This year, CampMinder went #backtocamp. We visited nearly 80 of our beloved clients over the summer to connect, laugh, and find out a little bit more about the issues they’re facing and how we can best meet their needs. This story recounts what Danny Pire, one of our Account Managers, learned when he went #backtocamp2017.
The Anticipation of Getting to Summer Camp
At first, I was a little apprehensive about visiting our camp partners. I’ll come clean: I had never been to summer camp when I was a child, and I didn’t know what to expect. Before starting at CampMinder, I had always assumed that camp was a place where you would go from activity to activity, almost like school. I thought, leave school for the summer just to go to another school…who would want to do that? I never imagined it would be the fun, free-roaming, friend-making, skills-learning experience that I would soon come to witness. It was the real meaning of summer camp.
I landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, jumped in the rental car, and made my way across North Carolina. Little did I know I’d eventually learn the real meaning of summer camp.
Even before arriving at my first camp, I could see the beautiful and lush landscape of North Carolina in the summertime. I’ve always loved nature, and the smell of the pines made me look forward to not only meeting the wonderful people I had spoken to over the years but being able to picture where they were calling from each summer.
Camp History Makes Me Say Wow
When I arrived at each camp, I immediately noticed the smiles on all the faces of the staff, counselors, and of course, the campers. The second thing that hit me was the history within the grounds of every camp. Many of the camps I visited had been around for a very long time – such as Camp Greystone, which has been operating since 1920, and Camp Mondamin, which started in 1922. Camp Rockbrook was actually started by an inheritor of P.T. Barnum – from the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus. The amount of history I got to experience over the course of my back-to-camp tour blew my mind! It was like getting a window into the real meaning of summer camp.
As I made my way from camp to camp, speaking with staff and campers, seeing the different activities that each camp offered, I realized that the history wasn’t just on the outside. For instance, the old dining hall at Camp Ridgecrest (which is the largest, oldest, vertical log structure east of the Mississippi River), although rich with history, hardly compared to the history the campers were creating amongst themselves. Even at newer camps like Camp Spring Creek, which was founded in 2003, I saw campers at play and hanging out with their friends, and I imagined that these pockets of memory would stay with them for the rest of their lives. They were creating a history all their own.
Some of the camps I visited, such as Summer Accelerator, held at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, as well as Summer Programs at Carolina Friends School, created a wealth of experience for their campers as they learned how to create models using 3D printers or potions in the Harry Potter and Company class. For me, being able to provide help and suggestions to the camp staff about our camp management software was a highlight. I knew that the better we were able to help them run the back end of camp, the more precious time and ability the camps would have to create memories with their campers.
This rung true for me as I was arriving to Blue Star Camps, where I showed up at the same time as an older gentleman. As it turns out, he had attended Blue Star as a camper for the first time in 1953! I swear I could see the memories in his eyes as he walked up to the camp office to pick up his grandson. When the camp offered to give him a tour, he seemed overwhelmed with excitement and proceeded to point out the things that weren’t there when he went to camp. His smile was as big as, or bigger than, the current campers playing out by the lake.
I May Not Have Been a Camp Kid, But…
After the week ended, I returned home with not only a sense of accomplishment, having provided as much joy and customer support as I could to these camps, but knowing that in the future I hope my child will also be a camper. What’s more, I realized that the camp experience couldn’t be farther from school after all. It’s a place where campers can learn independence and remember how to be silly. Someday, when my kids go to camp, they’ll be able to make the memories and learn so many of the things that I missed out on. I want them to zip-line into a lake, try archery, and jump on a horse and go horseback riding. But most of all, I want them to create their own history.
What do you think is the real meaning of summer camp?