Very Happy Campers | Summer Camp RitualsJuly 1, 2014
It’s day two of the summer of 2014, and already we have some very happy campers
It’s hard to not be a happy camper on a day like today. The weather was perfect — warm and sunny with beautiful blue skies all day long. Today was our second full day of the summer, and with it came a number of important summer camp rituals. Just after breakfast both camps lined up to take some photos. We took group portraits of both Kenwood and Evergreen, each unit and bunk, and then every individual camper. It was fun to bring everyone together to take some photos that will hang in the dining hall for decades to come.
After picture taking we rolled out to activities. Evergreen campers of all ages took tennis lessons, and for the first time this summer kids were behind the water ski boat. We also had boys and girls slipping down our 27-ft inflatable water slide, and others testing out our other new inflatable called the Rocket.
I spent a lot of time at our art studios today. In Arts & Crafts campers were learning how to make Harry Potter-style magic wands, and also how to make their own silkscreen t-shirts. Our photography counselor set up a studio in one of our basements, and blocked out all of windows so that no natural light could come in. Then she taught the kids how to extend the exposure of an image, and then use light to “draw” on an image. They also made funny portraits of each other while shining flashlights in and around their faces. As you can imagine, the kids loved this very creative project! In the film studio campers were writing and starring in clips for this week’s Kenwood and Evergreen online newscast. At the music building a group of campers wrote, performed and recorded a tune that they wrote to be the theme song for the newscast! Ceramics Andy was teaching kids how to pour liquid clay into plaster molds to make plates, cups and bowls, while at the woodshop campers began their designs for building soap box derby racing cars that they will actually be able to ride!
Tonight was one of my favorite Camp rituals: Kenwood’s Opening Campfire. Just as the sun dipped below the horizon, Head Counselor David Walsh and the Unit Leaders lit their ceremonial torches and lined up their campers for the processional. Our boys sat in a tight circle around our beautiful hand-laid stone fireplace that looks out over our lake. As the first part of the ceremony Head Counselor Walshy taught the boys how to simulate a rainstorm. Then one of our beloved unit leaders from New Zealand shared a tradition from his culture called “Pukana”. He got campers of all ages up to the fire circle to join him for a fun, somewhat silly event that you can watch below.
As the most important ritual of the night, Scott talked about the power of our community, of our shared brotherhood, and of how people in the Kenwood & Evergreen family learn what it means to take care of each other. Athletic Director Bob Mitchell stood up and talked about how much he loved sports, but also how he loved that when K&E campers play sports they always take care of and support the other players (even when they are on the opposing team). Scott and I both played guitar and sang, and one of our counselors who was new to Camp last year sang a gorgeous, powerful song that he wrote about how our summer camp in NH has become the place that he calls home.
Towards the end of the campfire we had a big ceremony in which we introduced all of our youngest campers to their Kenwood Big Brothers. For the rest of the summer our big brothers will play an important mentoring role in the lives of our youngest campers. When the campfire was over the big brothers took their little brothers back to their cabins to help them prepare for sleep, and tell them about what camp means to them. Tomorrow, just after lunch, our 15-year old Big Brothers will board a bus with their Little Brothers and head out for a day of bonding, bowling and ice cream.
As the final act of the Kenwood Campfire Scott invited all of the campers from our youngest unit to help dig up the original Shield of Honor, which we bury at the end of each summer and leave in the ground all winter long. Scott explained to everyone the meaning behind the Shield. Originally created as a memorial to one of Kenwood’s former campers who perished in WWII, the Shield of Honor is awarded each summer to the campers in each age group who most consistently exhibit our collective values: kindness, commitment to our community, honesty, and being an all-around good friend. This original tin shield, created in 1946, will hang in our dining hall throughout the summer and serve as a reminder of what Kenwood is all about. In just 47 days we will return it to the ground for yet another long winter.
While Kenwood had its campfire Evergreen had its own special ritual tonight: Capture the Flag. As the sun set over a field we call the Hollow our Evergreen girls were running their hearts out, leaping and diving across the field’s dividing line. From across the campus you could hear our girls roaring and cheering with every point scored or flag defended. In this game the flags are wroth 10, 20 and 50 points, and at the final whistle one team had about 1300 points, while the other had a little more than 1400. And for all of the hard work and determination that they showed on the field, as they walked off I watched our girls on both teams proudly wrap their arms around each other. I so love the spirit of this place.
After a very full and fun day at the end of the night the Evergreen administrators squeezed in one last camp ritual by taking out a group — our oldest campers whom we call “Juniper” — out for a night of bonding and pizza. Deena, Phyllis, Jacki, Mia and Courtney have been a part of our Juniper girls’ lives for years now, and for most since they were 8 and 9 years old. They are so proud of who our girls have become, and relished having them all to themselves, if only for a couple of hours. Apparently they sang Camp songs all the way to the restaurant and all the way back.