By Guest Blogger Jen de Ridder, Senior Program Director YMCA Camp Hanes
I am not sure why when thinking about Summer Camp the word “investing” came to mind. Once it did, I could not shake it and it reflects well what we try to accomplish during a camper’s experience. There are two definitions of investing; the first is to spend money with the expectation of achieving a profit or material and second, to provide or endow someone or something with a particular quality or attribute. At YMCA Camp Hanes we work to meet both of these definitions in order to provide a chance for campers to be their best selves and meet our family’s expectations.
We realize coming to camp is both a financial and emotional investment from the family and they have expectations. We work hard to make sure campers experience: a sense of achievement, belonging and builds relationships during their time at camp. We hear from our campers that at camp they feel like their best selves. This is our goal. We do this through hiring great staff, spending quality time training them and giving them the tools they need to help campers reach these goals.
The second definition is the part that really speaks to what we work to accomplish at camp. We work to endow campers with the character traits of honesty, respect, responsibility, caring and faith. We hope to impact a camper with a feeling of being valued, developing skills and having a great time. One of my favorite ways to watch this in action is to help campers at canoeing. If a child has not canoed before there are some clear skills needed to be successful. You have to know which way to hold a paddle, and push the water to move and steer. This is done with a partner so communication and teamwork are a must. In the matter of an hour campers go from not having the skills to canoe, to success. It is awesome to watch your investment in action and the camper’s sense of accomplishment. They feel valued when we take time to teach them and keep them safe and cheer them on. Plus the fun of getting wet and seeing nature brings the activity full circle.
Another example of the investment into campers happens in our dining hall. When campers arrive on Sunday the first meal can be a bit of a learning process. Where they sit, learning how we serve food family style and pass around a table, refilling food, visiting our salad bar and our clean up procedures can be a bit over whelming. We intentionally keep the first meal simple; pizza from our local Italian restaurant and tater tots along with our fabulous salad bar. As campers continue through the week they learn the system and develop confidence in the dining hall. Our values of respect, responsibility, honesty, caring and faith are taught while campers refill a container of food they finished, help clean up a table, take their turn in line at the salad bar, say a grace of thanks and visit and talk with their friends. By Friday we are singing, laughing and so much joy happens as we celebrate at our last meal together.
As I thought it through, I smiled, knowing the hard work both from camp and families helps campers to be their best self. I thought about all the campers who zip down our water zip line, make friends, and achieve so many things, and I know it is worth the investment.
YMCA Camp Hanes offers Resident and Day Camp experiences for children 5-15, Family Camps, School Programs, Retreats and Conferences. For information contact us at 336-983-3131 or visit our website at www.camphanes.org.