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Take a regular day at overnight camp and make it even more amazing

Every day here has the potential to be amazing. It’s overnight camp. But with it being the 4th of July today we took this regular day and made it even more amazing with all sorts of traditions and special events. 

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As we skipped to morning assembly to the sounds of the musical Hamilton it was clear how many campers and staff were excited to celebrate the 4th. They wore red, white and blue everything — hats, t-shirts, pajama pants, plastic jewelry, light up wigs, face paint and more! I love how our community needs so little prompting to get dressed up and show their spirit.

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Traditions, Rituals and Special Events
 

But until this evening it would be a normal camp day, so assembly included our standard announcements…except for one. Since joining our community last summer, Heidi, head of our tennis program, has been so excited about the soft and hard skills that we teach here at K&E. In particular, she’s been so impressed with how many of our campers try so hard to be friendly and kind at all times. A few days ago she asked me if she could do a weekly shout out at morning assembly to celebrate a boy and girl in each camp who that week had best represented those values on our tennis courts. In its first week the K&E Tennis Sportsperson Award went to a long time camper, and one brand new to our community. Congratulations to Logan and Jaymee, and thank you so much for working so hard to make this a kinder summer camp! 

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From there we were off to regular activities. After a great two days of weekend events everyone seemed really excited to get back to things like baseball, basketball, arts and crafts, photography and water skiing. 

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My first few stops were in the main building, where many of our arts studios are located. A group of Inter boys were learning the science of cooking different proteins, and how to properly use a thermometer to know when chicken was safe to eat. 

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Across the hallway our girls were learning how to use Photoshop to create fantastically colorful images, and not just another selfie.

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It was yet another beautiful day here and all of our sports fields and courts were busy. Up on the Senior Ball Field tryouts were taking place for one of our most popular tournaments: the Tri-State Softball team. This young man from Framingham, MA hit the ball so far it took about 5 full seconds for it to hit the ground.

Learn why our campers love playing sports at Kenwood and Evergreen

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Heidi and her team of coaches were outside all day running drills with our girls and boys. In just over a week there’s been a lot of great learning on our courts, and you can already see how quickly our campers are improving and strengthening their skills.

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Always looking to create new and exciting experiences for our campers, today our Ropes Team premiered a new element: tightrope walking! For most of the afternoon a group of Kenwood seniors tried, failed, and tried again to get all the way across the course by walking across one long slack line. No one made it all the way, but a couple made it more than halfway across, and can’t wait to get back to trying it again soon. 

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As I went past the Hollow I saw these young women and our music counselor James enjoying some time in the shade of some trees. With three guitars and a ukulele they were doing such a nice job working out their chord changes in unison. They are planning something for Hollowpallooza, our annual music festival, and I can’t wait! 

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Campers are always interested in making a permanent mark here. It’s so fun to walk into a cabin or lodge you lived in years ago and find your name on a bunk plaque still hanging up. For many of our campers and counselors they are even able to find one or both of their parent’s names hanging somewhere here. 

This fall, David, Scott and I hatched our latest concept for both creative expression and making a lasting mark at camp, and with the help of Ceramics Andy (now in his 19th summer teaching here!) it’s becoming a reality. Every camper, counselor and staff member has the opportunity to make a 6″x6″ clay tile with their hand print and whatever design they can think of. Once completed, we will begin hanging each of them on the large wall on the outside of our dining hall. After this summer, any future campers or counselors will be able to make and hang on in their first year. The entire community is loving making these, and as camp directors we are so excited to have found a new way to help everyone feel like they will always belong to this sisterhood and brotherhood.

RELATED: How a 21st century skills camp teaches resilience and creativity with clay

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So while all of that was going on today we of course also were getting ready to celebrate Independence Day. As part of the holiday, our Freshman girls and their Big Sisters worked with our Head Baker Kristie on creating hundreds of delicious peanut free and tree nut free desserts. The list included brownies, decorated cupcakes, cookies, and this amazing s’more concoction that gets all over your fingers but is absolutely delicious. They also created gluten free versions of many of the treats. And then, in true Evergreen girl fashion they had a dance party. After breakfast this morning our girls and the leaders of Evergreen headed to the center of Andover, NH, our closest town.

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Each year Andover has an amazing 4th of July celebration. The entire community comes out for a festival of food, music, dancing, floats, and more. There was even a troop of bag pipers and a full procession of veterans. While our girls were there to enjoy the festivities, they were also there for a more selfless purpose. They had set up a booth to sell the delicious desserts in order to raise money for a local charity that supports children and mothers who have suffered physical or emotional neglect. The girls sold every single item that they brought with them, and were so excited to be supporting such an important charity. Acka-lacka Ching to all of our Evergreen Freshmen and Juniper girls for putting this amazing effort together for the second year in a row!

Also, a major Cha-Hee Cha-Hah to Jacki Mitchell for coming up with this whole idea. Jacki and her husband Bob are our brother-sister summer camps’ athletic directors, and they are two of the most creative people ever. As an example, Bob is the person who thought of Hollowpallooza, our incredible annual music festival.

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This evening we then hosted our traditional 4th of July BBQ.  Our chefs and kitchen staff, aided by some eager counselors, put out an amazing feast with hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, chicken, an assortment of salads, watermelon and some of the best ribs any of us have ever had. The entire Camp hung out together on the grassy field we call the Hollow, and on the back porch of the theater tent.

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This guy REALLY liked the ribs and their BBQ sauce

And because of our commitment to safely feeding campers with food sensitivities, everything in our BBQ was peanut and tree nut free. We also had a separate grill for cooking gluten free foods, GF buns in their own section of the buffet, and even a pasta salad that contained no eggs, dairy or wheat products.

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Safely eating gluten free is just a regular part of life at our overnight camp

Speak with a director about how we create an allergy-safe summer experience

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Baker extraordinaire Kristie and her talented assistant Dulce (now in her 3rd summer with us) made mouth-watering strawberry shortcake, including homemade biscuits and fresh whipped cream for 500 people! Afterwards, campers and counselors were throwing Frisbees and kicking the Soccer ball around, or just hanging out, sharing a moment with friends.  As that wound down then it was announced that it was finally time for one of our most important annual traditions…

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Nancy Tucker!  For those new to our community our good friend Nancy Tucker is a dynamic, engaging guitar player/singer who has been performing at Kenwood & Evergreen’s July 4th celebration since the mid-1980’s. At the end of the show the entire community cheered when we announced that this was her 30th year performing at our summer camp. For almost 1 1/2 straight hours she sang funny songs, classic tunes and renditions of current pop hits.

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Every year the campers and counselors go a little bit crazy for her, but tonight was like nothing I’ve seen outside of footage from when the Beatles played Shea Stadium. When we announced the start of the concert about 35 Kenwood Freshmen and Sophomores ran at full speed from their bunks so that they could be guaranteed a front row seat. Campers of all ages arrived with handmade signs sporting slogans like “I Fancy Nancy” and “Nancy Is A Living Phenomenon”. A group of Evergreen campers silk screened messages of love to Nancy on white t-shirts. Our Hut 6 Senior Boys and Juniper Girls proudly joined her on stage to join her in singing a tune, and when it was over half of them made sure that she autographed their shirts. Campers and counselors danced all night, singing at the top of their lungs.  I love how spirited our kids are, and how quickly they can come together as a community and celebrate a special moment. 

 

When the Nancy Tucker concert ended we walked the entire Camp community together down to the beach for one more amazing special event of the day. As we all waited breathlessly on the beach Bob, Walshy, Tex, Pete and our Maintenance Crew launched a gorgeous 30-minute fireworks display. With each pop and boom the crowd “oohd” and “ah’d”. When ordering the fireworks this year I specifically told the manufacturer that I wanted the finale “to be longer and more awe inspiring than ever before”. And that, I must say, it was. Check out this clip I shot on my iphone.

 

 

With the night coming to a close we stood together in the darkness, held hands, and sang our traditional end of day song called “Taps”.  “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest. God is nigh…” As I stood there looking at our overnight camp community gathered together on the beach, I thought about how much I love that we get to share these moments together. I’m proud to say that after more than 30 years there is still no other place on earth I’d rather celebrate this holiday or spend my summers.

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