Yesterday was our overnight camp's annual Boston Area Fall Camper Party for campers, ages 7-12 years old. It was a jam packed fun afternoon of getting to do some of our favorite summer camp activities. We played gaga, street hockey, indoor soccer, ping pong, and basketball. We also worked on art projects like painting and decorating wooden photo frames and making friendship bracelets.
This event was a chance for returning K&E campers to spend time with some of their friends and favorite counselors from last summer, but it was also a chance for our newest campers to meet their peers and begin making friendships. During the party we played all sorts of ice breakers -- silly, funny games designed to help campers become more comfortable with a new group of people, learn everybody's names, and figure out with whom they had the most in common.
Long time K&E counselor Josh ran one game called "Splat", which got even the most nervous new camper moving, laughing and shouting out people's names in a matter of minutes. Evergreen's Head Counselor Courtney ran another exercise, which had each camper take turns listing some of their favorite things, and then seeing which of her new friends shared that same interest or passion. I ran one of my all time favorite ice breakers called "Evolution" which is essentially a multi-round game of rock, paper, scissors while requiring participants to do their best impressions of gorillas, chickens, and eggs (we decided that eggs say "wobble, wobble, wobble" as they roll around meeting other eggs).
While our 50+ campers and 20 or so staff were having a blast playing and getting to know each other Scott and Deena had their own fun little gathering with our Camp parents. Because our overnight camp is all about creating a warm, inviting, nurturing community, we spent over an hour welcoming in the parents of our newest campers to the K&E family. We wanted to give them a chance to ask our leadership team questions they've thought of since their summer tour or home visit, and also begin to forge friendships with our returning camp parents.
Towards the end of the party we all got together to sing Happy Birthday to our Camp friend Jared who had turned 12 the day before. Celebrating your birthday with your Camp friends is a pretty special moment, even when Opening Day of this coming summer is still over 7 months away! In honor of Jared's birthday we served everyone festive cupcakes in K&E colors, and made sure that they were both peanut and tree nut free (since our Camp family has many, many members with food allergies). We also had gluten and dairy free cupcakes for our friends with Celiac Sprue or dairy allergies.
Sadly, like all winter Camp events, this one felt like it ended too soon. Everyone was having such a good time throughout. It was wonderful to see how quickly our returning campers were able to jump back into their relationships with their camp friends, and how much fun they had with their camp counselors. I lost count of how many parents told me that they never see their son or daughter as happy or excited as when they are with their overnight camp friends. Many also took me aside to say that even after one summer at Kenwood and Evergreen they recognize how much their child has grown and matured. I also loved how quickly and kindly our returning campers and parents welcomed in our newest community members. By the end of the party every new camper had a huge smile on his or her face, and was telling their parents how excited they were for Camp to start! This is how we model what our overnight camp community is all about, and how we make sure that every new camper knows they are have chosen the right place to spend their summers.
Thankfully, we don't have to wait too long until our next winter Camp events. On Saturday, December 9th we will be gathering at Longfellow Athletic Club in Natick for our annual New England Area Camp Reunion. Over 125 campers and counselors will be gathering that night to play basketball, soccer, swim, hang out in the hot tub, watch the premier of our 2017 Video Yearbook, and get some quality time with their camp friends.
A few weeks after that will be our Winter Getaway Weekend up at Camp for campers 13-15, and then on Saturday, January 27th will be our biggest, craziest Reunion of the year, with more than 250 campers and counselors doing all sorts of fun things at the Chelsea Piers in Stamford, CT. And then, in May, we have our regional New Camper Parties!
I just don't know of any overnight camp community that has this much fun together, welcomes its newest members quite like this, or has so many wonderful opportunities to bring its camp friends together in the offseason!