Shabbat-O-Gram: Week 2 2024

By AllyCKW July 6, 2024

Dear families and friends,

When I was growing up, overnight camp was my happiest happy place. I was happy at home too, but everything about overnight camp spoke to me at my core. While I loved lots of things about camp, spending my summers steps from water was what grounded me and made camp feel like paradise. Living for a month each summer in the woods, on the shores of a lake, was the most peaceful feeling I had ever known. The sounds, smells, and view of the water and woods created the calm that provided the foundation for the friendships, the activities, and everything else I loved about being at camp.

It’s because of Woods Pond, that when I first visited in 2012 as a camp consultant, I fell in love with Camp Kingswood. Whether campers are resting with friends in the hammocks or sailing across the lake, they know what I mean. It changes the vibe in camp to have the lapping of the water in the background, and the sunsets over the water each night as we’re playing at Chofesh on the Waterfront. Over these last two weeks, every time I look out to the water (or jump in!) I’m reminded of the gift we all have here at Camp Kingswood, to have Woods Pond grounding us, providing the calm foundation for all the excitement and energy of camp. i

By week two, we can appreciate and make space for both – the peaceful calm and the excitement and energy. We’ve adjusted to the camp day, and we’ve settled into routines. We know where to wait for the bell to ring for meals, and we know how to write a letter and play cards during Rest Hour, and still get the letter done in time. We know how to leave the bunk with the right gear for electives, and we’ve got down all the hand motions for our favorite cheers.

By week two, camp stops feeling like a place we’re visiting, and it starts feeling like home. We get used to the creaky bed frame and the loud breathing of our bunkmates, and we start feeling comfortable, without the uncertainty of what to do next. This changes the vibe in camp every day, but it’s most striking when campers leave and return. In the first week, when we left for Funtown Splashtown we weren’t quite in the groove yet to feel it in the same way, but this week, as Tsofim and Bogrim campers returned to camp from their camping trips, they felt it first-hand. Tsofim campers came off their buses talking about how excited they were to be home, and one Bogrim camper declared that she took, “the BEST shower of my life,” after their return. We talk a lot about beginnings and endings at camp, but it’s this time in the middle that I think of as the true sweet spot of camp. When it becomes the norm to wake up and go to bed in a cabin of friends, and talking instead of texting is how we interact.  It may only be week two, but in hearts and relationships (and showers), good camp vibes last forever.

Yesterday we hosted the Goodbye Ceremony for our two-week campers. Campers who didn’t think they could be away for more than two nights took the microphone to share what camp has meant to them, and how excited they are to return next summer! As they were called up by their counselors to receive their paper plate awards, you could see them beaming with pride for the accomplishment of successfully completing their first summer at overnight camp. They each received their first-time camper picture frame, and their bunk photos will be sent in the coming weeks to remind them they’re now part of our Kingswood family.

Yesterday we also celebrated July 4th, and as usual, it was one of my favorite camp days. I can’t resist the fun of a good theme day, and camp was transformed into a sea of red, white and blue. Campers were decked out with beads, flag capes, tutus, and face paint, and after a delicious BBQ outside, we were treated to the best camp 4th of July Carnival I’ve ever been to, thanks to the incredible 2024 Session I CITs! The CITs have been blowing us away all session with their leadership, their enthusiasm, and their love of camp, but the carnival showed their creativity and programming skills in full force, and it was impressive, to say the least. It left us so excited for Banquet, our closing session program, also completely planned by the CITs. This week the CITS are doing rotations in program areas, and in a few days they’ll move into Tsofim and Olim cabins to practice the counselor skills they’ve been learning in their training. I speak on behalf of all the campers when I say we can’t wait! They’re going to be such a fun addition to the bunks!

Last night, Tsofim led Shabbat services, and their unit will continue leading Shabbat this  morning. I loved hearing their creative writings on their chosen Shabbat theme of ‘freedom.’ Campers shared what freedom means to them, and they talked about the freedoms they appreciate at camp and how more trust and freedom helps them to feel more independent. At camp, we appreciate the freedom to be friends with who we want, the freedom to choose electives that push us out of our comfort zone, the freedom to express ourselves in new ways, and even to reinvent ourselves if we wish. For Olim campers, freedom may be choosing what to wear each day without a parent choosing their clothes. For a Chalutzim camper it could be the freedom to think about what personal passions they want to develop as an independent study project. And, whether it’s a camper’s first, fifth, or tenth summer at Kingswood, each year presents new experiences, new friendships, and new growth. Just ask any of our first-year staff, who are now co-counselors with the staff they looked up to and admired, and would agree. As relationships grow and evolve, the fabric of our Kingswood community grows stronger.

It is the strength and love of our Camp Kingswood community that has made these first two weeks of Summer 2024 absolutely incredible, despite the challenging start behind the scenes. Again, I want to thank you all for your patience and grace as we’ve been navigating around an active investigation, limiting what we can answer directly. Thanks to a wonderfully generous camp family, our camp operations will continue without missing a beat, and we will be able to continue leading Camp Kingswood at the high standards we hold ourselves to. Whether you’ve been a Kingswood parent for 10 years or this is your first summer, your comfort and trust in camp is everything to us.

I continue to be in awe of this caring, supportive Kingswood family.

With love,