Jun 25, 2018

Posted by: Kelsey O'Hara

The Second First Day

Session 2, Day 1

Of the many traditions that those at Ranch Camp hold dear, perhaps the most cherished are the songs that we sing. From team chants during Maccabiah (or color war) to the prayers during Shabbat, it’s not unusual to hear the entire camp come alive with song.

In fact, one very important song was the first thing many campers heard as they descended from the buses this morning, feeling the Ranch Camp sand under their sneakers for the first time as the words hit their ears: “We welcome you to JCC, we’re mighty glad you’re here! We’ll send the air reverberating with a mighty cheer! We’ll sing you in, we’ll sing you out, we’ll raise a mighty shout! Hail, hail, the gang’s all here, and welcome to JCC!”

The song was more than fitting, as “welcome” was the first thing on everyone’s minds as the camp began to fill with the hustle and bustle of campers arriving for Session 2. Whether they arrive by bus or car, first time campers or returners, children or parents, it’s natural to be nervous. Those coming for the first time don’t yet know what to expect, and many returners worry that this year won’t be as good as the year before. But it didn’t take long for these concerns to be put to rest as each family was individually greeted by a staff member, ready and excited to show them around, help move their luggage to their cabin, and make sure they’re comfortable before joining the rest of the campers.

After everyone was situated, parents had said their last goodbyes, and campers were well on their way to being unpacked, the camp gathered in the Chad to officially open Session 2. Looking around, it was immediately obvious that this session is larger in number than the first, with many more campers than last session. Though the large group gathered may have seemed chaotic at first, those familiar with Ranch Camp recognized the abounding energy as excitement and joy at being in such an amazing place.

After lunch, cabins moved around the camp to different stations – the pool, the corral, and the Mir Pa’ah (or infirmary). At each, they learned the ropes of camp, the safety precautions of different activities, and how to take care of themselves to make sure they’re having a good time. Like this day first session, the weather was chilly, campers and staff alike bundled up in jackets and hats as they stood in the wind. But luckily there was not much lightning or rain, so we were still free to complete the orientation, and nobody let the inclement weather get in the way of their enthusiasm. Cabins adapted quickly, taking time to complete indoor bonding activities, unpack their belongings, and decorate their cabins to make them feel like home.

By the time dinner was over, the worst of the clouds had passed. As the sun began to peek out of hiding, the camp gathered together one last time for the day, taking a seat on the hill in the commons to hear about the night’s evening program: Bombardier!

Campers had a blast as they ran all over camp with their cabins, evading the Bombardiers while dashing to stations to answer trivia questions. The game went on an hour, and after it was finished, the kids were exhausted. As they washed up for bed and bid their new cabin mates goodnight, another feeling edged through the exhaustion – a feeling that is hard to explain, but one very familiar to those at Ranch Camp. It’s a feeling of happiness and satisfaction, of excitement and enthusiasm, of community and belonging. It’s the feeling of being at camp.