Jun 08, 2018

Posted by: Kelsey O’Hara

Welcome to the Ranch Camp Family

Session 1, Day 1

Today was a day of transition. As the school year comes to a close, the summer begins, long awaited by many. Returning campers have grown a year since we last saw them, physically taller but wiser as well. New campers ease into the unfamiliar environment, supported by their Madrichim and cabin mates, the atmosphere of inclusion and camaraderie evident before the campers even loaded the buses.

Whether a camper is returning for their eighth year or just discovering their new home away from home, each and every one is excited. Though the morning at camp began silently, the air nearly buzzed with energy as, after a ride that seemed to take years, the gate swung open, the crunch of gravel was heard under the tires of the cars and buses, and this session’s campers arrived at JCC Ranch Camp.

After a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup (the customary first meal of the session, a Ranch Camp tradition), the newly formed cabins traveled together around the camp, getting their bearings and learning the ropes while getting to know each other as well. Though the sun started to hide behind the clouds in the afternoon, the kids’ contagious energy was not abated by the hint of stormy weather. Shouts of cheer and excited greetings could be heard all across the property as the cabins played icebreaker games, joined in a rousing session of gaga, visited the health center, got their cabin pictures taken, and tried on boots at the corral.

Dinner was loud, as it should be at camp, a hundred different voices echoing off the walls and high ceilings of the Chad (the camp’s dining hall, short for chadar o’chel). Meals are so different here than they are at school cafeterias, an environment where creativity is encouraged and kids can try new foods without having to worry about whether or not they will leave feeling full – after tonight’s meal of spaghetti and garlic bread, everyone was satisfied.

Once dinner was cleaned up and everyone had a chance to change into warmer clothes, the evening program began. Tonight’s program was Bombardier, a mix between a trivia challenge and a race. Cabins competed to answer the most questions, while running between question stations and trying to avoid getting “bopped” by a Bombardier. Every cabin that got tagged – which was most – had to shout for a medic, and then solve a team building puzzle to continue the game. Kids got to learn about camp and get to know each other while burning off some energy before bedtime.

Camp quieted with the sunset. As exhausted but content campers said goodnight to their cabins and climbed into their beds, another silence settled over the camp – but this silence was different than the one in the morning. This silence is full, the presence of the campers tangible in the air. The people who make camp the special place it has been for so many years are back. Ranch Camp’s source of positive energy, that unique energy that many miss during the school year, is here again and raring to go. Already, it’s obvious that Ranch Camp 2018 will be one of the best years yet.

The summer has finally begun.