Imagine being 7 years old and coming to camp for the first time. You’re one of the youngest and newest campers on campus, and you may feel a little lost, intimidated and overwhelmed. You may begin to think that coming to camp may have been a mistake, and start wondering if it is too late to call your parents back to come and get you. And then an older, taller, more experienced camper walks right up to you, knows your name, and makes you feel like you belong. They are your big brother/big sister, and for the entire duration of camp, they’ve got your back. You can breathe a big sigh of relief because you’re not alone anymore and someone is there for you. Young campers benefit immensely from the Big Brother/Big Sister program because they can transition quickly from “nervous and new” to “confident and included.” They bond quickly to their camp sibling and rest easy in the fact that if they have questions, need someone to sit with at lunch, or just need someone to talk to, they have their big brother/big sister.
Each year, an older, more experienced camper is paired with a younger newer camper. The new camper benefits for all of the reasons listed above, but the big brother/big sister benefits too. It is a big responsibility to be a big brother/sister, and they take it very seriously. By proving that they are trustworthy, reliable, friendly, patient and kind, they are given the opportunity to make a difference for a new camper. This boosts their confidence, improves their leadership skills, and gives them something to look forward to. They get the chance to be a mentor to someone, to be a teacher and a friend, which helps them immensely when they are back at school and in the “real world.”
Entering a new place can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re surrounded by tons of new people who seem to know what they’re doing, where they are going, and already have their pack of friends to do things with. When a new camper is matched with a Big Brother/Sister, they can get through that awkward newness quickly and move on to getting settled in. With someone to answer their questions, introduce them to new friends and give them a tour of the campus, they begin to feel comfortable with their new surroundings and can begin to experience camp as it is meant to be experienced. Young campers can also look forward to the day when they too will be a big brother/sister for someone else, and pass what they’ve learned down to someone new.
There are so many benefits of having a big brother/big sister during your first time at camp. It makes camp seem a little smaller when at first it feels so big, and it can make it feel a little less daunting and whole lot more fun.