Camp girls are special creatures. Having the opportunity to go to summer camp, and a girls’ camp specifically, is an amazing gift. As I walked down the hill from my house into camp this morning, the wake up bell was ringing. Immediately, I heard the chatter in our younger cabins. This is in contrast to walking past a few of our older cabins where not a sound could be heard. Remarkably, all end up at flag-raising on time! Since today was the final day of our session, the entire camp was dressed in team colors. A few donned tutus in their team colors; others were covered head to toe in paint. The majority had paint hand prints on their extremities while wearing their team t-shirts. All of these various appearances tells me how comfortable we are in this community. One camper had on two different shoes because she couldn’t find the pair for one. Why not wear two different shoes? It is also okay to wear a tutu on your head, if you like, and no one here finds that out of the ordinary.
Camp girls are comfortable with who they are. They are in a community where they are accepted for their whole self. These girls see each other waking up, getting ready for the day, taking on the world, and preparing to go to sleep at night. They get to know everything about each other. Their camp friends become their truest friends. Their camp friends have shared their challenges, their successes, their disappointments and their achievements. What a joy it is to watch these girls through this last week of camp. When a single camper or a group gets up to perform in a capella, gymnastics, cheer, dance or drama, the walls of the building vibrate with the cheers for the performers. The girls are called by name and the support the rest of camp is providing is empowering. The same holds true through team games. The competitor knows she has an important role to fill for her team. She has an entire group behind her as she swims to the finish line or climbs to the top of the wall.
Because we are at camp, we aren’t distracted. No social media, no television, no boys. We can invest in each other. We can be our true self in our relationships with one another. When one girl succeeds, we all succeed. Someone asked me today, “What brings the biggest smile to your face in the summer?” I find I smile the most when I see a friendship bloom between girls who would never have crossed paths if it weren’t for Keystone. To see an 8 year old have a great friendship with one of our 15 year olds because they have shared a table in the dining hall or been in an activity together really warms my heart. This is especially heartwarming when one of the girls may have struggled at the beginning of camp with some homesickness or a lack of confidence. Many times, a child will arrive on opening day wearing a baseball cap low over her eyes so she has to tilt her head back to be able to make eye contact with me. I get to watch this girl progress over the course of the session to wearing that same baseball cap backwards, full smile across her face and exuding confidence.
What do we want for our camp girls? We want our camp girls to grow in their understanding of themselves. Their camp experience provides them with an opportunity to stretch beyond their comfort zones. They are able to challenge themselves to learn new skills in our activities. Our girls get to meet girls from all over the world. A child from a large metropolitan area like New York City or Miami may share a cabin with a girl from a town of 5,000 people. We seek diversity at Keystone: geographic, religious and economic. We want our girls to know that we have more in common with each other than we have differences. We want our girls to know they are strong. We want them to have confidence in their ability to solve problems. Most importantly, though, we want our girls to understand they are in charge of their own choices. They have the resilience and the self-reliance to choose well, to achieve and to be their own best advocate. This is a camp girl.
We are grateful for your support in 2018, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2019.