Wednesday, December 22, 2010
But, the camp experience that impacted me the most early on was during outdoor education. Our school was a K-6 school. Being a sixth grader not only meant you ruled the school….but you got to spend 5 days at Forest Home learning about nature. Our cabin consisted of eight girls from my class, some I hung out with regularly and some I did not, and one girl from the “Special Ed” class. Her name was Pam. Pam looked the same as the rest of us, she spoke the same as the rest of us…but Pam was different from the rest of us.
At first, Pam’s differences stood out and bothered us. On our first night, our counselor Debbie was preparing us for what to expect for the week. She told us that it would get very cold at night but we had our sleeping bags and our own body heat to keep us warm. Pam raised her hand and said she didn’t bring one. Debbie asked, “You didn’t bring a sleeping bag?” Pam said, very serious, “No, I didn’t bring a body heater.” Our cabin erupted in laughter as we realized that Pam thought a body heater was something she should have brought to camp. Pam continued to get teased those first few days for things she said or did. I didn’t necessarily do any of the teasing, but I didn’t stop it either.
On the second night, Debbie told us a story about accepting others and the damage of teasing. She didn’t call us out for how we had been treating Pam, but her point was made. More importantly, I began to watch how Debbie treated Pam. She was patient and caring and found a way to bring out Pam’s sense of humor. As the week went on, our cabin became a family and Debbie was the head of that family. I thought she was the greatest thing since Ding Dongs. It was at that time that I thought, “this is what I want to do…I want to be a camp counselor and be like Debbie.” Because I wanted to be like Debbie (and I wasn’t the only one), it changed the way I interacted with Pam. I became more patient with her questions and treated her with more kindness. By the end of the week, our cabin was a close knit group.
Once we were back in school and away from the magic bubble that camp produces, things became a little more complicated. It was one thing to be friends with Pam at camp: she was part of my cabin. It was another thing to be friends with her at school where the pressures of social hierarchy alter the way you interact with others. At the head of my group of friends was Cheryl. Cheryl was the “Queen Bee” at our school. I had been “fortunate” enough to hold a place in her court along with seven others - three of us had been in the cabin together. After camp, I started seeing things differently. Cheryl could be sarcastic and mean. I missed that good feeling I had at camp.
It was in the first week back that Pam approached our group at the monkey bars. At first I thought Cheryl would tease Pam and run her off, but Cheryl was being nice to Pam. She started asking Pam all sorts of questions. When Pam shared that she liked a boy named Steve, Cheryl told her that the way to make a boy know that you like him is to lift your top up in front of him. Pam looked confused, but Cheryl pressed on, trying to convince Pam that this is what she needed to do. Pam looked around at the group, as if looking for confirmation. When she looked at me, I couldn’t look her in the eyes. To cross Cheryl meant risking being a social outcast. But I knew it wasn’t right.
I thought about what Debbie would think of me if I let this continue. As Pam turned to head toward the boy, I stopped her. “Pam, Cheryl is lying. Don’t do that.” Two other girls stepped forward to confirm that Pam should not listen to Cheryl and we led Pam away from the group as Cheryl glared at us. I spent the rest of that recess with a lump in my stomach for fear of the repercussions of crossing the “Queen Bee.” But I knew what I did was right.
The next day I was “sick” and stayed home from school. The truth is, I didn’t want to face the wrath of Cheryl. My mom came into my room in the afternoon to check on me. She said that she had just received a call from the school principal - there had been an incident the day before with one of the kids from the Special Ed class. The principal explained that all of my friends had been brought into his office and that Pam had told him which girl told her to lift her top up. She also said that I told her not to do it along with two other girls.
My mom got quiet, and then said, “The Principal said I should be very proud to have a daughter like you, and I am.” With that, the lump of stress went away and was replaced with a much better feeling.
After that incident, I didn’t go back to my place in the “high court”. Popularity wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as doing the right thing. Thanks to my camp counselor, I learned to look out for the kid who was being left out and to make sure they were included and respected. Because, at camp, I learned what it was like to have real friends and to be a real friend. This skill was essential to my growth in middle school and as it turns out, it has been an essential skill for life.
Director of Standards & Administration
ACA, Southern CA/HI
Camper, Bluff Lake - YMCA of Orange
Counselor & Director, YMCA of Orange County
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Have a GREAT summer - here's to the adventure, growth and joy that camp brings!
Director of Education & Membership
ACA, Southern CA/HI
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
ACA Southern California/Hawaii Launches it's 3rd Annual Campership Drive!! Join us this year and help change a child's life.
This year we need your help! Help me send 2 children to camp this summer! Every contribution matters, no gift is too small. Click here to make a difference today.
See how camp can change a child's life...
With your support we can help give children the opportunity to continue their growth and development in a safe, fun, and educational environment.
Help us reach our goal! Click here to make a difference today.
Camp as part of the story
Preparing and Packing for Camp
Camp’s added benefit: Summer learning
Day Camp offers opportunities close to home
Children Inside and Out
Camp is an adventure
Saturday, April 17, 2010
provides for children and youth that new research shows us.
First, there is the opportunity to really become a part of nature as a human being. Children are literally being ‘nature deprived’ in urban environments where they listen to noises such as cars, planes, horns, sirens gunfire and the general bustle of the city.
Human beings ears were actually meant to listen to birds singing, the wind whipping through the trees, and the sound of water gurgling in a stream or going over a fall. Our feet were made to
walk on soft earth, not on concrete. Our eyes were made to see beauty in green plants and trees, blue sky, mountains, deserts, and ocean scenery. Yet we deprive most children to just seeing dirty streets, polluted brown smog in the sky, and school playgrounds that are devoid of grass or trees. If we cage any animal in this type of environment for too long, they turn to violence and become quite depressed. We as human animals react no differently.
Sending a child to camp gives them time to reflect on where they belong in the world. Camp gives them a time to also let nature heal their emotional wounds through belonging to a ‘Camp Family’ and having a young adult care for them and listen to their stories. Children are human beings in a developmental process of life and camp helps them to develop multiple skills simultaneously. Skills like trust, and leadership, good risk taking, and group work, problem solving, and self – expression, communicating and relationship building.
You see nature has a way of impacting a child’s growth in many positive ways. Exploring a new and exciting environment helps children develop independence from starting with fear of nature on their first day at camp to newfound confidence by their fourth day.
The tangible skills are many as well. From trying new activities like archery, nature crafts, low ropes course, orienteering (map and compass) acting or singing at campfire, swimming, hiking and learning about the outdoor environment from it’s geology to it’s animal and plant life.
Last and most importantly, camp teaches children and youth to celebrate diversity and value unity. Knowing that we are all human beings and that we need to work together to make our home and society peaceful, meaningful, and safe. That is what a well-run camp is and what a well run camp does.
With all of these multiple learning experiences and opportunities offered to a child in just one week up in the mountains, I would say camp is a wise investment for the future adults of our
I look forward to working with the Pythian Youth Foundation to make the camping experience meaningful and memorable for the youth it serve.
In Peace and Friendship,
Bob Cabeza, the Executive Director of the YMCA of Greater Long Beach Downtown Community Development Branch, who will provide our training, has been a veteran ACA Camp Director and youth developer for over 25 years. He has run camps in the United States, Switzerland and Austria for Village Camps, the YMCA, and the Foundation for the Junior Blind. He is an outdoor educator, avid hiker, skier, and climber. He lives in Long Beach California with his wife and ten year old son.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
As a child, I came to camp a shy, self-conscious girl who went to a school full of cliques and mean girls...I always felt like I had to measure up...and yet, I never did. I was shy, I didn't have the brand-name clothes, my parents didn't drive a cute car and worst of all, despite all my protests, day after day, I came to school with a lunch packed with wheat bread sandwiches and Granny Goose chips - and to be clear, these were not the pre-packaged chips - my chips were stuffed in a plastic bag. Just not cool.
Yet, camp was different. I left camp realizing that there was more in the world than the walls of my school or the boundaries of my small farm town. Even more, I made friends with people who liked me for me - the wheat bread, the shyness…it didn't matter. And of course, this acceptance instantly made me feel less shy and less self-conscious. I went home with new eyes.
I came back to camp for a number of years in middle school - and these experiences built the resilience that I needed for high school. High school had a whole new dynamic - there was a huge division of race at our school, major religious intolerance and to top it off - those good 'ol typical high school problems: alcohol, drugs & pregnancy.
This heap of problems at my school (and, ultimately, in my town) created an incredible amount of anxiety in me - I couldn't stand bigotry - and it was in my face all the time in high school. To ignore it was to accept it.
I had to step up or step out...be the first to say "this isn't ok", or step into the shadows and let my small, close-minded town be what it was going to be. I decided, at whatever cost, to be myself - and the person I was couldn't stand by and accept intolerance: so I stepped up. My sophomore year in high school was full of verbal fights, accusations and goading. It was a year of standing alone - but, I was on my own two feet and that felt better to me than the alternative.
I can't take credit for changing my home town, because it didn't completely change and probably still hasn't changed entirely. But, I changed, and because of this, I could live in the world as my true self, even in a small close-minded town - I could stand up for what I felt was right, be friends with whomever I wanted and believe what I wanted to believe - and I was even accepted for it by that small close-minded town, which is a miracle in and of itself.
Director of Education & Membership
American Camp Association, Southern CA/HI
(f) Camper, Camp Christelation
(f) Counselor, Building Bridges for Peace
(f) Counselor & Director, Tumbleweed Day Camp
What's your story? Tell your camp community on this blog
or be ready to share at the upcoming Annual Meeting!
Friday, December 18, 2009
I am very excited about the Spring Leadership Conference scheduled for April 14- 17, 2010 in the beautiful city of Palm Springs. While the destination is an attraction in itself it is not the only reason you should bring your staff team and attend the conference.
- Help your staff learn valuable skills for training, coaching and supervising other staff.
- Come and network with camp peers from Southern California, Hawaii and beyond!
- Gain cutting-edge information regarding children and youth in the 21st century.
- Developing Directors
- Seasonal Directors
- Program Directors
- Assistant Directors
- Staff Supervisors
- Middle Managers
- Students interested in camp as a career
Friday, June 19, 2009
This week is “Father’s Day,” my first as a father. Since ACA’s Public Service Announcement (PSA) a couple weeks ago – “Because of Camp…” - I’ve been reflecting on what Camp and Father’s Day mean to me.
For those who don’t know my Dad, Wally Wirick, has been in the camping business for as long as I can remember. My first job was washing dishes at camp. Since then, I’ve had many, many camp jobs and even better camp memories.
However, this weekend, as we all say “Happy Father’s Day” to our Dads, I thought I’d share the camp experience that has meant the most to me.
My parents, like many before and many since, separated when I was in second or third grade. As a young kid, I had a hard time figuring out what happened and why Dad was living far away. As time passed, the daily interaction with Dad got less and less and when we did see him, it was always movies, parks and fun and games, but not much understanding.
Although we lived in the San Bernardino Mountains, my school had a week of Outdoor Education for all 5th graders. But, when my 5th grade rolled around the camp we were supposed to go to abruptly closed. We were told we couldn’t go this year and that all that jogging we had been doing for months in our jog-a-thon would go to something else.
Upon hearing this news, I raised my hand and told the teacher that my Dad was a Camp Director and maybe we could use his camp.
Dad made it happen. His camp didn’t have OE, but he put together a barebones team and somehow got us through the five miles of dirt road (that was muddy from the snowmelt and the buses constantly got stuck) to camp.
It is not that Dad and I hung out all week…he was busy running a camp. But, what I remember seeing was that Dad was providing a great experience for me, and my friends and all the other kids who where there. I remember looking around and thinking that he does this for all the kids who live down the hill. It was important work.
Camp helped me reconnect with my Dad. When—of course—he embarrassed the hell out of me at camp fire, I remember feeling as connected to him as the days when he would come home from work find his little tow-headed kid with a glove, baseball and an extra glove, dying for a game to catch.
As my first Father’s Day quickly approaches, I wonder what role camp will have on my relationship with my son Henry.