L’Shanah Tovah to all of our camp families who are celebrating the Jewish New year! I’d like to make this week’s blog a little different and very special by posting a recent blog written by one of our Island Lake alumni who attended our 30 year reunion. What makes this special is that she was never a camper at Island Lake, rather she worked as a counselor for 2 summers, 1991 and 1995. ILC can have a profound affect not only on children, but also on our staff, as you will come to understand upon reading this fantastically written blog.
Thank you Jeannie Young for letting us repost your amazing journey. We loved spending time with you at the reunion and are happy that ILC is still so dear to your heart all these years later!
This past weekend I was able to head to the east coast for a reunion. Not family, high school or college. It was a 30 year camp reunion. That’s right CAMP- summer camp.
The short back story is:
When I was wrapping up my freshman semester in college I ran into one of my new college BFFs at lunch. She was telling me about the “camp fair” being held at the UGL and she was going to spend her summer up north as a camp counselor.
This sounded really cool so I head by the UGL on my way to class and talked to Mr S about his camp. For this very sheltered southern girl- I really liked this man. He had spunk and his program looked amazing. But what could I do??? They needed a sailing instructor and waterfront staff. Guess I looked like I would fit in the life jacket and I was hired. This spunky man assured me I would be able to teach the kids how to sail way before they ever arrived. That’s right, never sailed a day in my life but he had faith in me and the little Sunfish sail boats! I signed a contract and I was headed up north for the summer as well. After all, I love kids so that part I had down and Mr S seemed to believe in me, so did I!!
I could write a book about that first summer, it was an incredible experience. What I want to fast forward to was the last summer I worked at camp. I went back the summer I graduated. This time my BFF was not with me so I was going alone. There was a boy that I knew would be there but there would also be a whole new class of counselors coming in so I was not guaranteed a place in his life. The bonus- this time I knew how to sail!
This camp just put a bow on their 30th summer and hosted a camper and counselor reunion. All you had to do was:
- Get yourself there
- Pick a bunk
- Have fun
- Clean up when you leave
- Get yourself home
BFF calls and game is on!! BFF plans where we can meet up and all the details for me-everyone needs a friend like this!! I am crazy blessed because I have more than one. All I had to do was get to the DC area and she has the rest taken care of. All the stars aligned- her time and my time work out and we are soon touring DC late at night getting caught up before heading further north the next day. We take our best “Thelma & Louise” picture, hand off her munchkin, and peel out of the driveway!
We made our route from DC up to the top corner of Pennsylvania/NY. Friend and I never even turned on the radio. We cruised, top down and chatted the entire time!! This is what happens when you get to see your lifetime friends and kids are not around.
We stopped in Gettysburg:
It hit me out of nowhere that I drove from Austin all the way up north mostly alone (I did have a guy along for the ride that I dumped off at State College-which was not soon enough) but from that point, I was alone. These were the glory days of no GPS, no navigation system and certainly no Waze app!! I did have an atlas and a fancy Motorola flip phone: Which was an upgrade from my original:
Anyways, as we are driving in the middle of nowhere, I start thinking how the heck did I do this by myself at 22?!?!?! My BFF that went with me the first year, this would not be a big deal for her. She is an army brat and lived all over the world. Remember, I am sheltered girl from the south! Somewhere within me there was no fear to take this adventure on myself and sort of roll the dice as to how it would work out for the summer and with the guy mentioned above.
Then it hits me that I made the drive home totally alone-no one with me AT ALL!! I think back to how my camp experience opened so many doors for me. These 2 summers up north, were far more than a job. It really was a part of molding who I am. I became a very independent girl. I could travel across the country alone and survive. Not only did I survive but I thrived. I meet people from all over the US and around the globe. I really began to see the world differently and with excitement. I grew to love all of the amazing differences in people and seeing that it doesn’t matter where you are from, what your religion is: we are all here on this planet trying our best to find our path, grow, love and LIVE.
I grew up a lot in that last summer. Our experiences should continually mold, shape and make us into better people and I feel that I grew into a better person little by little. This is also a continual process, we should not stop growing in this life.
What I realized when I went back this weekend is that the place has changed. They now have a pool (we only had the lake), more tennis courts, amazing high ropes course, skate park that my boy would go nuts about and so much more!! Lots of really amazing NEW additions that make the place even better which in my opinion, did not need to be added. It’s incredible changes that make it an even greater experience for their campers (and counselors). One of the big changes, has been the updating of the bunks as well. The bunks were more than 30 years old as the camp was owned by someone else previously. This weekend, we stayed in the new bunks that while they maintain the integrity of the original look/feel on the outside of the camp. Inside they are really nice and look very different. The old bunks could have a skunk come up under it and you could see it through the floor slats (smell it for sure). These new ones have great flooring, insulation, bathrooms, storage, etc.
I spent the weekend around familiar friends and made new ones. One gift from this weekend was one that not many will even think about. For me it’s enormous!!! Our bunks for the weekend were co-ed and the peeps in my bunk were all from my same age range. There were a number of guys there without their wives and a few girls their without their guys. Everyone was loyal and respectful of the loved ones that were at home manning the fort. It was such a wonderful group of people to be with that my soul was really blessed. Little do these men know, they added a piece of hope back into my life that-these type of guys really do exist.
The last night in camp, 3 of us slept in an old bunk. Really it was to get some sleep and to escape the snorers in our room!
I took a picture as I went to sleep because the new bunks, do not have these old wooden rafters.
There are some really funny memories in the old rafters of my bunk and for others as well. Soon, the remainder of the old bunks will come down in the off season and the sparkly new ones will go up. The outside will look so, so similar-but the inside will be brand new.
This is what is continually going on in my life these days. The outside of me looks quite the same- a bit older and tired perhaps. But the inside is continually being rebuilt and hopefully made better. Sometimes it is hard to let go of what you really loved from the past. But when it is rotting, falling apart and not at it’s best for the campers-it must come down. Same for this counselor. What is not at it’s best from me must be removed and built anew. There is no reason for me to continue to live in the old bunk when I have the ability to build a completely new one. I can still have the same outward, visual integrity of the original bunks but the new one will have to look totally brand new on the inside. Because why would you want to spend all the time doing the demo, hauling the old stuff away to rebuild at a higher cost with the old rotting supplies that you just demo’d???
Being back at camp this weekend was great to revisit some great times in my life, laugh a lot and just think. I was reminded how independent and strong I can be alone. That taking chances and living by faith actually can be life changing and really amazing. I was reminded that I need to completely build a new bunk for my campers and this counselor. I also realized that while I really loved “camp” the way it was 20 years ago and never had a need for the pool,skate park, etc. that these additions can make the whole camp experience even better. Currently for my little campers and this counselor we are reconstructing a brand new bunk. At the same time we are looking at new additions that have the potential of making our camp experience even better. I just hope that the new skate park that is going in is built really well to endure the demands of my little campers. Because some days, these campers ride really smoothly and will have little problems nailing all of their tricks. Other days, they are going to fall, hit the ground hard and need a lot of help and encouragement to get back on the board and take it on again.
If our new skate park that is being built is as amazing as the one at camp- my boys are going to be just fine. Since I do not get to see the blueprint and approve the plans then I am going to sit back and watch my boys ride the ramps and hope that she will always ensure my campers have their helmets on and are protected while skating.