Wonderful Letter From a Counselor

The Island Lake Feeling

When I was first hired at Island Lake, I didn’t know what to expect. I was told of this certain feeling that nobody could explain when headed to camp. It was repeated over and over, “Until you’ve been to Island Lake and the connection you feel to the kids after a summer here, you will not understand what that feeling is like.” So I was eager to find out what that feeling was. I’d never been to America before. It was my first time hundreds of miles away from Liverpool, UK. But as I stepped off that bus after a long journey from Newark airport, there was a huge culture shock that hit me, and I was completely out of my comfort zone, but the overwhelming niceness and greetings I got from returning staff and new staff as well really made me feel at home. I started off in B-15 with other fellow Group 4 guys, and although I stayed quiet for the first two days, the guys really got me out of my shell. At the end of orientation week, I know I had made my first set of friends in Will, Duncan, B-Rad, Tom, Ben, James, Rocky, Joe, Christian, Nick and Dan. Orientation week as a whole was a really good learning experience for me, because for somebody who isn’t that confident, it puts you in a very “out of comfort” situation, where you either suck it up and get on with it or go home. And I did, and the first thing Island Lake did for me was make a more confident person and Orientation Week really brought me out of my shell and then I was ready for the weeks that followed with the kids, It was not going to be easy, but I expected that.

The kids finally arrived, and us Group 4 guys were constantly questioning what the kids were going to be like, and how prepared we all were! When the kids from First Session first arrived, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had support in knowing that Tom and B-Rad could not better people to be paired with as they knew their stuff when it came to these kids. As the weeks went on, and since I was a Lazy Day Counselor, I spent a lot more time with the kids than I originally thought I was going too, really opened my eyes to beginning to realise what camp was really like, that feeling was soon becoming understandable. Lazy Day’s for all three sessions were incredible, and what Island Lake puts on for those children is something special, I loved Lazy Day’s, whether it was seeing one of the best theme parks in the world (Dorney Park) or whether it was just chilling out at Skate Estate, they gave me a chance to bond with my kids in B-13, and gave me the chance to spend some one on one time with a few of them, which was really helpful because I thought I had finally built a connection and friendship but also a role model persona amongst them.

One of the hardest days for me was the end of each session, 1st 2nd and 3rd. All three where hard because I had developed such a bond with some of these kids, whether it was spending time with them on my minors off, or just simply sitting and chatting to them on bunk OD, you get this sense of care for them that you simply cannot explain. As I witnessed from other counselors around me, the emotion hits you so hard you cant help but cry when they leave, because they have been a part of your life for just 3 short weeks, but it feels like so much longer, and when you develop that role model persona and realise “these are my kids now, and I need to make their time here amazing regardless, they come first!” then there is no going back on that.

In the end of it all, the bond you develop with the kids and also the counselors and other fellow staff, is a feeling that I now can’t explain. I was told it at the start and until people experience Island Lake for themselves, you wont know. But the best idea I can fathom from all this and the best way I can explain it to you reading this, is that you are put in a daunting but exciting situation that you didn’t think would hit you on all emotional levels. From Day 1 to the final day of camp, Island Lake is a different world outside of all the excitement of real life and the normal routine. I urge you to experience this “Island Lake Feeling” yourself, because before I did, I didn’t understand it and now, I cant explain it, but i know one thing since returning to the UK…

 .. Is that I cannot wait to prepare for next summer, and I am already doing my best to get myself back to Island Lake as soon as possible. Thank you to everyone who made my Summer 2014 one to remember. Thank you to Matt, Wendy, Dustin and Trip, The Theatre Department, my group leader Tyler, and for all of my friends for life who stuck by me through every single memory at this amazing place. 

IL(hopefully)C you next year!

Mike Bainbridge

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