Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Best Job EVER!

Today I have a guest post from one of my former staff, Meghan Odgen. I asked her to write a blog about how a job at summer camp is the best job ever! (I added a couple of pictures of Meghan with some commentary). Here is Meghan's Blog Post!

Meghan before the counselor hunt
I started as a counselor between graduating high school and starting college and I was hooked. The summers I spent working at camp were most of the best summers of my life. Being fresh out of high school as most teenagers do think they are ready to be an adult. As a new counselor, only attending camp as a camper for 2 weeks in my life when I was 12 and 13, I was nervous, scared, excited, and not sure how hard it would be. It's a huge responsibility to help kids experience camp away from their parents. I wondered if the campers and staff would like me, would they respect me? How would I handle if a child was sad about being away from home? How would I handle an issue with other camp staff? And how was I going to remember all the rules to "Predator Prey" or every game? (There's notes for "Predator Prey" by the way. Phew!). How am I going to deal with kids around my age? By the first full week of training, I was more excited than anything. It was during that week that I quickly realized that all the other staff around me were there as a support, some being new like me and some being there for years. I learned something from everyone! 

Meghan during the counselor hunt
I remember during one of the first weeks of campers that summer, a returning camper, he was about 12-13, said "hey Meghan, watch this!" And proceed to do a back flip off the picnic table. In my head, I was thinking "please don't hurt yourself" and "this is going to be fun to explain" if he did get hurt. He didn't get hurt and stuck the landing, thankfully. As I said to him, "cool, don't do it again!" Another staff, it was her first year as well, came around the corner, screaming "how dare you do that!!" and "why did you let him?!" For the record, I didn't anticipate him doing that and we both got lucky he didn't get hurt but I am sure it wasn't his first picnic table he back flipped off of. His response to me was "ok" and to the other staff he rolled his eyes as most teenagers do. I didn't have a problem after that. Yes he shouldn't have done that, but it showed me that I could handle it and to think ahead to what could happen. I survived my first summer with a list of camp songs to sing, and no voice by the end of the first week. I cried most of the 3 hour drive home and couldn't wait for next summer. 

I have no idea what they were doing...
Towards the end of my tenure at camp, I was given the opportunity to obtain my life guarding certification. This meant extra time at camp and I jumped at the chance. It was a grueling course, which I had taken in high school and did not pass. So with that in the back of my mind, I was hesitant. I attended class each day and was happy to learn that some of the requirements had changed making it so I could pass the class, almost with flying colors. The perseverance to try the course again offered me the chance to try other program areas at camp. I was able to learn to sail, and canoe with Waterfront. I went on a 4 day back packing trip. I had camped growing up but this was more than I was used to. Now the responsibility feel on me to make sure the campers were safe off camp for 4 days in the Adirondacks. Yikes! We made it without a major scratch! Another moment where I surprised myself with how well I handled that situation. 

Campfire song
 I soon learned to be able to handle the sad campers, the teens as a CIT coordinator, and other staff and have a blast at the same time. I started out quiet, shy especially in new situations and around unfamiliar people. These people I worked with each summer became my summer family. Most are still my friends or in my life in some way. Between the day to day of camp and the weekend trips I can't thank them enough for all the ways they impacted me. 

These are life lessons I use past my tenure at camp. I know I am capable of more than I think. I can survive on 6 hours sleep, no voice, and still have lots of energy for all camp Capture the Flag. Camp friends are life friends! 

Every summer I long to be able to return to camp, though I am not sure I have the energy needed, but to smell campfires, make friends, and basically get to work at the hardest but best job of my life. I learned a lot in my 5 summers as a counselor about myself and in general. I have so many memories from my summers at camp. 

Meghan Ogden

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lantern Families

Lantern Families? What is that all about?
I guess I need to go back a few years to explain. (Sorry, us camp directors LOVE to tell stories...)

Way back at my old camp I used a lantern to light the opening campfire. It started out being a practical application (it was really windy at camp), but slowly it evolved into something else.

Everyone at camp knows how magical and mystical campfires are. Every camp has campfires. The light of the fire draws you in, the fire warms you and people just love to sit around a fire and tell stories. It's easy to draw a parallel of the spirit of camp and a campfire.

Since I used the lantern to light the campfires, eventually the lantern was seen as the holder of the camp spirit. I made more of a production out of it. I would never have the lantern unlit in front of the campers.We started the campfire by talking about the camp spirit and the lantern. A few campers would come up and tell about how they became an honor camper, and they took the flame from the lantern and lit the campfire . I would CIT's would carry the lantern at the end of the week to the honor camper ceremony. We even lined the trail to the ceremonial ring with small lanterns. It really added to the tradition and magical feeling of the campfires.

When I came back here to Sacandaga, I was moving stuff around and I found this old lantern in the maintenance shop. This Deitz Little Wizard lantern was made in Syracuse, which means it was probably made before 1956. (The Deitz factory moved to Hong Kong after 1956) I would like to think that maybe it was here when 4-H purchased the camp back in 1945. (for more details- check out our Camp History.)  I was so excited I amost dropped it when I carried it back up to the director's house to clean it. And with a little attention, the lantern lit right up.

I will be using it for out camp ceremonies this summer. I really believe in symbols and traditions, and I hope this becomes a tradition at camp for years to come.

So what does this have to do with families? Well, just like the lantern, many of our camp families hold the camp spirit. They love camp so much, they get other people to come to camp. And we want to reward that camp spirit.

Every lantern family get a $50 discount off registration (for next summer- 2017) for each new camper they get to sign up for summer camp.If they get 5 new campers they get to send their child for a week of camp for free in 2017!!! All they need to do is make sure the new camper's parent list's the lanterns family on their registration form (under the  "How did you learn about camp? " section).

Is that it? Nope- Lantern families get invited to this summer's Kick Off  BBQ - Sunday, July 10th - a free BBQ with games, music and lots of fun. Families also get a Lantern T-Shirt.  Lantern families that come to the BBQ also get to check in their child early for Session 1!

How do you become a Lantern Family? What do you need to do? It's simple. Here are the easy steps you need to take...

#1 Register your child for this summer
#2. After you sign up, talk about camp and get your friends to sign up their children.
#3. When the new family registers, they will be asked where they heard about camp. They can chose "Lantern Family" from the choices, and put your name in as the family that recommended them.
#4. We will be sending out lantern family emails each month. You should also receive an invitation from us to the lantern BBQ by June 1st. If you have not- please call us. (518)548-4742.
#5. Come and have an amazing week at camp.
#5. In October / Early November you will receive a discount code for when you register for 2017 for the campers you recruited.

That's it!  It's that simple. Give it a try, and help me to pass on the camp spirit!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Kid is a Kid is a Kid....

I recently got this email, and I wanted to share it- It's from Jaclyn Bealer from my last camp, and it sums up my thoughts about campers...

This week I've been video interviewing all of our veteran Junior Counselors. I was just chatting with a past camper and she mentioned that she and a few other campers want to put together an initiative to help our counselors be more aware of transgender/non-binary campers. 

I told her how great that was and then told her what you said this last summer in staff training, "A kid is a kid is a kid and that every kid at our camp is treated with kindness and respect, and is given the opportunity to be their best selves without fear of judgement." She started crying and said how thankful she was that that welcoming mentality was already being embedded in our staff - especially, since the rest of the world isn't quite so receptive or warm yet.