Last week I was on the road with my last two camper shows – Richmond, VA and Charleston, SC before returning to Brevard to enjoy the start of the Christmas season. It’s been exciting to see campers and families throughout the past month and to relive memories of the summer through the 2012 highlights. In each city I announced our current camp “construction” project- rebuilding all of the cabin bathrooms on Hillbrook and Hi Ho. That announcement has been met with a big Camp Illahee Cheer at every stop along the way! The guys have been working hard with that big project as well as keeping camp’s grounds beautiful year round. Each bathroom is getting new wall coverings that are easy to clean…white fiberglass, and the floors are being tiled with commercial grade tile. They are sparkly clean and will be a terrific improvement over their more “rustic” former versions.
Throughout the fall, our program director, Dave, has been reviewing feedback from last summer’s activities and has chosen to focus new ideas on basketball, canoeing and fiber arts (in addition to being sure that all other camp activities are the best ever!) Even with our love for camp traditions like campfire on Sunday evenings, eating fried chicken at Sunday lunch, playing Capture the Flag with the red team and the blue team, campers always want to know “what’s new?” Last summer we added the Farm Activity complete with a small garden, fishing and swimming in the pond. We also used the farm for the base for cabin groups to go tubing and for some canoeing trips on the French Broad River. Faith and Fellowship, offered during the June and July sessions for campers 8th grade and older, was also a new activity developed after campers had requested a Bible study and fellowship time. Campers love the opportunity to be part of a group and carry on meaningful conversation and the opportunity to engage with people a little older than they who are walking in the path just ahead of them is one of the great benefits of camp.
I thought more about this aspect of camp when I had a conference call this morning with other camp directors and camp consultant Bob Ditter, who is a licensed social worker specializing in child counseling. He will be coming to North Carolina at the end of January for a day of training for NC year round camp directors and staff. Bob is a phenomenal communicator and mentioned his recent article in Camping magazine http://www.acacamps.org/campmag/1209/camp-vital-engagementand its focus on camp as a scene of “vital engagement” rather than “virtual engagement.”
With our technology-filled world, it’s easy for us to be “alone together”- kind of a hot buzz word topic in the media. Many of us in the modern age want to have our attention constantly focused in many different areas- multi-tasking at its best! And children (and adults) can hide behind texts, email, Facebook posting, tweets, instagram etc…. to present an image. As a result some children are becoming less comfortable with direct face-to-face contact with others. At camp, an environment free of cell phones and other technology, campers must read each others’ verbal and non-verbal cues – “vital engagement.” Furthermore, they are in the company of caring young adults who teach the camp activities- some of which involve high risk and high adventure skills but all are part of a community that promotes building character. So as you make your Christmas list for Santa this season go easy on the latest and greatest “gadget,” but be sure to ask for a sleeping bag, trunk and duffle and a Crazy Creek chair for circling up with friends in the cabin!