The Hills We Climb

I had an older friend who at age 85 made the statement, “You know, I always expected life to be interesting. I just never knew it would be as interesting as it has been.” I am right there with her! It is truly amazing that after 39 years of running Keystone, there is something new to navigate every summer. I think everyone in the summer camp industry considers this summer one for history books. We are living in a new world.

I am very proud of our girls as we close out the four-week session. Our Mini campers also figure into my pride, but it is the overall accomplishments and discoveries across the entire month that resonate. Four-weekers are wonderfully curious and very serious campers. They come in with specific goals and agendas. The month at camp is the highlight of their year. They are completely immersed in their happy place.

I was particularly touched at our last campfire when a camper had a question about her overall awards (K, KC, etc.). We do make mistakes, and we appreciate a camper raising the question when she has a concern. To show that she was indeed deserving of a KC, she opened the pocket of her crazy creek chair. Inside was her entire collection of level cards assembled over her 4 summers here. These are carried with her wherever she goes. Her accomplishments at camp mean that much to her, and she is only one of our Elves. Many summers at Keystone remain ahead of her.

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There is a lot to this happy place for our girls. In many ways, I believe it has become their safe place as well. The more I read about the internet, social media and adolescence, the more I realize the incredible role camp plays in the lives of our girls. The most important thing camp offers is real-time, face-to-face interactions. We want to help our girls learn to own their feelings and address conflict in constructive ways instead of behind a screen. We need to understand the power of our words and the impact they have in real-time. We offer relationships with others who are truly invested in our girls’ success. Our staff reflects our campers. Many are former campers who return because they want to give back to today’s campers. These counselors know how Keystone helped shape who they are.

For the past 38 years, I have said that camp is where you get to be who you want to be. Providing that place was important for a long time. Now, though, I feel camp has another more significant role: Camp is where girls learn they have worth and value to something larger than themselves. None of us can exist in isolation. We need to belong to a community, and camp offers a great opportunity to find their place.

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The girls have a role to play in their cabin’s success. The others count on them to participate in the group. Their help is needed in cleaning the dining table after each meal. They may be in charge of picking up clean towels for their cabin, or perhaps it is their turn to help take the laundry down for the weekly wash. Their voice is needed each evening for circle time. They are needed in the cabin skit or on stage for Lip Sync. They have chores to do each day that allow the cabin to succeed in inspection, perhaps to earn a trip to Dolly’s for being the cleanest cabin. Each girl matters and they are needed. Each girl has value, and others depend on them.

Being a girl has always had its challenges. I don’t think anyone would voluntarily return to middle school! Now, though, it seems harder than ever to grow up. Our girls need reserves when at first they try and do not succeed. We want them to try again until they do succeed. We want to give them skills to work through their challenges. We want them to keep that confidence and self-assuredness that you see in our early elementary girls. So much is asked of girls. We get a lot of mixed messaging in the media. We need to find comfort in our own skin in a supportive community. We can be who we want to be while at the same time understanding how much we mean to the camp community around us. I guess the ideal world would be year-round camp!?!

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We devote a lot of time and intentionality into creating the Keystone experience. We are girls leading girls; investing in them so that they are able to invest in themselves to become strong, capable young women. There is no greater reward than seeing our girls stand tall on their successes, their accomplishments, and their friendships as we come to the close of this session.

Thank you, again, for your trust in allowing us to share ourselves and Keystone with your girls.

It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves

Sir Edmund Hillary
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