My granddaughter, Laura, attended camp for the second time this Summer. She attended a WinShape Camp at Young Harris College. These wonderful camps were started by Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A.
My grandson, Henry, is off at his first camp this week. Ironically, I attended my first camp the Summer before I started the fifth grade, just like Henry.
Camps have changed a lot since I first attended one over 50 years ago. I earned the right to attend Camp Victory by memorizing Bible verses. You learned so many verses to earn a pocket sized New Testament. You kept learning verses to attain higher and better rewards culminating in a week away at camp. It is hard to believe the verses were all memorized in class at school.
As I recall we slept on bunks in a concrete block building near a lake. There was no air conditioning at all. The food was simple but filling. We sat around campfires, swam when the heat became unbearable and even worked a bit around the camp. It was wonderful.
Laura’s camp was held on the beautiful campus of Young Harris College. Their brochure says that the campers play hard and work hard. They laugh until their stomach hurts. The girls sleep sound and then wake up the next day and do it all over again. In other words, it is serious fun. Their brochure was totally accurate.
Laura’s excited description of her week at camp gave every indication of the good time she had and how much she learned about herself and her faith. Children being raised in a Christian home have that message reinforced when they hear it from others beyond their parents and church family.
Henry’s camp is a bit different. It is a Pathway to STEM camp under the leadership of the National Youth Leadership Forum. It is being held at Agnes Scott College. Ironically, Henry is on the same floor of the same building his mother lived in during her Freshman year.
This camp is geared towards science and technology. The teams study Engineering, Medicine, and Programming. They will build their own robots. They will dissect a real cow’s heart. They will study CSI, crime scene investigation techniques, including pulling fingerprints and doing blood drop analysis.
By the end of the first day, Henry texted home that he had four new best friends. That is music to an anxious parent’s ears and is really what camp is all about.
As you can tell, these camps are all very different, but in many ways they are the same. Camps let me leave the small town of Cottonwood, Alabama and meet kids from many different places. I attended camps across the country over the years and was exposed to kids very different from me. I made friends from big cities and from nearly every state in the union. Just like Camp Victory, it was wonderful.
Just like Henry and Laura, camps taught me how to be self-sufficient. My mother was not there to tell me to brush my teeth or what shirt to wear. The activities are designed to stimulate your mind and make you more creative and resourceful.
Kids learn to interact with strangers without the convenience of television or cell phones. They learn how to figure out problems, solving them through teamwork and cooperation. They share the satisfaction of achieving things together.
Camp is the place where I first began to learn about who I was. It was where I first pushed my own limits, trying new things and facing fears. It was even the place I first kissed a girl. Talk about facing fears!
The amazing thing about camp is it truly brings out the best in everyone. Camp did that for me and I am so happy to see the same thing happening with Laura and Henry. These life lessons and experiences will stay with them forever.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]