As the end of a session approaches, I like to spend some time observing the girls and how we work as a community. This allows me the opportunity to sum up our experiences together into my final campfire conversation. Tonight’s topic is freedom.

Hodding Carter, Jr., once said, “There are two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children…one of these is roots; the other, wings.” We have the pleasure of working side by side with our Keystone parents, and we know how committed you are to providing solid roots for your children. By allowing them the opportunity to attend Keystone, you are also providing the wings.

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It is not uncommon to see a camper running across the green with her arms extended, much like a bird soaring above. This sight is what inspired me to think about the freedom our girls have at Keystone. Many of our girls are growing up in major metropolitan areas where open spaces are limited. Perhaps their bicycle can be ridden to the end of the street but no further. Yes, we have boundaries at camp, but within our Keystone world, we run free.

The girls make their own way from activity to activity, from the cabin to the lake, from the barn to the Pavilion and everywhere in between. This most often happens with a friend, but at times, alone, and that is okay. They know their way around camp. They feel secure here. They know there is always someone close by if they need a direction or to have a question answered. But this is their world, their home for a couple of weeks each summer. They own the place, and they help define who we are as a camp community.

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Our campers are in charge of their choices, from which activities to take to what is on their dinner plate. The world at camp is one of opportunities: How do you want your day to go? What are you most interested in doing? Would you like to take a trip out of camp? One of the favorite choices I enjoy seeing made is the outfit to wear for the day, or sometimes, two. Some of the combinations our Elves come up with are spectacular, particularly when the clothing is accompanied by a headband of animal ears or a unicorn horn. If a decision they have made doesn’t work for them, then they decide to make a change. Camp is a place where the girls completely own their decisions. Life here is their choice.

As a child, where else can you have the opportunity to meet and form friendships with other girls from so many different hometowns and backgrounds. Our friendships are not defined by our school or our neighborhood. Our friendships cross ages, oceans and years. I love watching the interactions between our leadership girls and our little ones. We want our campers to see role models and what their potential is as they grow. Very little brings me more pleasure than to see the camp friendships continue beyond the camp sessions. Over the years, our girls have gathered for fun weekends together in different cities. They have been college roommates and in each others’ weddings. These friends remain constants in an otherwise changing world.

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Not only do our campers enjoy their freedoms, but so do our counselors. Where else can a 19 year old woman spend a night covered head to toe in orange paint and no one find it odd? Camp is a place where we are accepted as ourselves. We share the desire to do an amazing job for the campers. Our loyalty is to our Keystone community and we work at every turn to build a strong, supportive group of women. Our staff is another group who enjoys the breadth of the friendships they make at camp. At a recent staff meeting, one of our 1st year counselors commented that she has made her new best friend here. One member of the friendship is from Indiana and the other from England. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the counselors who have grown up together at camp over the past 6 years.

So much of our world today consists of expectations for us: we need to make good grades, we need to make try outs to join a team, we need to build our resumés, we need to find a job, etc. At camp, we can just be. We are free from the demands of the outside world for this brief bit in time. We can celebrate all that childhood offers to our girls, and we can protect its magic, idyllic ways. We enjoy the freedom of being in this wonderful girl world while at camp.

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Reflecting back on what Hodding Carter, Jr., had to say, I realize now that Keystone not only provides wings, but we contribute to the roots as well. When the cabin wishes are shared around the lake tonight, I know I will hear an often repeated phrase, “I like the girl I have become at camp and I want to take her home with me.”