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Contemplating the power of camp friendships

You may have noticed that there was no new blog yesterday morning. I was out of Camp for the past few days leading an outdoor adventure trip up in Canada. Every year I have the pleasure of taking Hut 6, our oldest male campers, up to Montreal. We pack a lot into the trip. We tour the old city, take in some its most famous cathedrals and art museums, ride a jet-powered boat across the rapids of the St. Lawrence River, play laser tag in a labrynth the size of a city block, and a whole lot more.

camp friendships

Most importantly, we spend this time — their final overnight trip as Kenwood and Evergreen campers — processing all of their memories from these many summers in NH. Over the course of 72 hours I found time to sit with each of them to discuss what brought them to our community, how important their camp friendships are to them, how they feel they have grown over the years, and what being a Kenwood camper has meant to them. It’s extremely emotional for them and for me, and I’m honored to have this time each year with our oldest male campers. As the person responsible for introducing each of them to our camp family I cherish being able to help them sort through all that our overnight camp in NH means to them. 

As I drove the bus home from Montreal this evening I watched them in my rearview mirror and smiled. After 6, 7 or even 8 years together they have learned to care so much for one another. They have found that the bonds of their brotherhood transcend the superficial differences that at earlier ages seemed overwelming. Now, they spend time with each other completely lacking in self-consciousness. They do things like look out for each other, support each other emotionally, hug in a tender moment, or fall asleep on each other’s shoulder during the course of a long bus ride. Or sing together at the top of their lungs every word of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” when it comes on the radio (I wasn’t really prepared for that moment!).

camp friendships

During this trip I happily sat amongst these boys at each meal, as it gave me a chance to hear their favorite camp stories or ask them questions about what they see in their futures. But tonight, as I realized that this was my last trip with them, I sat by myself and quietly worked on a project on my computer. I made a very brief slideshow of my favorite moments of our trip, set to a song that captures what I am feeling this evening. It opens with these words:

I’m not going home
The same way I came
But, I’ll see you tomorrow
On another brand new day

This overnight camp changes people. It’s a large part of why I’m still here after 30 years, and why everyone on our leadership team has made this their life’s work. As a team we love spending meaningful amounts of time with our kids on their big adventures. On these trips we not only get to see them evolve before our eyes but we get to help them process what these moments of growth and deep relationships mean to them.

Just this week Scott was canoeing with our 14-year old boys while Phyllis and Courtney were leading a surfing trip in Maine with our girls of the same age. David and Deena will each be on excursions in the coming days, and Jacki and Bob leave Monday for Evergreen’s own version of this incredible Montreal trip. We all relish this time with our campers, especially during the second half of our 7-week summer camp season. 

I hope you enjoy my very sentimental slideshow that I made at dinner tonight. As you’ll see, we are all going to miss them very much. 

Camps Kenwood and Evergreen has been changing campers’ lives for 85 years. We invite you to learn about the many ways we help our campers become their best selves.

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