Gold Rush: A favorite event at our brother-sister overnight camp in NH

Sunday’s are an important day at our brother-sister overnight camp. After recharging our batteries by sleeping a little late, our campers then spend the morning working together in their cabins. A small group of avid fisherman got up very early and joined Adventure Dave on a trip into town to participate in our first ever fishing tournament. They had a blast, and we are actually waiting to hear how one of the 12 year old boys placed. He caught 6 bass and may have won for his age bracket! 

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First, everyone changed their sheets. Then, while our girls were having their weekly Camper Council meetings Kenwood’s Junior Camp went out to play its intramural sports called “Watermelon League”.  This 8-team sports league will play games regularly throughout the summer. The trophy for first place will be a massive watermelon that the winning team gets to devour during week 7. Just like with our girls’ Candy Bar League, Kenwood’s Watermelon League is one more way we help make sure that our campers and counselors in different units have a chance to build strong relationships.

As brother-sister summer camps we love that each camp has its own traditions and culture. One of the best parts of this is that our two camps have lots to learn from each other. For generations now Kenwood’s Watermelon League has only been for playing softball, whereas Evergreen’s Candy Bar League involved all sorts of different team sports. Two years ago in our post-summer surveys we have got feedback from our boys that they love the camaraderie of Watermelon League…but they wished that it wasn’t just for playing softball. So again this year we have instituted a change, and now both camps’ intramural sports leagues will involve a mixture of softball, soccer, street hockey, kickball and volleyball. As part of our focus on 21st century skills we try to teach our campers about the importance of voicing their ideas and opinions and thinking critically, and I love that they yet again saw the benefit of articulating their ideas for improving the camp experience!

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In the middle of lunch there was a sudden commotion at the boys’ end of the dining hall. Two counselors dressed up in their best rural attire walked in screaming that they had found gold somewhere on campus. The campers and counselors began screaming right away, as this meant that one of our favorite annual special events was happening today: Gold Rush. Suddenly the strangest villain anyone had ever seen (it was Ropes Course Scott in a bathrobe with curlers in his hair and a mud mask on his face) came in and pretended to steal the gold. Other counselors in costumes got involved, and while I wasn’t quite able to figure out exactly what was going on in the skit they put on it certainly made everyone laugh.

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After lunch, while campers were in their cabins, our maintenance crew scattered gold colored rocks all over the campus. When milk and cookies concluded Jacki Mitchell brought our junior campers together for instructions on how Gold Rush would work. Essentially, they would run as fast as they could around the property collective gold. By bringing it to the bank in the center of camp they could redeem the gold for Camp money, which they could then use at a Casino tonight (run by our senior campers), and then at an auction later in the evening. Our Junior Boys and Girls would serve as bandits and sheriffs, working to either disrupt the collection of the gold, or help it safely reach the bank. 

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Counselors running the First Dank of New Hampshire

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Senior campers running tonight’s Gold Rush Casino

Gold Rush is a ton of fun, but it also becomes a great exercise in 21st century skills. Rather than having individual campers spend their money, they have to work together with their entire bunk to figure out which prize or experience to bid on. It requires them to use so many of the skills that we work on here: collaboration, adaptability, effective communication, and leadership. Even in the bunks after breakfast, before we had announced today’s event, some of our campers were negotiating with each other about how they could use their Gold Rush dollars! 

Weekend events like Gold Rush and yesterday’s Ultimate Capture the Flag are also beloved here because they bring our brother-sister camps together. During most of the week our boys and girls have separate activities. On the weekend they not only get to play together but form friendships with each other that often last a lifetime. With so many brothers and sisters in our overnight camp community it’s wonderful to see how much they enjoy being together during our weekend events. 

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Some of our Junior Campers caught a gold stealing “Bandit” during today’s special event

After Gold Rush both camps had more relaxing time at their waterfronts. Kids were swimming, jumping off of the docks, riding surfboards, and just enjoying a perfect weather afternoon. We have been so fortunate in terms of the weather thus far this summer. We’ve had one evening of rain, and that started after 8:30pm. Other than that, every morning the sun has been shining and there have typically been few or no clouds in the sky. New Hampshire’s weather has been truly perfect.

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Campers collaborating as part of tonight’s Gold Rush Auction

The prizes at tonight’s auction were all experiences and adventures, rather than tangible items. On the auction block was dinner and a movie at Scott’s house, dessert and a dance party (with lasers and a smoke machine) at my house, a campfire and dinner at Jacki and Bob’s, a trip to New London with Walshy, an afternoon on the waterski boat for copious amounts of tubing, and extra night camping out, cooking lessons with Emily, and so much more! The kids were so excited about the prizes and we can’t wait to spend extra time with these bunks.

As if we hadn’t packed enough into today, after the campers went to bed we had our weekly counselor meeting. We still had two staff members watching each bunk area, but all other counselors and specialists joined the camp leadership team for some in-service training in the dining hall. Like the bunk meetings earlier in the day, we discussed what was working and what we’d like to see be different in the coming week. Most importantly we had each age group of counselors break up into groups, and then help us understand about the social, emotional and physical health of every single child here this summer. It’s an incredibly important part of our quest to make sure that we have detailed knowledge about every camper’s summer, both in terms of their triumphs, and their ongoing social and emotional development.

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