Shabbat-O-Gram Week 1
Yesterday I was talking to a first-time camper about how the session’s been so far. In a funny turn of events, he told me his parents had originally meant to inquire about the OTHER Kingswood, in New Hampshire. He joked and said their mistake was the best mistake they’ve ever made, and that he was so happy they picked the ‘wrong’ camp. 🙂 Walking around camp this week, seeing the whirlwind of excitement and laughter, he’s in good company with campers thrilled to finally be here!
It’s hard to believe it’s only been one week when I look around camp today. It’s been a week of firsts – for some campers it’s their first time away from home, and for others it’s their first time sleeping out since COVID. For some campers it’s their first time without a screen for a whole week (which I know I would struggle with!), and for others it’s their first time sharing a living space with a room full of other kids. Firsts can be hard, but they’re also incredibly rewarding. This week I’ve been lucky enough to witness many firsts, and the sense of accomplishment and pride that follows. The smile that beams across a camper’s whole face, that’s been hidden for way too long underneath a mask. The half inch gained by standing up a little taller with the confidence gained with each success. The relaxed shoulders of campers who have made a new friend, or connected with a counselor, acquiring a new role model who could be in their lives for years to come.
This year, in our two weeks of training before campers arrived, we talked a lot about the need for kids to feel seen and connected, more this year than ever before. Seen – as individuals, deeply, genuinely, for who they really are. Connected – to friendships, to their counselors, to activities they love. Helping campers feel seen and connected – our mission for our first COVID summer. It hasn’t been a cake walk, if I’m going to be completely honest! As camps across the country are all seeing, campers have come off the bus with more ‘baggage’ than usual. We’ve seen the usual first-time homesickness from new campers, but also some pretty confused older campers who can’t understand why they’re tearing up about missing home. Campers who know they have mastered sleeping out and LOVE camp, but are finding themselves drifting to sad during downtime, like they may have done their first summer away. Campers who are acting out more, being a little more physical than usual, getting into small tiffs with bunkmates…all because quarantines and distancing and virtual lives have led us all to forget a bit how to be kind and patient humans. Kids have forgotten how to talk to others face-to-face. How to share, accept differences, and compromise. Some of you have probably already heard about some of these hard moments in letters home. COVID has clearly had an impact on the mental health of young people, and we’ll be feeling it for years to come. But so many Kingwood campers and staff have shared that even with the hard moments mixed into the fun, camp is exactly what they need now, and there’s no place they’d rather be, whether it be sitting on the end of the dock on Woods Pond, or running around on Upper Fields.
As camp owners taking over a camp in COVID, Mitch and I have also had our fair share of struggles. National supply chain delays have led to equipment delays, and our last four sailboats that were supposed to arrive in April will finally arrive this week! Embassy closures and international flight bans led to unfortunate last minute staffing cancellations, leading us to have a few holes, one of which you’ve all felt this week as one member of our photo team was sadly stuck in the UK unable to get to us. (We apologize that because of this, it took a few days to increase the quality and quantity of photos we post daily, and we’re still not able to post the number of photos we’d typically share in a summer.) Requiring PCR tests in advance of camp added an annoying step for families, causing us to feel badly that parents had any additional burdens on their plates in an already challenging and stressful moment of getting ready for camp.
But our hard moments also have incredibly joyous wins attached. COVID testing may be annoying, but your partnership in that task and your follow-through on the pre-summer health reports contributed to our success with our two rounds of testing (on day 1 and day 4), and I’m happy to report that as of today Camp Kingswood is COVID-FREE! Our pods are now entire units, with the girls’ and boys’ sides of each unit now combining to be one maskless pod. We may have been concerned about bothering parents with PCR tests, but since camp has begun, we’ve had wonderful conversations with so many of you – whether it’s just a call to check in, or it’s partnering with us on a challenge. Each call with a camp family brings us closer to you all, and our relationships with you – our camp families – mean the world to us.
Right now, we’re all getting ready for our first Shabbat at camp. It’s shower hour, and we’ll all gather together soon for Shabbat walk. We’ve had our first day of rain today, so Shabbat services and dinner will be inside, but throughout the week when we’ve had a 90+ heat wave here in Maine, most campers have commented that it’s been way better to eat outside anyway!
I know for us here at camp, Shabbat will be a welcome opportunity to take a breath. This week has been full of non-stop fun, but now we’ll slow it down as we head into Friday night. Personally, I can’t wait for Efrat’s homemade Challah and matzoh ball soup. I’ve heard lots of campers talking with excitement about Ruach, our awesome Friday night dance and song session that will be our evening program tonight.
Stay posted for more from us next week, when we’ll resume our regular schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday blogs. We can’t wait to share the excitement of the week with you! As always, please be in touch with either me or Mitch if you need anything. In the meantime, I wish you a peaceful Shabbat, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be as fun as ours here at camp. 🙂