The new year offers us an opportunity to pause. To recollect ourselves after school breaks, holiday dinners, crazy schedules, and many sugar comas. It gives us a moment to take a breath and set our intentions for the year. Sometimes this looks like resolutions, commitments to ourselves, or a reframing as we start a new year. We have a chance built into the year (two actually with the Jewish new year) to challenge ourselves. To set our sights on something unfamiliar or reacquaint ourselves with something that fuels us.
While many of campers return summer after summer, it is almost as if everyone who walks through our gates has the chance to start as new camper. Whether it is your child’s first time at overnight camp or they are starting their last summer as camper with us, every camper is starting their “new year” at camp. They are setting their intentions for the year. Perhaps it is the year they are going to finally try the rock wall or maybe they are challenging themselves to branch out and make new friends. Every camper has the opportunity to bring whatever they have worked on over the past year and shine as the truest version of themselves at camp.
Just as our campers set their intentions for the summer, our camp parents do it too. Every day you watch your kids grow, leap, fall, and get back up. You witness and celebrate their successes and work with them through their challenges. You know the small things about them – what phrases build them up and what actions trigger them. And then for anywhere between four and twenty-five days, you send them to us, where your vision is limited to the photos we post online and the phone calls you get from camp. So sending your campers to Ranch Camp is more than just choosing a camp where your kids will spend part of their summer. You are setting your intentions for your year, yourself, and your child. You are trusting that your child will have what they need to be successful within themselves and that what they need external support with they will find in the people that surround them at camp. And whether it is your child’s first summer or last summer as a camper, we know that this takes a lot of energy and courage from you.
At the end of this past summer, one of our first time camper parents wrote us to tell us about her children’s experience at camp, but even more so her own experience.
She writes, “[Both of my children] had varying levels of anxiety – friend making, bed wetting, sleeping away from us for the first time – and although I did everything I possibly could to support and prepare them, there were still a lot of jitters at the bus drop off. We were greeted by the amazing teen camp staff. My sons both had the same cabin counselors for their respective weeks at camp, and the moment I met these young men, I knew my boys had nothing to worry about. They approached my children with compassion and kindness that was a complete joy to watch. Each asked me thoughtful questions about each child’s strengths and weaknesses and any hesitations they had regarding camp. I know these are all things they learned in counselor training, but the genuine interest in my family and such thoughtful communication cannot be learned in a crash course on how to run a cabin. I drove away with tears in my eyes and a new faith in humanity.”
In less than six months, we will be back in our small corner of the Black Forest, preparing for the amazing children that you will share with us this summer. Looking towards this, the Ranch Camp team has set our intentions for 2020. We are working to get to know your children before they come to camp, to learn about how their school year has affected and changed them. We are set on helping them grow as individuals; helping them to find strength they didn’t know they had. And we are excited to connect them to the 2020 Ranch Camp family. To help them find a place where they can give and receive what they need.
We thank you for having the courage it takes to share the most important part of your lives with us. We know that you will prepare your children to the best of your ability for camp this summer. And even with preparation there will still be jitters. So before we reach the summer, please feel free to call or email us so that we can get to know more about your family and your camper. Whether this is a new experience or your camper is returning to a place and community that fuels them, we would love to connect and learn more about your child in this new year.
Carly Coons | JCC Ranch Camp Assistant Director