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The power of knowing you have overnight camp friends for life

There’s something so powerful about having friends who support you unconditionally. It makes you feel like you can weather any storm or accomplish any task life puts in front of you. Ask any camper or counselor here what’s the most important thing to know about our brother-sister summer camps and they reply “to be a good friend”. It’s the Kenwood and Evergreen way

It’s not always the easiest thing to do. Learning how to make and maintain friendships takes time and practice, with a lot of mistakes along the way. But I think the fact that we acknowledge all of this in our community is what helps everyone learn to really value their camp friends…and work so hard at maintaining these friendships for life. 

As a 7 week camp we reached the exact halfway point of the summer today, and everywhere you looked were example after example of the sort of friendships that are hard to create outside of an intentional summer camp community

RELATED: How intentional summer camp rituals help combat homesickness

Yesterday afternoon some of our oldest male campers, known as Hut 6, traveled to VT for an afternoon of cliff jumping and river riding. Later in the day some of the boys decided to cool off by slathering themselves in the mud that they found on the river’s banks, and then dance around like wild men. I love how much fun they had, and how much they all enjoy being together.

Take a look at our amazing outdoor trips and adventures

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With their camper careers winding down, these guys are using every available minute to be with each other and have a great time. But it’s not just “hanging out” — after so many summers together our Hut 6 boys seem eager to savor every experience together, and make the most of these last few weeks. It’s a lot of deep conversations and discussions about what have these last 6 or 7 years truly meant. 

Which is what led to this photo. With the cheering support of his friends this daring young man from Newton, Massachusetts leapt off of a cliff and plunged 30 feet into a gorgeous (and deep) natural pool of water. This is healthy risk taking at its finest. Adventures like this seem to happen much more regularly when you are surrounded by your close friends. 

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The boys returned to camp late last night ready and recharged for today’s Tri-State Softball Tournament. Our campers have the opportunity to play in all sorts of tournaments, but none seems to be as beloved as this one. Bringing in half a dozen camps from all over New England, this 15-&-Under Softball event is something so many of our campers look forward to play in. 

For the past three weeks we’ve had two different Kenwood teams practicing for this special event nearly every single day. I will leave it to Scott to describe how it went:

So proud of our Kenwood Tristate 15& Under softball teams. Our Maroon team took 4th in the tournament today and our Grey team took first!

The best part…The Grey team lost their second game to their rival, Camp Winaukee, after the mercy rule was triggered by Winaukee’s decisive 15 run lead. After winning their next game, these resilient and determined Kenwood players faced Winaukee again in the finals. They played with heart and never gave up, winning the game and the championship 12-2. We are a small boys camp with a big heart. Couldn’t be prouder of these boys.

These are the sort of things you can accomplish when you have a group, a team, or a crew of friends like these campers have developed other their many summers here. 

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Speak with one of our directors

The same is evident in our girls’ camp. Just after dinner the Evergreen 1st Year Seniors invited all of Junior Camp into the downstair rooms of Cypress Lodge for a “slumber party”. All evening our older girls were pampering their younger friends, doing their nails, braiding their hair and giving them massages. And in the midst of all of this fun they were also asking them important questions like “how has your summer been” and “what makes you happiest at camp?”

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This entire event is about our 13 year old girls making sure that our younger campers know how much they love them, and helping our newest campers feel as safe and supported as possible while they are away from home. As you can see from the pictures everyone was having an incredible time, and everyone was bonding like crazy.

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Nights like this go a long way towards our girls feeling like a valued member of the Evergreen Sisterhood. Can you think back to when you were 9 or 10, and how excited you would have been to have this sort of experience with a cool, kind, amazing 13 year old you looked up to? Nights like tonight are also another way we help our older campers figure out how to be friendly, approachable and effective leaders.

Just after dinner I joined the Kenwood Freshmen as they were setting up their campsite after their climb up Mt. Kearsarge. For most of our boys this was their first time climbing a mountain, and in the days leading up to this trip most had approached me with concerns.

“Is this climb safe?”

“Do I need to wear a rope harness?”

“What if I trip and fall off of a cliff?”

While I assured them that everything about this adventure was perfectly suited to their age and skills, they were still a bit unsure. It was definitely outside of many of their comfort zones.

Trips like this can be amazing, but they can also provoke some nervousness. But just hours after their departure they were so excited to tell me about the trip that they were all talking at once, and rapidly. In particular, they seemed most eager to share their stories of people falling down, lagging behind, or struggling during the climb, and how they extended a hand to help their buddies continue on with the expedition. I kept saying to them “Guys, this is what friendship is all about!”

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The Freshmen Unit Leader had all sorts of team building exercises planned for this evening. First, each bunk worked together in a race to see who could build a fire and burn a rope suspended 3 feet in the air. After a detailed lecture on how to do this safely, each bunk spent the next ten minutes figuring out how to make and direct their fire. All three ropes were successfully burned, and each bunk of boys celebrated their accomplishment.

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Then it was learning how to grill over and open fire, followed by discovering that you can make delicious sundaes on the trail — substituting bananas and strawberries for ice cream. The boys were paired up with a buddy and given a cooking lesson from one of their counselors.

Then they climbed into their lean-tos and got just a bit silly before falling off to sleep. Look at their faces. Most of the kids in this photo had never even met each other a month ago, and already they look like they’ve been friends for years. This is the sort of closeness you get with your camp friends. 

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My favorite part of the evening was when their unit leader Josh Williams got them all to sit around the campfire to talk and sing songs. They discussed the serious climb they had just been on, the excellent meal that they had just had, and how great it was to have them all together as one big Oak Rogues Family. As I watched them from just a few feet away I thought to myself how nervous most of them had been about today’s outdoor adventure trip, and how proud each of them was this evening for what they had accomplished. They had all conquered a fear or anxiety today, and had done so because of the help of the other guys in their unit. As the sun set they were just a bit stronger, more confident, and more mature. 

All of these moments happened today because of how our campers were able to come together and support one another. This is the power of knowing you have made friendships at overnight camp that will last you throughout your life. This is the Kenwood and Evergreen way. 

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