It’s a question children and parents ask me all the time: so what’s the first day like at Kenwood and Evergreen? Implicit in the question is the concern how do I know that my child will be ok in this new community? Will she make new friends? Will he be glad that he signed up for this adventure? Well, let me share with what our opening day was like.
It began with campers boarding buses around the East coast. By 10am we had already picked up children in New Jersey and Westchester, NY, and soon thereafter in Westport, CT, Newton, MA, and at Logan Airport in Boston. The bus ride to Kenwood and Evergreen is really the start of the Camp experience. We fill the buses with some of our most experienced counselors and administrators, and a ton of fun things to do. On my bus I taught most of our camp songs, and before long had everyone singing and cheering at the top of their lungs. We had a joke telling contest, watched some episodes of “Futurama”, and talked a whole lot about the upcoming new Star Wars movie. On Scott’s bus he was walking up and down the aisles, helping campers figure out what they had in common with those around them, and facilitating the start of many new friendships. As owner of the camp he was on hand to answer all of the big questions, like “what if I want extra milk and cookies?” and “how are the waterski counselors going to teach me to ski?” Deena was on the younger Evergreen camper bus, and she was doing the same sort of thing, though she also ran a clinic on how to make different types of friendship bracelets. This photo below was taken about 2 hours into the trip, and while half of the girls pictured are brand new to our community you can clearly see that all of them are already feeling like they are a part of the family!
As brother-sister summer camps Kenwood and Evergreen has a number of different traditions. In Evergreen, our girls jump off the buses as soon as they arrive and are enveloped by a sea of excited, loving counselors. In Kenwood, our staff line up to form a human tunnel. As each camper travels from the bus to our meeting spot he is cheered on by every single male member of the staff. Both traditions leave our newest campers knowing that our staff mentors and role models could not be more excited that they have arrived!
And from there it’s time to play. Children learn and grow by playing, and for the first hour or so we do a lot of it. Groups began by playing outdoor games like Can Jam, Ping Pong, Baggo, Tetherball, Frisbee, Kick The Can, and old fashioned games of catch. Once they had gotten some energy out, each of our age groups gathered together for icebreakers . These are games designed to help introduce campers and staff to each other, and help them learn what they have in common with one another. They are typically silly and funny, and a great way to help friendships form immediately.
As you can see, this group’s 20 minutes of icebreakers went really well, and even our most nervous new campers were feeling like our overnight camp was a great place to be!
After icebreakers it was back to the bunk area to talk about how things run at camp. We talked about the daily periods, meal times, where you go when you don’t feel well, and even what footwear and other items are necessary to bring to each activity. We will be teaching our campers how to be successfully independent this summer, and to do that we need to provide them with the right tools!
Then every age group went on tours around our gorgeous 230+ acre campus. The counselors made sure that the important locations were seen and discussed, but as part of their leadership training our veteran campers were asked to be the actual tour guides. Having grown up in our community they know that we take welcoming in our newest members very seriously. Having a kind and knowledgeable peer show you around and explain what life is like here makes you feel even more welcome on day one.
When the tours were over it was time for dinner. Our amazing chefs had a delicious meal planned for everyone. Counselor Julia, who eats a strictly gluten free diet, was at the food allergy window to let her camper friends know how incredible the vegetarian and GF food has been this summer.
Chef Kyla, who makes all of our meals for our campers with food allergies and intolerances was at the window serving up homemade GF chicken fingers, oven baked french fries, and a bean and quinoa dish that people were RAVING about.
Not to be outdone by Chef Kyla, our baker Kristy was ready with an army of Minion cupcakes that she had spent an entire day designing. There was a whole lot of love in our camp dining hall this evening.
And then it was time for our annual counselor show. Each year on this night our counselors put on a variety show for the campers. They do all they can to look, act, and sometimes even sound ridiculous. It makes the kids laugh, and it shows them that our staff are willing to do just about anything to help our campers feel safe and comfortable while away from home.
Tonight’s acts included a song written and performed by our entire team of coaches and teachers, some hysterical comedy groups, more than a few male counselors in drag, some gorgeous musical acts, and a hilarious magic show performed by Alex Posner, our Freshmen Boys’ unit leader. To close it out, Scott and I led the camp in a rendition of Phillip Phillip’s hit song “Make This Place Your Home“. After singing the first verse and chorus the entire staff joined us on stage, and almost every camper in the audience sang the refrain “just know you’re not alone…I’m gonna make this place your home“. It was a magical moment of our community coming together.
And then it was over. For the first time this year campers and counselors headed back to their bunks and lodges. All of the camp administrators went into bunks to say goodnight, and to make sure that we had welcomed each and every camper to the summer of 2015. In what has become a popular ritual here, I heard many bunk counselors asking their campers to name their “rose and bud” for the day. The rose is supposed to be their favorite moment of the last 24 hours, and the bud is what they are hoping to achieve in the next 24. It creates a wonderful mindset for both appreciating how lucky we are to be a part of this intentional community, and setting new goals for ourselves each and every day.
The last bunk I visited was in the Kenwood Sophomore unit, where a counselor was putting his campers to bed reading from a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. The boys were rapt with attention, and you could hear a pin drop as he read each word. When I was a Kenwood camper that age my counselor read those stories to our bunk, and I can remember loving that he took the time each night to read us such wonderfully creative and engaging stories. I look forward to observing the many different bedtime rituals our counselors will create for their campers this summer as a part of an experience of growth, belonging and adventure.
So this is what our first day of the summer was like. Every moment was constructed around the ideas “how can we make our newest campers feel excited to be here…and how can we teach our veterans campers how to be quality, empathetic leaders?” I cannot wait to see what the next 24 hours are like!
Camps Kenwood and Evergreen is a brother-sister overnight camp in NH. Our campers spend 7 weeks each summer developing skills like independence, resilience, and innovation while playing team sports and creating amazing art projects.