Camp News & Blog

Risky Business

A few weeks ago, someone asked if I could boil down the two most important parts of running a summer camp. After thinking a bit about it, I said ‘building an incredible community for kids and staff’ and ‘managing risk.’  The first part is a ton of fun. The second is an important challenge.

(Believe it or not, campers, but your parents have pretty similar goals for you, too. They want to prepare you to be a helpful part of the community of adults. That’s why they support your learning and your manners… and your interest in camp! They also want you to learn how manage risk going forward. It’s a foundational skill that we all need to practice.)

I recently enjoyed a great conversation with Paul Dreyer, the CEO of Avid4 Adventure, about the importance of risk in the lives of our kids. A couple of things came up that I wanted to pass along. (You can also listen to Paul at the Campfire Conversation podcast if you’d like.)

Actual vs. Perceived Risk

Director Kate is petrified of sharks. Her brother forced her to watch Shark Week with him when it first came out. Since then, swimming in the ocean has been very low on her list.

She knows the actual risk of getting bit by a shark is super, super low. But the perceived risk is really high. That is thanks to movies and the media coverage of the very rare shark attacks. (Plus, the teeth! The speed! I get it….)

However, it’s when we are battling perceived risk that we learn and grow the most.

Imagine climbing past your self-set limits on the wall or getting up on stage with your bunk for the first time or even making a new friend. All of these things you perceive as risky… even though they actually aren’t.

When you make it through those moments – whether you are successful at the attempt or not – your body remembers that you battled through those risk perceptions. And, when other opportunities to battle perceived risk arise, you’ll be prepared to take them on.

Environmental Assessment

Our oldest is heading off to college in August. He’ll have a lot of opportunities to practice this skill. The good news is that he’s already practiced it a lot at camp.

When going into a new situation – whether it is in the lake or walking into a party – you want to say to yourself, “Ok, the situation is changing. What’s the change? What are the things I should think about? What’s one rule that I should follow?”

Think about going to camp for the first time. Your situation is definitely changing! You are going to be around a lot of new kids and living away from home for a handful of days. You should think about jumping into the experience with both feet… and remember that it’s natural and normal to miss home. One rule: I’m going to smile and be friendly with everyone I meet. (“Listening to your counselors” is a good rule, too!)


Ah… the most important and least used aspect of learning. At the end of the experience or the day, taking a moment to think back over what you did, what you learned, and how you’ll do it differently next time is HUGELY useful.

And, it’s not something I do away from camp very often.

Many of you may not know but we have a team meeting every morning at camp before the day gets rolling. We take a critical look at the day before and figure out what went well and what we need to improve. That takes more than half the meeting… because we do so much in a day! But it also gives us input on how we should move forward with our goal to create amazing for everyone at camp.

I know this would be just as helpful at home as it is at camp. Even if it’s a 5 minute review each morning when I wake up or sit at the desk. You could probably find some time, too.

Embrace & Learn from Risk

Risk – it’s important! A life without risk is pretty dull. So introduce more perceived risk in your life. Don’t go swim in a shark tank or climb the tower without safety equipment.  Do push through some of those perceived risk areas though like making a new friend. When you approach a new situation, ask yourself what is changing and set one rule that will help. Finally, reflect on what you’ve learned!

It all adds up, campers. Each step you take on this journey is an useful and important one. No go out there and be AWESOME!

Wait… What am I doing?

Almost all of us do it. As soon as we have quiet moment when no one is talking to us, asking us a question, directing us where to go… we reach into our pocket and pull out our phone.

As soon as school is done and you are safely back home (or on a bus or riding in the car), the phone comes out.

Scroll, tap, scroll, scroll, scroll, tap, scroll, lots of taps, scroll, etc. Next thing we know, it’s been 15 minutes, 30 minutes or… gulp… one hour?!? I need to get a handle on this.

All this scrolling and tapping we are doing… it’s not moving our needle in any productive, helpful manner. Yes, it’s entertaining at times. Yes, it can help you stay connected with your crew.

But, let’s be honest. How much of all that scrolling is habit vs. helpful? How much is to ‘fill the time’ rather than make your time full? As Cal Newport talks about, we can get into an unhelpful pattern of numbing ourselves with our scrolling if we aren’t careful.

So, how do we get out of this pattern? Two things come to mind.


Why are you using your phone? Is it helpful in you becoming a better person? A better actress on stage? A better student or sibling or child or parent or spouse or human?

It may! Please don’t think I’m saying this marvel of tech is always a bad thing. I’ve learned a lot reading from others or texting with friends or finding new ideas. I’m sure you have, too.

And, I’ve also found myself deep in some ‘rabbit hole’, following links or just wasting time scrolling that do not make me better in any way that is important. In fact, it most likely makes me worse as a spouse, parent, camp director, etc.


It’s a big world out there with a lot of different ideas, viewpoints, places, etc. When we practice our innate curiosity, we’ll find new avenues to explore, new arguments to pay attention to and new people from which we can learn.

When we scroll away our time, we short circuit this most natural of human gifts. Figuring out how things work got us to this glorious (yes, I believe that is the correct word) stage in humanity. And, it’s curiosity that will get us to the next great breakthroughs and triumphs.

Be Intentional. Be Curious.

I’m not telling you to drop the phone. (Unless you are at camp. Tech is just not a thing for us for those few fantastic weeks at camp.) But I am suggesting that you be more intentional with how you use it. Is it making you better? Is it helping you relax or is it revving you up? Is it helping you explore and find new ideas and thoughts or is it keeping you stuck in the same spot?

I don’t have the answers for you. Only you can find those. But I do know these are important questions. Why don’t you take some time this weekend to explore them? Have a great weekend!

Small Gestures, Big Feelings

My week was completely brightened by an ‘out of the blue’ note and a small gift. The little person who sent it is not one of my own (though I’d happily treat her such.) She saw a small book in a store, thought of me, and sent it along with a card.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The college process for the oldest Kelly kid is in full-swing. The news headlines are… challenging. Covid is still raging about our society. There is a lot of division everywhere.

And then this little package arrives and brings sunlight into my whole week.

William Ward once said ‘feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.’ Well, this young one sent the present and it made a big impact on me.

A Reminder

By her action, my young friend did two things. First, she surprised and delighted me. Seeing the book on my desk and reading through has brought a smile to my face daily. Someone was thinking of me.

Secondly, she reminded me that the expression of gratitude is more important than the silent feeling of it. The latter is a compliment to yourself, really. The other person or thing* for which you are grateful doesn’t know it.

The former is something of community and connection. That is what betters our whole world. And, yes, it’s exactly what we need.

This Weekend

Write a ‘thank you’ note and send it. Reach out to friend or loved one with whom you’ve not connected lately and catch up. Do something ‘out of the blue’ for someone.

It doesn’t have to be a gift or a card. But make the effort. The expression of your gratitude will bring joy to you both. They are worth it… and so are you. Have a great weekend!

*By the way, if you don’t think you can express gratitude to a ‘thing’, Hideki Matsuyama’s caddy, Shota Hayafuji, did just that at the completion of last year’s Masters.