Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#382 Never Stop Climbing

I just returned from my second year of working as a counselor at The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.  (Post #351)  I had so much fun last year that I decided to do it again! 
The Newman cabin
Last year I described how camp works and all of the activities.  This year I will talk more about the relationships that are formed and my feelings about camp.  I can’t give any camper names but will give some general information. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s difficult for first-time female volunteers to get in.  Once you get in, they hold a spot for you for the next years.  But if you skip a year, you lose that spot.  So in looking at my vacations for the year, I knew something had to give, and I thought it would be camp.  I like to carry over a few days as a cushion and with my bike trips and other things that popped up (BCS game, Auburn reunion), I was pushing it.  After crunching the days again I decided I had just enough days to do it.  Although afterward, I thought I had made a mistake.  Maybe I was pushing myself to do too much.  Maybe I would have gotten lucky in 2015 and gotten right in again.  I should have saved those days.  I later realized how blessed I was to be at camp again.  But I am skipping ahead…

After the volunteer orientation (Volley-O) I felt a lot less overwhelmed than I did last year.  However, I was surprised that I still had thoughts of not returning.  The first couple of days are a bit scary for everyone, campers and counselors.  Who will be in my cabin?  Will they like me?  How will everyone get along?  Those feelings don’t change as you get older.  You do gain confidence more quickly and it becomes easier, but those base feelings of inadequacy are still there.  At least they are for me.  But after the girls arrived we settled into our routines and had a blast. 

This year my campers were 13 and 14 year old girls.  We were supposed to have eight total, but two couldn’t come at the last minute.  With six girls and five main counselors, we didn’t have to worry much about coverage.  Four had (or were in remission from) cancer.  One of these also had diabetes.  The other had mitochondrial disease, which basically makes her tire easily.  The description we were given is running a 4-cylinder engine on 2 cylinders.  She was really active, but she rode in a cart for long distances to conserve her energy. 
No paparazzi!
They all had great attitudes.  One had a difficult experience at camp last year due to cliques, etc. but she came back for another round and really enjoyed her time year.  It helped that one of the volunteer counselors was her main counselor last summer. 

We spent the week doing the usual activities, but we also braided hair (again and again – “Can anyone fishtail braid?”) and painted lots of fingernails.  It was also important to wear the right outfit.  And have the “natural smoky eye” for awards night.  (Is there such a thing?)  As much as the girls love all of the activities, I think just hanging out in the cabin is great for them too.  Just goofing off, laughing, talking, etc. 

This summer’s theme is Never Stop Climbing.  The girls did a great job at that.  They all tried new things.  One had never ridden a horse.  I went out in a paddle boat with her also.  We didn’t last long, but we did it.  She also caught a fish!  And talent?  These girls had oodles of it.  Three got up on stage night and sang.  One in particular tugged at my heart.  She sang one of my favorite songs, “Keep Your Head Up.”  Now this girl was very laid back and a bit quiet.  But whenever music came on she knew all the words.  I was surprised she was going to sing at stage night because she had been a bit timid about other activities.  Another counselor was onstage with her and they played the regular song over the speaker, so she didn’t sing totally alone.  But she owned the performance.  When she got to the chorus, she sang, “You gotta keep your head up” and then pointed the mic out to the crowd so we could sing, “Ohhhhhhh” and “Ehhhhhh”.  She really got the crowd into it and it was so amazing to see.  I totally teared up.  I actually teared up a lot on stage night, but this one was one of my girls.  Last year the song on the radio that reminded me of camp was “Cup Song”.  This year it will be “Keep Your Head Up”. 

sign in the horse barn
My fellow counselors this year were Liz, Evann, Amy and Krista, with Dani, Braelynn and Crystal dropping in from their other camp duties.  We had lots of laughs and I even learned a new term – food baby.  I have since learned it’s a well-known term and I’m just behind the times.  (For those like me who had never heard of it, it’s when you eat too much and your stomach feels very full, like you are having a baby.  A food baby!)  Amy is from England so everything she said sounded so proper.  Food baby and water bottle were two favorites. 
we pranked the Blue Unit by putting up some yellow signs on their cabins
After a couple of days the week flew by as usual.  I stayed in LuLu’s Lodge again, which is fine, but my roommate snored.  The first night I slept sporadically and finally got up at 3 a.m. to sleep in the common area on the sofa.  I woke up every hour, it seemed, and finally went back to my bed at 7 a.m.  By then she was quiet.  Sigh.  I slept a little better the rest of the week and she quieted down a little.  Maybe I was just more tired.  Monday night was my turn to sleep in the cabin with the girls.  Ahhhh – peace and quiet!  They were so quiet it was wonderful.  Although the beds are kinda hard and obviously short.  I was never so happy to get back to my comforpedic bed! 

So back to me being blessed to be at camp again this year.  Being a part of this camp is an interesting phenomenon.  You go there thinking you will have an impact on the campers’ lives.  And you do.  But what happens is that they have a bigger impact on your life.  You leave a changed person.  Every time.  And any problems you might have left back home in the real world?  They seem very insignificant compared to the 120+ kids at camp who are confronting potentially life and death battles. 

On the last day of camp all the girls kept talking about wanting just one more day of camp.  But then if you gave them one more day, they’d want another day, and another, and camp would never end.  Actually, they would love that.  I wish we all could live in a mini camp bubble where there are no putdowns, no physical violence and everyone knows how to have fun.  At camp we talk about taking the spirit of camp with you out into the real world.  I will do my best to do that.  And I hope to visit that magical place next summer.  Until then, never stop climbing! 

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