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How we give new campers amazing first days at our brother/sister camp

I remember arriving at our beautiful sleep away summer camp in NH over 4 years ago. I rode up from Boston on the bus with 3 other new camp counselors who were also seeing the K&E campus for the first time. Other than a few photos I had seen from the website I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous and shy in a new environment with unfamiliar surroundings and people. Looking back, what I felt that day was probably a lot like how most new campers feel on the opening day of the summer.

David Walsh, the head counselor and program director who had hired me a few months earlier, met us at the main office and led us up to the dining hall where we were just in time for dinner. I entered the dining hall to see over a hundred members of the camp staff eating, laughing and talking together. Seeing these friendly, social people my anxieties began to fade.

“Hi, what’s your name? Where are you from? Come and sit here!” Immediately the spirit of our brother/sister camp began to shine through. It was amazing to see how friendly and welcoming everybody was, and how intentional everyone was about welcoming new members to the community. It was clear from how they went out of their way to make us feel at east that the camp staff knew what it felt like to be a new member of a community in an unfamiliar environment.

RELATED: An amazing first day at our overnight camp in NH

I believe this experience has definitely influenced my approach to welcoming new members to our camp community, be they camp counselors or first-time campers. Knowing what it felt like to be in their shoes as the new person in the group pushes me to reach out and help them feel as comfortable as possible.

Learn more about how our counselors help eliminate first day jitters

As a unit leader I am involved with the bus ride up to camp at the very start of the summer. From my own experiences I now find it easier to identify the new campers who are feeling nervous. I’m able to facilitate in this situation using a range of techniques we learn during counselor training to help make our campers quickly feel connected and wanted.

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Sean helping a camper have an amazing first day at our brother/sister summer camp in NH

Although I never grew up at our sleep away camp, I feel very connected to the community and feel that I have gained a great understanding of what K&E stands for. As an intern in the camp office, I have the opportunity to meet prospective new campers to build a rapport with them which helps to alleviate anxieties and help them focus on being excited for camp. Being a good friend is without doubt our camp’s biggest tradition. If I can extend these gestures of friendship that has been offered to me throughout my time with K&E, I know that new members of the community will benefit in many of the same ways. Everyone deserves to feel like they belong in their summer camp!

Sean Atkinson is an intern at Camps Kenwood and Evergreen, a brother/sister summer camp in Wilmot, NH. One of Sean’s projects is helping to run our Instagram account. We invite you to see the fun our camp community has all year round.

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