Shabbat-O-Gram Week 3
Dear parents and friends,
I can’t believe it’s already the last Shabbat of first session! The session has gone way too quickly for it to be over. But on the other hand, it’s hard to believe only three weeks have passed when you think about how much has happened and how much each camper has gained in such a short time. Whether it’s a new friend, a new skill, or a new appreciation for being away from social media, every camper is coming home to you a little different than they left.
Take one two-week camper for example, we’ll call Noah. Two weeks ago, Noah’s counselors were losing patience, and Noah’s bunk mates were writing home about conflicts pretty regularly. These moments are so hard, because while we know sometimes a camper just isn’t ready for camp, we understand that many kids just need some coaching and support, and the feeling of someone in their corner. When I’m in this moment with a camper, I always want to champion the kids who are struggling without compromising the experience of the kids doing great who are impacted by the struggle of others. It’s never easy. This time, after several conversations with counselors, his unit head, and our camper care team, the group of us sat with Noah to talk about what was going on and to make a plan. When I validated how hard it must be to try and keep his hands to himself when he gets excited or upset, his eyes filled with tears. He shared that he loved camp SO MUCH and REALLY wanted to be friends with the other boys, but he just was struggling to land the interactions. Each time he had a bad moment with a bunkmate, he knew he had messed up, felt like a “bad” camper, and then it became harder and harder to do the right thing the next time. We talked about how hard it is to recover when you think other kids already expect the worst, and how simple it actually is to regain their trust by showing up a little differently each time. With the understanding that his counselors and all of us really wanted him to succeed, he sat up with confidence, ready to give it another try. He thought he was in trouble, and instead he walked out feeling the love and support of our team. Noah’s not perfect because no camper is, but he’s held true to his word, and has worked really hard to be a better bunkmate. He has a slew of new friendships to show for it. Noah ended up staying another two weeks, and just a few days ago, switched to stay at camp all seven weeks! To see Noah walking around camp now, with the confidence of having made friends, is like seeing a different child.
It’s not just the individual growth of each camper that stands out right now, but the bonds between campers that have developed in bunks, in units, and all across camp. There’s the bunk of Bogrim girls who came to me separately on day 1, angry and in tears that I HAD to change their bunks because there’s no way they could be friends with the other girls in their cabin. They had never met, but at first glance they were sure they couldn’t possibly be friends. Those same girls have been inseparable this last week and now talk to me about how they have “the best bunk ever!” They turned in their bunk requests this week for next session, and the three staying for seven weeks all requested to stay together, joking about how much they love each other now and can’t believe how quickly they judged each other on the surface on day 1.
Then there’s a Tsofim girls’ bunk, made up of a few longtime returners, a few girls who were together at another camp and came to Kingswood as pre-existing camp friends new this summer, and a couple of new campers who came alone. The campers represent four states and two countries, and the staff hail from three different countries. Talk about a melting pot! To see this bunk around camp, you would think the girls have known each other forever. The pre-existing friendships have expanded to include new friends, and at any point in the day you can see subgroups of this pair and that threesome walking around camp, arm in arm, with different subgroups together each time, already talking about being in a bunk together next summer.
Then there are the CITs. Our incredible counselors-in-training who have set the bar this session with their enthusiasm, dedication to campers, and love of camp. Most of these campers have been at Kingswood their whole lives, waiting together for this summer – the culmination of their camper experience. This session they’ve shadowed counselors and specialists, learning how to be on staff. They’ve designed experiences and planned programs like an amazing 4th of July Carnival and tomorrow night’s Banquet. These two all-camp programs are put in the hands of the CITs to plan as part of their training for future camp programming, and because our CIT program is designed to provide hands-on leadership training that’s more valuable than most other summer jobs for teens! Every Wednesday night this session I’ve met with the CITs to unpack and role play situations they’ve encountered in the prior week. It’s been so fun to have this weekly time with the CITs, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to hear their perspectives and their ideas. Our first-year staff who were CITs last summer will be meeting with the CITs this year to talk about the value of being on staff, and how fun it is to be at camp to create the experience for the next generation of campers.
As we head into our final days of first session, you can feel the shift in the vibe toward “lasts.” The last Friday night in the chapel. The last Ruach session last night at the Old Rec. The last Saturday afternoon sports tournaments, happening in just a few hours! This evening we’ll celebrate the accomplishments of the campers who have been in A&C and theater electives this session, with the Art Show and Camp Play. Artwork by campers of all ages will be on display at the Art Show, and then we’ll all gather to watch Matilda, the highly anticipated camp play campers have been working on since the beginning of the session. We’ll be videoing the full play and sharing it online, so please check in after the weekend for your own private viewing.
Tomorrow campers will have the morning for one last tube around the lake, one last climb up the tower, or one last visit to the goats. In the afternoon we’ll shift to packing mode before we clean-up for our closing night Banquet. There are tons of rumors of what Banquet theme could be this session, but the CITs have done a great job of keeping the theme a secret! After Banquet we’ll continue celebrating with our Closing Campfire, with songs, awards, and honoring camper milestones of years at camp. Each area will call up campers for area-specific awards, like Most Improved Sailor, or Best Sportsmanship at basketball. The culminating awards for the summer are the Values Awards, where two campers each session are chosen to sign the Values Plaques. Their signatures will live on the plaques hanging in the New Rec, and campers for years to come will see their names highlighted as the personification of our core values of responsibility, courage, spirit, and community. It’s the biggest honor a camper can receive here at Camp Kingswood, and it speaks to the importance to us of living our values each day, and not just talking about them.
As the buses pull away on Monday, our full summer campers will head back to their bunks to get ready for an awesome Intersession program before second session campers arrive on Wednesday. While we’ll be sad to see our first session friends go home, based on the talk around camp right now, in 11 months, we’ll all be back again together in our summer home.
We open 2023 registration while camp’s still in session, so stay posted for details. If you’ve downloaded the Campanion app, registration will be easier than ever before, because you can now do everything from your phone. Our Summer Special rates end by Labor Day, and we anticipate several grades being waitlisted by the time school starts!
Thanks for your support and partnership this session. We hope you’ve enjoyed the community that’s developed in the Parent Facebook Group, and we welcome your feedback anytime. We know how hard it is to let go of your most prized possessions for the summer, and we are so grateful that you’ve chosen us, to be a part of our Kingswood family.
Wishing our families an amazing rest of the summer,