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Incredible Little Moments At Camp

You may have noticed that I did not post a blog entry for yesterday. Sadly, after finishing a piece last night around 1:30am my beloved laptop let out a loud gasp (literally, it sounded almost human), splashed an array of colors across the screen, and then ceased to function anymore. My new one arrives tomorrow, and I am currently borrowing Scott’s. Thankfully, my most recent time machine backup was earlier in the afternoon, so there was no real loss. It was more of an inconvenience…except for the photos and video that I shot yesterday that I wanted to share with you. I hope when my harddrive is fully transferred tomorrow that I am able to recover some of what I wanted to show you. In the meantime I’ll try and highlight some of the incredible little moments of the last 48 hours.


Camp slept late on Saturday morning. Toward the end of the assembly Scott announced that there was smoke coming out of the gym, and asked for everyone to sit down while he called our local fire department. It was a total ruse and yes, the Sebells do own a smoke machine for just these sort of moments!. Almost immediately a large red fire truck came down Eagle Pond Road and turned into Camp. Campers young and old squeeled with delight as Mia announced “It’s Big Weekend 2013!” From the truck emerged 6 pairs of counselors, each dressed up to look like the lead characters of some of the biggest movie series of all time. There was Indiana Jones and Marion, Princess Leah and Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Hermoine Granger, Katniss and Peeta from the Hunger Games, Edward and Bella from Twilight, and Golem and Arwin from Lord of the Rings. It was a fantastic start to a fantastic weekend. I loved seeing the creativity of our counselors, and how hard they work to make an event like this special for our kids. And I also loved how quickly our campers threw themselves into this incredible weekend event.


So what exactly IS Big Weekend? In some ways it’s like a miniature version of Color War, with some very important differences. During Big Weekend we divide the camp community up into 6 teams, all based on a theme. And over the course of 2 days campers participate in some traditional, and some creative, sports activities. So at one point today there were boys and girls playing softball, and then later in the day they were laughing it up during an event called “Lineup Ball”. The goal of Big Weekend is to bring our two camps together for some fun, low-key, age-appropriate play, and to help our boys and girls make quality friendships with the kids in the other camp. There’s a great deal of singing, cheering, and team spirit. And when they are playing our more creative games, it’s a chance for them to work yet again on the 21st Century Skills that we have been focusing on all summer long (skills like collaboration, effective communication, leadership, and creative problem solving). 


After breakfast the camp gathered for an assembly in the tent where Mia announced which campers and counselors would be on which teams. Everyone changed into the individual color t-shirt of their team (thank you to all parents who read this year’s packing list and included the array that we had asked for!), and quickly moved out to the first activities of the day. Toward the end of the morning I walked up to the Senior Hill Basketball court and accidentally stumbled upon one of my favorite moments of the entire summer. All of the activities finished just as I arrived, and with a few minutes to spare before the next events a group of campers grabbed the basketballs and started taking some shots. More campers joined them. Some decided to play a little 1-on-1, while others formed groups to play Horse. Others took turns taking free throws and shots from the 3-point line. I turned my video camera on and watch as this completely unscripted dance began with about 60 boys and girls, young and old, coexisting peacefully on the court. Over ten minutes I saw more fun, more friendship, more understanding, and more kindness than you often see in a week outside of this little world of ours. Not once did I see a single moment of conflict, not once did I hear an unkind word. When I receive my new computer tomorrow I hope to be able to share with you the video of this incredible little moment of camp.


The rest of the day was the same. Cheering to and from each event. Veteran campers helping our newest members understand the ins and outs of Big Weekend. And while competition was obviously a part of the weekend, the friendships of the players were always much more important than the wins and losses.


A great example of this was last night’s Rope Burning contest. Each summer Rope Burning is the biggest event of Big Weekend. The six team’s oldest campers participate in a race to see who can be first to burn a rope suspended 12 feet in the air between a series of metal poles. The entire community gathers up on Senior Hill to watch, and even before the first match is lit campers on all teams are leaping into the air with excitement. I have always assumed that at a minimum a successful Rope Burning would need to see all 6 ropes burn through. Last night I learned that I was wrong. Two teams very quickly figured out how to build and direct their fires, and they took 1st and 2nd place. Another team had a slow start but eventually built their own inferno, and they won 3rd place. The three remaining teams found the task harder than they had initially thought. Some got their fires burning only to find that their wooden structures collapsed. Another had wood that was a little too damp after recent a rain, and produced more smoke than heat. And then something magical happened. The three teams of Seniors who had completed their tasks stopped their celebraetions and ran to help their friends in need. They brought the wood that remained from their own piles and gave it to the other teams. They began to work together, all six groups. Seeing this incredible moment in front of them the campers and coaches got louder and louder, jumping up and down, doing all that they could to encourage what they saw. Eventually all 6 ropes fell. Afterwards, Scott had each Rope Burning participant stand in front of the community with their arms around one another. He praised them for their grit and determination, and for the deep bonds that they have formed with each other during their camper careers. I could see on the faces of our younger campers how in awe they were of our oldest kids. It was yet another incredible little moment of this summer and of this weekend, and tomorrow I hope to be able to show you a particular photo of this group that I took last night. It’s pretty powerful. 


After such an exciting event I wandered down to the Evergreen Freshmen bunks with my guitar. Our youngest girls and their counselors joined me in their living room. As I played and sang they snuggled with their counselors on the beanbag chairs. As always I was in a Beatles mood, and played “I Will”, “Yesterday” and “Yes It Is” (which contains my all-time favorite John Lennon lyric: “for red is the color that will make me blue”). The girls thought it would be fun to quiz me on my knowledge of what their tour or home visit was like when they were introduced to Camp (thankfully I passed the test!), and we all had a good laugh about how I remember the weirdest, most random facts about every camper in Camp!


Today was another great day of Big Weekend, and tonight’s closing event was something called “Songs and Formations”. The coaches of each team were asked to write a parody song about their team and the others, and over the 48 hours the kids learned how to sing it. Just after 7:30 everyone sat together on the side of the Hollow while each team got up to sing. Afterwards, each team worked to form shapes, letters, and even animated characters that would convey a story or message about their team. The creativity and ingenuity on display was not to be believed. Our counselors and campers are so clever. As a community we had so much fun laughing together and enjoying the displays created by each team. 


And then it was over and everyone headed back to the bunks. Once again our campers are all asleep, and in the morning we will be fully into week #4 of the summer. I do wonder what will be tomorrow’s incredible little moments!