Making Camp a Part of Life: A Three Part Series
My name is Mike McDonell and the President of Kidventure. For the past 21 years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to run summer camp programs for thousands of kids and their families. What’s more, I am surrounded by the most energetic, passionate and motivated team members who genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of kids. Camp is awesome.
Perhaps my childhood was unique, but it was filled with adventures down into the limestone creek, forays into the deep woods and quests of imagination that filled my youth with wonder and amazement. Too often today however, kids are left to wonder behind one of many screens, over-scheduled by eager parents, and prevented from moving their bodies, that desperately need to be in creative motion. This is why camp has never been needed more than now.
In a three part series of articles, I will provide readers with a little of my insight, my experience and my recommendations for bringing some of 'camp', home. The three-part article will be divided as follows:
Part I: What Camp Gives our Children Part II: Why Camp Needs to Come Home Part III: 5 Ways we can Bring the Joy of Camp to Our Kids
Part I: What Camp Gives our Children
It has always been my belief that we cannot grow a happy, healthy adult without raising a happy, healthy child. Over the course of the past 21 years my organization Kidventure has worked to do exactly this through this wonderful thing we call summer camp.
So what is it about summer camp that is so appealing, so memorable and timeless? Many kids will forget the name of their 3rd grade teacher, but few will forget the name of their camp counselor. Camp, when done right, embodies the best in people and provides the opportunity for children and camp staff to realize their importance in the world and become greater through the shared experience.
When stripped down to its core camp provides us with five important opportunities. These five opportunities are as follow:
Camp gives our kids the chance to experience a sense of wonder. Be in the presence of kids who are watching their first shooting star blaze across the night sky. Experience the joy of zip lining over a canyon and listen as everyone sings the camp songs in grand unison. In each situation a child has been shown that the world is broader, more limitless and wonderful than ever imagined.
Camp provides the opportunity is to play and create with abandon. In a world so structured between school, organized sports and the hectic schedules of parents, camp offers freedom. To experience the chance to run and play without perceived boundaries touches our soul and provides us with independent happiness. Time to be in moments such as these is not only fun, but essential to healthy development.
Camp creates real, lasting relationships. All too often our children’s definition of what a friend is, is defined by a social media button. Real relationships and ‘friends’ are fostered through mutual adventures, opportunities to unite and time for learning about others below skin level. Camp affords one of the best settings for such friendship.
Camp gives kids a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves. In a world that too often placed such an emphasis on the individual and the pursuit of ‘me’, camp teaches us something else. When kids of different backgrounds, faiths and understandings come together for common good, something magical happens. They realize that the world is made richer by others and that things really are better when we count on, rely on and put trust in those beside us. A lesson many in our world could use right about now.
Camp gives us hope. Our kids grow up in a scary world. A place whose violent graphic details, constant sound bites and YouTube clips can be viewed anywhere at anytime. In a world such as this, it is easy to feel vulnerable, afraid and insecure. Camp provides one of the best opportunities to foster trust, build strong confidence and construct an outlook on life that is both positive and affirming.
Kids today, might not have that creek to retreat to behind the house or the tree that can be climbed toward the sky. But camp is here and for many children it provides one of the best opportunities for participating in the best life has to offer. With camp, our kids have a better chance of being a part of something special, developing and greater sense of self confidence and experiencing childhood as it was meant to be. Do the world a favor, send them to camp.