By Zerline Hughes
I just got a call from my son’s overnight camp. My heart beating faster and faster as the voice on the other end introduces himself, I’m thinking his asthma flared up or he broke his leg. I already fast forwarded to me driving 40 miles up/down to wherever he is in the woods to save him. Damn!
The voice on the call is too slow. He introduces himself, asks my name twice and finally says: “This is not an emergency call.” Phew. Okay. Heart slowing down back to normal, I think, “then why are you calling?” I’m quieter than normal, waiting with bated breath to get to the point of the call. Of course, me being the conclusion jumper that I am, I figured my 13 year old wasn’t making friends; the other campers hate him. He does tend to be a loner, more appreciating the company of adults.
Luckily my negative thoughts were again interrupted when the caller, John, finally broke the news to me.
“Your son is doing great, having a good time and enjoying all the activities.” What? An unsolicited call from a caretaker telling you how good things are going for your kid? Where they do that at? Apparently, they do that at YMCA’s Camp Letts!
John asked if I had any questions about my son’s experience over the last three days, so I asked a series of overbearing mom questions: is he making friends? Is he happy?
After hanging up, I was still confused, though. I guess I just can’t take good news well. It’s not like there was a check box on his enrollment form that said “check here if you require a call updating you on your camper’s progress.”
My daughter has been attending Girl Scouts overnight camp
for four years and I’ve received not one call about her progress – and I was just fine with that. Well, actually, I received a call that questioned her self-proclaimed nut allergy even though it wasn’t listed on any of her previously submitted paperwork. I recall laughing hard during that correspondence. I had to tell the Girl Scouts that my silly girl boycotts nuts because her brother is allergic to them – but she, in fact, is not. Oh, and then there was the time she got stung by a wasp, and camp called, but she was fine.
So, I conjured up the notion that maybe my son had a rough first few days of camp and the camp counselors wanted to report that he was finally acclimated. Scenarios kept running in my head and finally, I decided (again, like an overbearing mom) to call back to actually ask why they called.
The answer: they do this for first-time campers at Camp Letts.
Wow. What a nice, pleasantly surprising detail. The counselor that answered the phone, someone different than John, even went so far as to tell me how they dealt with the storm passing through the area and the planned activities for the remainder of the week. He even told me my kid would not want to come back home and wouldn’t recognize me! I love it.
As I always say (though he was fortunate enough to have received a partial scholarship), you get what you pay for.
So many more kids need to experience really great summer overnight camp experiences. Parents, too! Oh, the time I’m having with this respite from these two! Talk about sleeping in and accomplishing most everything on my task list! But more important, our youth need to branch out, experience real-time, real-life experiences with zero access to their laptops, cell phones, TVs. Further, according to the American Camp Association, psychologist Peter Scales, Ph.D., says, “Camp is one of the few institutions where young people can experience and satisfy their need for physical activity, creative expression and true participation in a community environment. Most schools don’t satisfy all these needs.”
ACA also quotes former U.S. Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell on the benefits of camp for kids: “It gets them away from a neighborhood or situation that may exist in their neighborhoods that isn’t healthy . . . It teaches them how to get along with other people – both other young people as well as adults. To give our children a safe place to learn and grow–camp does that.”
These two are gonna’ have some great stories to tell come Friday when they each return from their respective camp experiences. These six days of out of school time spent in the woods will impact their short- and long-term futures in a very positive way.
Up next week: Washington Performing Arts Jazz Day Camp!
Long live Summer ’16!