After 19 years in the same camp, and as this season comes to a halt, I have a large number of thoughts to share about what camp has given me in my life. The power of a summer day camp both as a camper and counselor is underestimating how incredible it really is. Here goes:
To the pool: thank you for teaching me valuable life skills like how not to drown, pushing my limits to prepare for water park trips, allowing me to float and tread water, breathe freely underwater and teaching me freestyle and breaststroke. So many friendships have been created through races, GOOFY and Marco Polo.
To the specialists: thank you for exposing me to various activities I would never have learned anywhere else. From camper to counselor, I have seen the different activities fluctuate from archery to fencing, cheerleading to nature, boating to karate, arts & crafts to sports galore. Everything has expanded my mind from the fragile age of 3 to 22 allowing me to grow and participate in activities I wouldn’t find in public school. You helped me find my strengths like art, scoping out my competitive side through team sports and breaking out of my shell through music and song.
To nature: Thank you for exposing me to the outdoors. Taking a break from central air to breathe in the natural beauty around me everyday. I learned how not to run away from bee’s, to appreciate the growing greenery GOD put on this earth and how to deal with rainy days or extreme humidity.
To the people: thank you for giving me the greatest gift of all, my truest and bestest friends. Before the age of technology, we brought our address books the last day and wept until we saw each other a year later. We exchanged house phone numbers and gossiped until the first week of July to do it all over again. The memories created could write themselves into a chapter book filled with ridiculous photographs and anecdotes until the end of time.
To the connection to Israel: Thank you for opening my mind to the beauty and glory that is the country of Israel. Through the many years of invited Israeli specialists, I was exposed to a new culture and language, created upclose and personal connections with some of the visiting shlichim, knowing I always have a place to stay when I visit. I have grown closely attached to this country moreso than my own nationality.
To the transitions: thank you for allowing me to appreciate change and time. Within 19 years, from 3-9 camp was on one camp ground only, a small intimate beautifully crafted campground and then were moved to a larger ground. Also, every two years as I got older, for moving me up and up through divisions where the rules were different and the trips advanced. Additionally as a counselor, the biggest transition witnessed was in a blink of an eye, the campers I had as a junior counselor are now their own junior counselors, taking care of kids the same age I did exactly 5 years prior.
To the Trips: Thank you for exposing me to the tri-state area. I would never in my life have seen so many water parks, natural parks, Lake George, broadway show, sleepaway camps and learned to sleep in a cabin, comedy clubs, museums and more if it was not for the Teen Travel division. Talking to my friends on the phone until the day the trip arrived planning our pajamas and snacks as well as our bus activities. You helped me get over motion sickness through the long rides.
To the kids: Thank you for giving me the greatest gift of all; learning how to care and communicate for kids. Now onto working towards my future, the years being a counselor have given me 1001 lessons on bilingual children, how to solve arguments and child logic, how to teach new languages, how to persuade kids to participate in an activity and seeing the lasting impressions made for years to come, still to this day to get greeted by them though I may have been their counselor years ago, knowing I made a difference in their lives.
Thank you to the greatest 19 years of my life. Thank you for giving me a voice and giving me authority. Without being a counselor or a specialist, I would never have gained the confidence to believe in myself as much as I do now in that my voice makes a difference and I have the power to control, manage and create a safe environment for those around me.
Thank you to the Staten Island JCC Day camp for consuming 19 years of my heart and soul and for shaping me into the person I have become today.