Shortly after I started as Director of Ranch Camp, I fell in love. I was totally committed. I was building a program and a camp with my own children in mind, knowing that they would soon be old enough to experience camp as campers. I was wrong, but I was wrong in the best possible way.
My oldest are 6 year-old twins, Daphne and Leo. My youngest, Tess, is nearly 3 years old. This will be her fourth summer at Ranch Camp. It will be the twins’ 5th summer at Ranch Camp, and their seventh summer affectionately known as “staff brats” (or, more lovingly, as “mascots”). As Daphne’s picture indicates (check out that beautiful picture at the bottom of this post), she might want to go right from staff kid to staff member!
The twins will be attending the Baktanna session in August. They are not exactly excited about the prospect of living in a bunk. They are, however, really excited to be back at camp. It is their favorite time of year and the thing they know to be certain about their summer.
As I took time to contemplate the lack of enthusiasm, I understand that my kids’ apprehension is not just the difference between a bed in our house at Ranch Camp and a bunk bed in a camp cabin. I can only imagine how apprehensive they are about the shift in perspective they are about to experience. It is as true for many of you as it is for my family: Ranch Camp is so much more than a summer program.
During any given week, outside of the summer season, the majority of the guests my family receives in our home, or visits, are connected to us through Ranch Camp. Those with whom we are most close are connected to us through Ranch Camp. The people I trust the most with my children are Ranch Camp folk. I have, recently, come to realize that we are not alone. Over the past four years, Ranch Camp has become our community and our family.
At their most basic, summer camps are service and program providers. Ranch Camp is so much more than that. We are a community institution. We create and nurture community in Colorado and beyond. Though I have believed this for quite a while, I am, right now, for the first time, seeing it through the eyes of my children.
Daphne and Leo’s apprehension is not about sleeping in a bunk. It isn’t about being “away” from their parents. They are anxious about a compromise in their connection to their summer home. They cannot articulate this right now, but, by the time they are able to do so, their connections to staff members will be replaced with the kind of indelible connections one makes with peers during summers at camp. It will be different, it will be weird, and it will be awesome. I am so looking forward to continue watching my children grow up with your kids.
If we are doing it well, if we are doing it right, we (you, me, all of us!) are building more than a camp program. We are building a community. In doing so, we are showing our children what the world might look like. Thank you for being my partners; I cannot express just how excited I am to see our kids grow up together, and build a community that is an example to the entire world.
Noah Gallagher | JCC Ranch Camp Director