.

Because their parents are more intimately involved, these ‘tour campers’ are swayed a bit more from the parent lens (or rhythm) than their own.

The Camper for a Day kids see Weequahic in a very different light. They are separated from their parents and enjoy a lot of what our community has to offer during their five hour stay. When they are met by Mom and Dad at the end, enormous smiles and immediate stories tell their parents all they need to know.

Rhythm of Children

Siblings, though? Their older brother or sister has come back home and explained everything in the rhythm of children. The fun, the laughter, the relationships, the wacky events, the shaving cream battles, breakfast in your pajamas, the EA’s, special events, Color War…. Parents get to see this viewpoint as well.

Being in place that runs at the rhythm of children allows our campers to be completely and utterly who they are. They aren’t comparing to anyone else, thinking about grades, or planning their pre-homework activities. Our campers simply get time to be their best selves in the present moment.

As a parent of three boys, I’m excited about this revelation, especially as we have our oldest just starting high school, a major sign post on the way to the adult world. School, after-school activities, and the schedules we keep are certainly move along the rhythm of adults.

Going Forward

Kate and I have to be creative to find times when the boys can mosey along to their own rhythm rather than try to keep up with us. (Ok, who am I kidding… they’ve got to try to keep up with Kate, just like me!)

By creating this time, we give them moments of reprieve to be themselves and enter the adult world a bit more at their own pace. Doing so, I believe, will allow them the best chance of becoming the adult the world around them needs.

I am truly grateful that our boys get six weeks to move at their own rhythm with friends from around the US and larger world. It’s an island of joy in a sometimes stormy adult world. I know they are all happy to see their friends back home. I also know all three wouldn’t hesitate to head back to camp right now.

For the week ahead, I’ll be thinking about ways to give our boys more moments of a child’s rhythm. If you have an idea on how to make that work in our busy world, I’m all ears. Have a great week!

Remember….

Posted August 10th, 2018 by

It’s been only five days since our campers headed home after a glorious summer. Many are now on the slow march towards school while some have already started. School is supposed the spot for learning and camp for fun, right? Well….

There are certainly differences between camp and school. The one that is most striking to me rests in the fact that camp reminds us – how to live as a community, stay in the present, be grateful, kind, and courageous. On the other side, school teaches us that which we do not already know – geometry, history, foreign language, biology, etc.

We built a lot of wonderful memories at camp this summer. Amazing Tribals and Olympics, new friends from lots of different places, great daily activities and hilarious evening events. We laughed and played and learned together.

So, if we think of Camp Weequahic as a place that reminds us, then what memories will be important to take into school? I’ve got a few ideas.

There are LOTS of people who accept you for who you are.

You’ve also remembered life is a lot easier, more fun, more interesting when you can live as… well, you! That’s an easy lesson to forget when you are plugged back into school and into your phone. Watch out for the comparison trap. It’s not worth your time or attention. Just be yourself… everyone is taken anyway!

Practicing gratitude, choosing your attitude, building courage, and acting with kindness really does make the world around you better.

Easier at camp, yes, because we are all doing it together every day. But that didn’t just happen. We made a conscious effort to act that way. Those actions influenced everyone else at camp. You can have that effect in your home and school, too!

You can do a lot more than you often think you can.

We call it ‘independence’ in the grown-up world but the message is the same – you can act and think more on your own than you often think you can. You just spent three or six weeks away from your parents where you made a whole bunch of friends, decided on which activities to try, made your bed, chose your food, handled your laundry (and lost and found….) You can do so much – take pride in that!

Being afraid isn’t that scary.

All of our new and many of our returning campers had moments of fear: will I make new friends? Will my old friends still like me? I’m away from home for this long for the first time…. And you still had a blast! You’ve remembered that having those moments of trepidation just prepares you to do something brave – reaching out, trying something new, letting your guard down and just being you.

Camp has certainly reminded us about more than this small list. To me, though, these memories will help us in lots of ways as we head into the school year. So, for the week ahead, whether you are going to be hitting the books or hitting the road for a fun last few moments of summer, take some time to remember so that you can learn all the better.

Have a great week!

Journeys and Joy at Camp Weequahic

Posted July 10th, 2018 by

“Journeying is the act of traveling from one place to another—not a moment of arrival. You get ‘there’ by being committed to the journey.” – Bernadette Jiwa

We are all on a journey, we are all going ‘somewhere.’ The questions are, “Where do we want to go?  What will we choose to guide us? And, what would be important to bring along?”

I hope that by this point, our returning families know the values that guide Weequahic – Gratitude, Attitude, and Courage.

What to bring along? Well…I’m sure there are lots of things that would be useful. Personal qualities like independence, curiosity, patience, and empathy would be great. So would a sense of being able to learn and adapt. And don’t forget friends. They can make any journey not only successful but fun as well.

Hm…. Sounds like we pretty much have everything we need here at Camp Weequahic to get where we want to go – a destination (creating awesome), values to guide us, a place to practice and experiment, and lots and lots of friends!

Wolves of Weequahic

Posted May 18th, 2018 by

I’ve always been fascinated by wolves. They are incredible creatures who thrive and play together. I’ve
spoken about two wolves around the campfire before.

In my reading this year, I stumbled over a wonderful poem from Rudyard Kipling about wolves I had yet to read:

Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,

And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

There is a great deal more to this poem which I’ll leave to you to enjoy. However, I wanted to focus on the last line because it’s vital for any community and especially, I think, Weequahic.

The Camper and Camp

Our campers come from all over. While they are from different backgrounds and have vastly different experiences, they share one thing in common: they want to make a friend this summer.

Our community is only as good as the connections that are built within it. In order for it to be the best it can be, our campers have to come prepared to reach out to everyone around them. It doesn’t matter that we have differences. What matters is that we work together to have a blast.

The strength of Weequahic is in each one of our campers and staff members. From this amazing collection of people comes our joy, fellowship, excitement and adventure. The strength of Weequahic is certainly in each camper.

And, as we come together at camp for three or six weeks, we are bound together by tradition and our values of gratitude, attitude, and courage. Without these shared sentiments, we would have no chance of creating the type of experience we enjoy. Therefore, as the poem suggests, the happiness and strength of each camper and staff member comes from camp.

We cannot wait to get everyone to Weequahic this summer. It’s going to be an amazing summer!

Can’t wait for camp,

Cole Kelly, Director

Time for Tradition

Posted May 11th, 2018 by

We have A LOT to look forward to this summer. New friends, new adventures, new sites. You even get to enjoy fun food you almost never have – can you say ‘liquid nitrogen slush puppies’ and ‘taco in a bag?’

And, while there will be a lot of ‘new’, you’ll also get to experience a wide number of traditions we enjoy each summer. Some happen every day while others are a little further in between. Two of them happen just at the end. Here’s a bit of a preview….

Daily Traditions

Starting camp by the flagpole with the entire camp is a treat. It’s one of the few chances everyone gets to be together in one spot. Juniors through CITs and all of our staff gather around the flag each morning at 9:40am. We greet each other, play a little bit, hear about the big news of the day, celebrate birthdays, and start the day as one.

Later each day, you can find at least one bunk (if not the whole crowd) dancing on their chairs in the Dining Hall. Music plays at every lunch and dinner and most of it is requested by the kids. Our in-house DJs do their best to keep the lunch and dinner crowds bee-bopping along.

To end the day, we get to spend a bit of time reflecting on all for which we were grateful. We do this by naming at least two of our daily happies. I walk through the boys bunks while Camp Director Kate or our Head Counselor Tiny gets the happies from the girls. I don’t know a better way to end the day.

Every Now & Then Traditions

While not all of our Evening Activities happen as one camp, those that do are special. So special, in fact, that we end each of them by joining arms, facing the lake, and singing Taps and Alma Mater. These songs have been sung together for decades and we look forward to enjoying them together again soon.

(For our new campers, don’t worry – we’ll provide you the words in our upcoming NewsWeeq and at camp.)

We also enjoy other traditions that happen each summer depending on the session. Events like Carnival, Swim the Lake, our AT Hikes and more. While I can explain them, it will be a lot more fun to experience them at camp!

Ending Traditions

At the end of each of our sessions, we enjoy a ‘Color War’ experience – Tribals in the first three week and Olympics in the second. While they rhyme, each has their own traditions, teams, and expectations. Sportsmanship remains supreme in each as our campers ‘battle’ across the arts, aquatics, athletic, and adventure activities.

After we’ve found the winning team, its time to start packing up and saying our ‘good byes.’ There are certainly tears at this point, we remind everyone the wonderful phrase from Dr. Seuss: Don’t be sad because its over. Be glad that it happened!

 As we put our wishboats in the water and make our memories come alight, we get to reflect on what has been an amazing three or six weeks. At the end, we have all enjoyed new experiences while also connecting with traditions that began before us and will last after our time at Weequahic. That’s a pretty powerful combination…

…and we can’t wait to enjoy it with you! See you soon,

Cole Kelly

Preparing Parents

Posted May 4th, 2018 by

As of this writing, the start of Summer 2018 is just 50 days away. Let me first state the following: YAHOO!!! We can’t wait to get the kids to camp!

That said, there is a lot for our parents to prepare. The packing list, bags, the forms… it’s a lot. We know and wish we could make it easier.

But while ‘the stuff’ that makes camp work has grown over the past several decades, the results – an amazing summer full of fun, friends and growth – is still the goal.

And, you aren’t just preparing the gear but also your children as well! We have 150+ campers attending Weequahic for the first time this summer. Helping them to start on off on the right foot is important.

Focusing on what will be great about the experience, coming up with a plan on what to do when (not ‘if’) they miss home, and helping to build some pre-camp connections are important and useful. We are excited to help with any and all of those ideas.

The same goes for our 500+ returning campers. Parents who prepare their returning kiddos to know that camp will be different some ways helps to make for a more joyful return.

Because they are different kids now than when they left the previous summer, camp will seem changed when the get back to their summer home. They’ve got ‘different eyes’ through which to see and experience Weequahic.

Prepare Yourself, Too!

Finally, parents – you are preparing yourselves! Sending your child off for three or six weeks is a daunting task. I know – just sending our boys off for a ten-day jaunt with a grandfather is hard enough!

First of all, call us anytime. While the kids are at camp, we are happy to help no matter what and no matter when. During the summer, our office is open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week and I’ve got an emergency cell phone on me at all times. (I’ll share the number as we get closer to camp.)

Secondly, please know that everyone who is a part of our team is at Weequahic because they want to create an amazing experience for everyone they meet though gratitude, attitude and courage. And, we train and support them all the way!

We believe it’s important to find team members who will live out these values around our kids. We will all do our best to ensure your camper’s safety and well-being while also building a hugely positive experience filled with awesome moment.

Third, please know that we are going to make some mistakes. We are human, too! That said, we’ll listen, be quick to acknowledge where we have screwed up, and will do our best to fix the situation asap.

Parents, please let us know how we can help to prepare for the best summer imaginable. We’ll do all we can to make sure that both you and your camper has an amazing experience with us!

Can’t wait for camp,

Cole

Dividing to Multiply

Posted April 20th, 2018 by

Yes, I know – school imagery does not always make the best start to talking about camp. Please know, we are not ‘anti-school’… we just do things differently! And, math is very useful, even at camp.

Now, my math-learning days are way back in the past. However, this idea that you have to divide in order to multiply doesn’t make a lot of sense.

As one quick-witted, math-superstar camper once told me, the order of math functions move along the ‘Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally’ route: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction.

Hm… yep, multiplication comes before division in this routine. (It’s true – I looked it up.) So, what am I talking about and why bring it up?

Because at camp, we divide in order to multiply.

Joy at Weequahic

One of the cranky ‘philosophizers’ I enjoy to read is a guy named Samuel Clements. He also goes by the moniker Mark Twain. Of the many sayings he wrote, this is one of my favorites:

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

This perfectly encapsulates camp. To examine why, let’s do a thought experiment.

Say you were at camp all by yourself in the middle of the summer. (Of course, this would never happen but it’s a useful fiction for our purposes here.) All the big bouncies are ready on the lake, the fields are perfectly mown, the theater stage is set for the grand production, and the canteen is stocked.

Could you have a good time in that environment? Sure! There would be a lot of fun things to do, enjoy, eat, etc. It could be fun.

But, sooner rather than later, you’d get a little lonely. There would be no one to hit the tennis ball back, argue about the best canteen treat, dress up like a twin, triplet or octuplet with for dinner, laugh along with your jokes, etc.

You need someone there to divide the joy with, to share it. You need someone and not just anyone will do. It requires a buddy who sees the world like you do, shares your interests and laughs, and supports you when need it.

The Good News

So where will that person come from? The good news is that you are going to have several tons of options! Our new campers are coming from 10 states and 9 countries. Our returning campers add three more states and two more countries. And, our 225 staff members are from an even wider number of places.

Do you know what each and every one of them want to do? They want to make a friend (or forty) and have a blast – together.

It’s true! So, what does that mean for you?

Pretty simple, really… if you really want to have a blast this summer, make a friend and divide the joy with them. The more people you share it with, the more joy you’ll experience. (See, I told you the math would be useful!)

I’ll make it even easier – you can start with me! Speaking for everyone at Weequahic, I can’t wait to get you to camp. It’s going to be an amazing summer!

See you soon,

Cole Kelly, Director

Making ‘It’ Happen

Posted April 14th, 2018 by

Wayne Huizenga, a very successful businessman, passed away a few weeks ago. By starting two incredibly large businesses, owning several major league sporting teams and giving a lot of money to organizations who helped those in need, he did a lot with his time on Earth.

There is a lot to learn from Mr. Huizenga. And, while I did not know him, I have used one of his quotes for a long time:

Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.

The greatest basketball player to ever live said something similar.

So, what does this have to do with camp, you ask? A lot.

Making Camp Amazing

First, let’s start by defining a successful summer. In my opinion, that means a few things: returning home safely having made friends, laughed a ton, learned more than you realize, and feeling Weequahic is your second home.

To me, that’s a successful summer. Does it sound good to you? If you said ‘yes’, well then… it’s time to go to work.

I bet I can tell what you are thinking: “Work?!?! Are you serious, Cole? We’ve just spent eight out of the last nine months working in school, on homework, and house chores. We just want to have fun at camp!”

I hear you! And, that’s not the type of work I’m talking about. It’s more about attitude, about intentional effort, about focusing on how to make ‘it’ successful. (‘It’ in this case, means your time at camp.)

So, how does one intentionally go about making the coming summer the best ever? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Spend some time thinking about what you most want to get out of your three or six weeks at Weequahic. Are there new activities you want to try, friends you want to make, or adventures you want to enjoy?

 

  1. At the same time, think about what you are going to give to those around you at camp? We all have a unique strength to offer. Maybe you’ll make someone laugh, be a consistent and faithful friend, or offer courage and encouragement to someone tentative about trying a new activity.

 

  1. Come up with a plan or two on how you are going to handle those down moments. It could be missing home (talk with your friends and your counselors), being bummed about the rain (start a campaign to go mud-sliding), or not loving an activity as much as you thought (change it!)

 

Begin with the End in Mind

A very smart lady told me once to begin everything you do with the end in mind… and to remain open-minded about the process. A lot of times we want to control everything around us. We think that if we could, the ‘perfect’ experience could be built from the ground up… just for you.

There are two problems with that point of view. First, there are WAY too many moving parts at camp (or anywhere) to fully control things. You’ll just be frustrated by the process.

Secondly, it’s a very limiting mindset. We have so many awesome people at Weequahic and I bet 99.9% of them are just like you: they want to have a total blast this summer. The cool thing is that, because they are different than you, your new-found friends can stretch your idea of what a great time is… and make it bigger!

So… start getting ready to make Summer 2018 a resounding success. WE CANNOT WAIT to get you to Weequahic!

Onward to Adventure!

Posted April 6th, 2018 by

“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.”  – Sue Fitzmaurice

I love a good adventure story. There are ups and downs, moments when you don’t think it’s going to work out and others when it does. The whole experience keeps you guessing almost to the very end.

Think of the great adventure movies and stories you’ve enjoyed. One of mine is called Last of the Mohicans. It’s about an adopted son of Chingachgook, the last of the Mohican tribe, and the adventures they go through on the American frontier in the late 1700’s.

I also really like Harry Potter and all the adventures he goes through with his wide assortment of friends, watchers, and enemies. The creativity and the twists and turns — it’s so much fun!

Though you may not believe it, both of these stories are really similar in major ways.

First, they have a main character who, with the help of mentors and friends, successfully takes on challenges. Secondly, there are obstacles to overcome that seem insurmountable at first, but when tackled as a team they find themselves victorious!

Finally, the heroes return home safely though both have been changed in many positive ways. They have found new independence, maturity, and confidence. And, most importantly, they both know without a doubt where they belong.

A Summer of Adventure

Hmm… sound familiar?

Our campers this summer will embark on an adventure of their own. Surrounded by a cast of campers, they’ll build friendships, enjoy new activities, overcome challenges, and have a great time! It’s going to be amazing.

Of course, there will be difficult moments too. A bunkmate may say something hurtful.  A counselor may seem like they are  upset about something. The ‘missing home’ gnome may rear its head.

While we consider these possible challenges at camp, I have a question for you: what adventure comes without risks?

Our campers have an enormous and wonderful opportunity this summer. They get to broaden their world, make new friends, learn from new mentors, and grow like they never have before. The benefits of being an open, active, and engaged part of the adventure are so incredibly high.

To me, they easily swamp the challenges of being away from home for a few nights and the initial discomfort of making new friends. Because, at the end of this summer’s adventure, there is always a promise of something more — another trek that could be even better (especially if it starts back at Weequahic!)

So, set your compass towards adventure this summer. The story is about to begin!

This sentence makes a better transition when placed under “A summer of adventure” because that title is (to me) what sounded familiar to the stories you shared.

“Counselor” is singular and “they” is plural. You will want to use “he/she is” here. That way counselor and he/she is in agreement.

I changed the ending to “begin” because you had used the word “start” just one sentence before this.

*Photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash