Surprise Day at Disney!

Camp Illahee CITs on Surprise Day
A Disney themed Surprise Day lead to lots of singing and festivity!

We awakened this morning to our Heavenly world transformed into Disney World, thanks to our terrific group of CITs from the Paw Paw Patch. CITs are technically still campers, in their last year before transitioning to Junior Counselors, and happily for long time camp parents, drawing paychecks! CITs are rising Juniors in high school, many of them already driving, and happily ensconced just where you want them during the “mobile” summer between Sophomore and Junior years…safe at camp! We have a well-refined program for these girls which still rests squarely in the camper realm, but gives them responsibilities piecemeal, with a director/mentor teaching leadership activity and a skilled CIT “mom” who lives with them in the Paw Paw Patch. As we have developed our older girls program over the past five years, we have seen our numbers grow and have started an application process that starts to prepare each girl for the rigors of being a full-fledged senior counselor. I have read with interest a recent article in Time magazine that confirms what we have long known…colleges and employers have started to connect the dots and realized how much better prepared camp veterans are. One errant comment in the article: many of our counselors say they end the summer with significantly more in their pocket than with traditional summer jobs.

Camp has a bunch of moving parts, and is a little more complicated than the many folks who ask us “what do you do between camp seasons” have considered. Between providing nourishment, medical, spiritual, growth, and fun to a community of 350 including staff, in addition to maintaining (now) two facilities totaling 200 acres, there’s plenty to do. We have become pretty good at predicting how well an applicant will do as a counselor at camp. It is easier when you have known a good many of these young women since they were young girls. Sometimes it’s hard to say “no,” but camp takes a really special set of skills above and beyond a love for camp. Number one in my book is flexibility…followed closely by problem-solving skills. Our goal is for each girl to have an awesome time at camp and to send her home better than when she arrived. Occasionally we fall short, and sometimes there are other factors at play, but our 82% plus return rate each summer (including those who age out) is testament to each subsequent summer being the BEST SUMMER EVER!

Our Sparks…who are a year younger than the CITs…spend a lot of time planning and preparing for final banquet. This involves a lot of butcher paper, a lot of tempera paints, occasional cleaning when it gets on the gym floor or our driveway…and lots of secrecy…because it is TOP SECRET until the last night of camp when all the hard work is unveiled. Surprise Day is usually mid-session and the CITs are given the responsibility to choose the theme, the menus for the day, and even the evening program tonight. This group transformed the dining hall into “It’s a Small World,” our house into Pluto’s Dog House, and the climbing tower to Rapunzel’s tower, complete with her braid visible all the way down.

Breakfast was a festive affair, with different Disney characters greeting diners, and even following campers to Rise N Shine. Chocolate chip pancakes¬† were the centerpiece of the special breakfast. Lunch was a predictable choice, with yummy chicken tenders and salad. Dinner was served “bag supper” style with pizzas served through the window “take-out fashion.” All day, cabins searched with clues provided by our characters for their invitation to the Ball tonight. Entertainment at the Ball was provided by cabin groups who chose their favorite Disney song and performed it on stage “Airband-style.” It was a terrific day compliments of the CITs.

Despite the greens and yellows nearby on the radar return, camp stayed pretty dry save an early morning drizzle, remnants of a leftover rain from last night. There were plenty of trips out of camp, including PVL and PB tubing trips this afternoon. Our three Pineview cabins had fun at the farm last night, and the Sparks are going to take their sign painting supplies out tonight to do some painting, and bonding. Their counselors are going to surprise them with breakfast in the morning. It looks like tomorrow may be wet again in the afternoon and then clearing for the rest of the weekend into next week. Camp doesn’t stop, even in the rain. We are blessed with lots of great indoor space if we need it. Lots of times, we just keep on going! We are having a blast in the Heavenly. It only gets better…

One response to “Surprise Day at Disney!

  1. I sure would like a bunk in the Heavenly! Chocolate Chip pancakes and Disney – and it gets better???? Wow! Pretty spectacular!

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