We all know the tremendous value of a summer camp experience in developing independence, resilience and confidence. We also appreciate the close friendships we are able to form. Does going to a small camp provide a different experience that attending a large camp? It really does! This was brought home to me in a stunning way last weekend when I was in New York City visiting my daughter at Barnard College.
New York is such a big city, so it was quite a surprise to hear my name being called as I walked back to my hotel Sunday evening along 42nd Street. A former camper from New Orleans was just coming out of the theater with her mother after seeing “Aladdin.” We had a quick visit on the sidewalk, and we talked about the joy of sharing time at a small camp where we all get to know one another. The next morning, while heading to my airplane gate in Terminal C at LaGuardia Airport, I passed one of our August CITs on her way to her plane. She and her family had been on a vacation in New York City. I crossed paths with two Keystone campers in less than 24 hours in one of the largest cities in the world!
When you attend a large camp, you just don’t get to know everyone. You could be in the same train station or in the same restaurant as someone who went to your camp, but because you did not know them at camp, you are not going to realize you shared that experience. At Keystone, because we know each other, we see each other everywhere! And this has gone on for decades. When I spent the summer of 1983 backpacking in Europe, I went into the central telephone exchange in Munich, Germany, and ran into three sisters from Puerto Rico who had been at camp with me. Last year, I received an email from one of our former campers from New Jersey. She was spending her summer in Chile, and sent me the following:
This past weekend a group of friends and I traveled to San Pedro de Atacama, which is a very tiny remote town in the middle of the desert in the north of Chile. We were staying in a hostel on the outskirts of town and when I looked across the campfire I saw a face that looked familiar. When the girl said she was from Atlanta I asked, “did you by any chance go to Keystone Camp?” and she had. It turns out that I ran into another Keystone girl in the middle of the desert in Chile and remembered her after many years. What a very small world.
These girls had not been cabin mates; they had both attended the four week session for a couple of years. With our smaller size, everyone gets to know each other.
I am sure there are many more stories of running into fellow campers. The Keystone community gives us such a great opportunity to form friendships across the different age groups. When you attend Keystone, you become part of a much larger family…and the family stays with you for the rest of your life. You never know where you are going to find a fellow Keystone Girl!