Celebrating the 4th of July and supporting kids in needJuly 5, 2015
Yesterday was the end of an amazing first week at our overnight camp…so today we began the start of our fabulous second week of the summer of 2015! This morning we all slept a little later than usual. Because it was the 4th of July, many campers and counselors came to morning assembly decked out in combinations of red, white and blue. Others wore shirts with American flags on them. Others had elaborate costumes (including a few capes and sunglasses painted to look like American flags). It was great to start of the day in such a festive manner.
As I hinted in yesterday’s blog, there were big things going on with the Evergreen Freshmen and Juniper girls last night and today. As part of celebrating July 4th, our girls worked with the leaders of our camp (Deena, Jacki, Phyllis and Courtney) on creating hundreds of delicious peanut free and tree nut free desserts. The list included brownies, decorated cupcakes, cookies, and this amazing s’more concoction I’ve never seen before. They also created gluten free versions of many of the treats. And then, in true Evergreen girl fashion they had a dance party. After breakfast this morning our girls and the leaders of Evergreen headed to the center of Andover, NH, our closest town.
Each year Andover has an amazing 4th of July celebration. The entire community comes out for a festival of food, music, dancing, floats, and more. When I was there I saw a troop of bag pipers and a full procession of veterans. While our girls were there to enjoy the festivities, they were also there for a more selfless purpose. They had set up a booth to sell the delicious desserts in order to raise money for a local charity that supports children who have suffered physical or emotional neglect. The girls sold every single item that they brought with them, and were so excited to be supporting such an important charity. Acka-lacka Ching to all of our Evergreen Freshmen and Juniors girls for putting this amazing effort together!
Also, a major Cha-Hee Cha-Hah to Jacki Mitchell for coming up with this whole idea. Jacki and her husband Bob are our brother-sister summer camps’ athletic directors, and they are two of the most creative people ever. As an example, Bob is the person who thought of Hollowpallooza, our incredible annual music festival.
So while our oldest and youngest girls were busy selling their baked goods the rest of Evergreen had its first intramural sports league game of the season. Each team is named after a different candy (of course a peanut free and tree nut free candy!), and is comprised of campers of all ages and counselors of different units. Over the course of the summer the Candy Bar League teams will get to play each other in soccer, softball, street hockey, kickball, and volleyball. It’s another great way for campers in the different age groups to get to know each other, and have a lot of fun playing sports.
Just after Candy Bar League Kenwood’s Junior Camp went out to play its own intramurals, called “Watermelon League”. This 8-team sports league will play games regularly throughout the summer. The trophy for first place will be a massive watermelon that the winning team gets to devour during week 7. Just like with Candy Bar League, Kenwood’s Watermelon League is one more way we help make sure that our campers and counselors in different units have a chance to build strong relationships.
As brother-sister summer camps we love that each camp has its own traditions and culture. One of the best parts of this is that our two camps have lots to learn from each other. For generations now Kenwood’s Watermelon League has only been for playing softball, whereas Evergreen’s Candy Bar League involved all sorts of different team sports. In our recent post-summer surveys we have got feedback from our boys that they love the camaraderie of Watermelon League…but they wished that it wasn’t just for playing softball. So this year we made a change, and now both camps’ intramural sports leagues will involve a mixture of softball, soccer, street hockey, kickball and volleyball. When Athletic Director Bob Mitchell announced this at this morning’s meeting the kids cheered with excitement. As part of our focus on 21st century skills we try to teach our campers about the importance of flexibility and adaptability, and today it was something that we happily modeled for them!
During Rest Period our Junior Counselors drew a white line down the middle of camp, and flags were placed in strategic locations throughout the campus. The entire community was split into two teams so that we could play one of our favorite weekend games called “Ultimate Capture the Flag”. Throughout the afternoon campers were running and dodging and chasing up and down the property. Some were leaping over the white line in an attempt to score points for their team, while others were giving every ounce of energy that they had to tag someone before they were able to cross into safety. It seemed like campers of every age were having a blast at this game. I lost track of the total points scored, but I do recall that at the end both teams had well over 7,000 points, and every camper I saw looked like they were having a really good time!
After Capture the Flag ended and everyone took a little rest we then hosted our traditional 4th of July BBQ. Our chefs and kitchen staff put out an amazing feast with hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, steak tips, chicken, an assortment of salads, fresh baked cookies and watermelon. The entire Camp hung out together on the grassy field we call the Hollow. Baker extraordinaire Kristie made a mouth-watering homemade strawberry shortcake like none of us had ever had before. Afterwards, campers and counselors were throwing Frisbees and kicking the Soccer ball around, or just hanging out, sharing a moment with friends. As that wound down then it was announced that it was finally time for one of our most important annual traditions…
Nancy Tucker! For those new to our community our good friend Nancy Tucker is a dynamic, engaging guitar player/singer who has been performing at Kenwood & Evergreen’s July 4th celebration since the mid-1980’s (I believe that this was year #29). For almost 1 1/2 straight hours she sang funny songs, classic tunes and renditions of current pop hits.
I simply cannot adequately describe the excitement and enthusiasm that this event creates. Campers of all ages arrived with handmade signs sporting slogans like “I Fancy Nancy” and “Nancy Is A Living Phenomenon”. A group of Evergreen campers silk screened messages of love to Nancy on white t-shirts. Our Hut 6 Senior Boys proudly joined her on stage to join her in singing a tune, and then our Juniper girls did the same towards the end of the concert. Campers and counselors danced all night, singing at the top of their lungs. I love how spirited our kids are, and how quickly they can come together as a community and celebrate a special moment.
When the Nancy Tucker concert ended we walked the entire Camp community together down to the beach for one more amazing special event of the day. As we all waited breathlessly on the beach our Maintenance team launched a gorgeous 30-minute fireworks display. At the request of some campers and staff I DJ’d all sorts of dance and pop music to go with the colorful explosions. With each pop and boom the crowd “oohd” and “ah’d”. When ordering the fireworks this year I had told the manufacturer that I wanted the finale “to be longer and more awe inspiring than ever before”. And that, I must say, it was. The last 8 minutes were a non-stop barrage of lights and sounds, and the whole beach cheered at the top of their lungs for Peter Hilpl, our facility manager and the rest of his crew, who put on the display.
With the night coming to a close we stood together in the darkness, held hands, and sang our traditional end of day song called “Taps”. “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest. God is nigh…” As I stood there looking at our overnight camp community gathered together on the beach, I thought about how much I love that we get to share these moments together. I’m proud to say that after 30 years there is still no other place on earth I’d rather celebrate this holiday or spend my summers.