Hundreds of kids from the inner cities throughout the suburbs live near or below poverty, come from dysfunctional homes, face problems that many people from high class suburbia and above couldn’t comprehend. So it’s easy to see the magic when these children see Lake Michigan for the first time in their lives although most live less than an hour away. Or the fascination with which they examine bugs, trees, diverse scenery on a nature hike. And the kids who learn to ride this being the first time ever on a bicycle, or having children learn to swim, their first time in a pool. I’ve seen theses things at camp, I’ve seen kids overcome, I’ve seen lives turned around, and I’ve seen lives changed. I’ve seen these things first hand while working, but I lived these things. I was a shy, quiet girl coming from the same situations as most of these other kids; but I spent four summers at a camp, where I was accepted, where I was equal, where I learned and lived and grew. I believe in helping, changing, molding, inspiring these children; and from my first hand experience, I believe in summer camp.
The opportunities that are presented to kids at camp may seem trivial, no it’s not the best conditions, yes there are bugs and old cabins, and all of the inconveniences of the natural environment; but this is all the stuff that kids don’t get from living in the city; the experiences, relationships, and interactions experienced are unique and can’t be found in their lives. Most of these kids at my camp come from less than desirable circumstances, but at camp, they learn the basic skills, the basic concepts that create the best of our society; brought down onto a small scale in between capture the flag and swim time. Some of these children have lived through things most adults couldn’t handle, they’re lost their innocence, their naivety, but they gain some of that childhood wonder back when they participate, play, and learn at camp. The core values taught and demonstrated at camp help these kids to grow, even the slightest, through a positive, supporting environment. Some of these kids are stuck in their ways, negative, sometimes even violent; but when you can see one child’s eyes light up at the idea of getting special attention to play a game of chess, you can see the light in that child, you know there is always hope and always some good. Eight or ten days away from home in the depth of summer can create a magical effect on not only the children, but every person who witnesses the miracles created at camp. I know that summer camp can be forgotten, that some of the kids grow up and succumb to the negative influences of drugs, violence, gangs and everything else that their lives are ridden with; but I know that I got out of all of that. I was changed, and from that I know that I’ve helped, guided, and changed other children through my work at camp. I can attest to hundreds of experiences that many people would find unbelievable or too perfect to have happened among the troubled children at a summer camp; but I believe them. I believe in summer camp.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.