I love the beginning of camp.
The population on campus more than doubles and the energy level is through the roof. Last night was special, our Manitou Family came together for the first time this summer; campers from 26 states and 9 countries – talking and laughing with arms around each others shoulders at the end evening activity for the singing of Taps.
With the first day we also have nerves. First-year campers from all over the world, some giving a look as though they landed on another planet when they get off the bus, wondering if others are going to be nice, what sleeping away from home (in a bunk in the woods) would be like, and how cold is the lake. Veteran campers wondering if their counselors from last summer remember them, if they will still like and be friends with other campers from their cabin, and what the College League Teams are going to be.
To help with the adjustment to camp life, we have traditions and routines in place that we all share together. They are a comfort to our veterans and very enjoyable to the new Manitou campers.
It begins in the Dining Hall. Well known meal traditions accompanied by two salad bars, loads of fresh fruit and a few options for our pickiest eaters. Tables are assigned, everyone has a seat, we begin and end our meals together. It carries over into bunk cleanup…everyone takes part in the cabin cleanup responsibilities. Each camper contributes, and shares in the gratification of a good inspection score. Activity to activity, the campers all take part, they try, and they learn. Both on their own and as part of something bigger than themselves.
The first few days are very important as it validates the high expectations the boys have about camp. All winter long they have anticipated the ‘things to do’ at camp, the ‘friends to make’, the food, the fun… we have a lot to live up to!
Today campers are on the move…not much time to sit still and plenty of time in activity. Our staff get to know their campers, and campers get to know each other, their counselors and how camp works.
After lunch is just what you want but never get (at least in America)… rest hour! We deliver mail and email, as everyone is back in their bunk. Many campers take the time to play a game, maybe cards, with their bunkmates. This “free time” in the cabin is a great opportunity for bunk bonding.
When the bugle blows at 2:00pm, the camp immediately comes to life again and everyone runs to the afternoon activities. In the mid afternoon we offer a Canteen snack most days. All campers also have a Waterfront period each afternoon, another chance to enjoy one of Manitou’s most precious assets, the lake!
After dinner, there are two after dinner activities. At the conclusion of every Evening Activity, everyone comes together to sing Taps, and then head back to their bunk to wash up for bed and enjoy their milk and cookie.
After today the anticipation of tomorrow will be even greater. In the morning we begin our regular schedule of instructionals and call everyone out to their College League Teams in the afternoon. It is such a thrill be called out to your team…more on this tomorrow. We hope that after this day every camper will not only have the confidence that he can “survive” camp life, but also see the opportunity of what lies ahead and want more.