Shabbat-O-Gram Week 3
Dear families and friends,
I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the Kingswood magic, but there’s definitely something in the air here at camp. I’m not talking about the classic ‘magic of camp’ we talk about – I mean real, actual weather magic, that somehow kept the skies sunny through most of this past week, despite the forecasts indicating otherwise! Each night we’d go to sleep prepared with a solid rain plan, and each morning we’d wake up to sunny skies. Even if the next few days don’t cooperate, we feel so lucky we’ve been able to have so much time this week in the boats, on the sports fields, and hanging out in the hammocks at Chofesh! Our Waterfront team even took advantage of the sunny days to find kids who hadn’t been water skiing or tubing enough during the first week of rain to find extra times for them to get out on the water more!
This last week of First Session is one of my favorite parts of the summer. As one Tsof camper said to me the other day at their evening program, “Camp just feels so good right now!” I couldn’t agree more. Campers are comfortable, open, happy, and relaxed. You can see people’s guards down, and we’ve moved past the little things that annoy each other and cause cabin disagreements. Campers are realizing that in a few days, they’ll miss all the parts of their bunkmates, even the parts that bugged them most when they were tired. 😉 They’re understanding that they may only have one last time to do their favorite activities, hang out in their favorite spots, or talk with their closest friends. They’re starting to use language next summer, like the 5th graders I was hanging out with this morning at services who were asking about what Tsofim is like, and what cool camping trip they’ll do next year.
We see it in our staff too. This year our staff is truly exceptional, and might actually be the best team I’ve worked with in my 20+ years of directing camps. There aren’t really weak links, and everyone is ‘all in.’ I saw it during staff week at the first Ruach. Even though the new staff had no idea what was going on, they were up for anything, and they were all eager to participate. Everyone is here for the right reasons – the kids – and they have continued to operate at that level since day 1. It’s been really amazing to see, and to be a part of. New staff members take some time to learn the flow and pace of a camp day, and how to create the sense of freedom and ease for campers while keeping close supervision and structure. By now even new staff are truly comfortable and confident in their roles and their relationships. Their conversations with campers are easy and natural, and they know their kids well enough to anticipate their needs. They appreciate the meaningful connections they are creating with their campers individually by taking the time to listen and to be there for them. They’re seeking out ways to take on more leadership, collaboration between departments to come up with cool new electives, and jumping into programs like Color War with two feet, screaming at the top of their lungs, as if the Bucket Brigade station of the Kingswood Relay is the most important moment of their lives so far. Last night, a group of them who were on their day off were still in camp at 11 pm. When I asked why they hadn’t left for their day off at 5 pm when it started, they responded by saying, “And miss the last Ruach of the session? Are you crazy?” Amazing. 🙂
It’s fitting that Bogrim picked ‘Ruach’ as their Shabbat theme this week. Ruach (spirit) is one of our four camp core values, along with community, responsibility, and courage. At Shabbat services last night I spoke about Ruach, and all the ways this value shows up at camp. We talked about the obvious ways, like on Friday night Ruach when the spirit of camp is magnetic and palpable, and the ground shakes under the power of our collective energy and spirit. Last night’s Ruach was maybe the most electric yet, and our guests from JAFI (one of our partners to bring Israeli staff to camp) who visit camps all summer said they had never seen energy like it!
I also talked about the concept of ruach in our daily lives though, and how each day we make choices of jumping in or stepping out. We talked about how it’s tempting to want to step out, but that showing up with ruach – bringing that camp spirit to everything we do – means making the choice to jump in as much as possible. Maybe we don’t jump in because we’re afraid of being embarrassed, we think we’ll look silly, or our friends will make fun of us. Maybe we choose to sit out because we don’t know the words, don’t know the hand motions, or don’t feel confident in our ability to do an activity as well as someone else. It can be tempting to be the one on the sidelines, poking fun of those up being goofy and having fun. I shared that to me, Kingwood ruach is not just about showing lots of spirit and energy, it’s also about saying yes, jumping in, and being in the middle, rather than on the outside judging others. I shared that for many of our staff who grew up at camp, they say that Kingswood is where they learned the valuable lesson that sitting out is the boring choice, and that it’s always more fun to be up and in the middle of the action. We see that here every day – the campers and staff who are considered the coolest are also the first ones up on their benches cheering. What an awesome example for younger campers, still developing the confidence to not care about what other kids think and say.
It’s hard to believe we’ve come to our final Shabbat of First Session. Our 7-week campers would say the summer’s just getting underway, but for more than half of our campers, the summer is coming to an end on Tuesday! It feels like just yesterday we were greeting everyone at the Opening Campfire, but on Monday night after an incredible Banquet planned by our CITs, we’ll conclude the session with our Closing Campfire. There, we celebrate campers through area awards, milestone gifts, and our ultimate camp honor, signing the Values Boards. We honor campers with 1st year, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th summer gifts, and those campers are each called up and recognized. First-year campers each receive a Kingswood picture frame, and this year all campers will receive their bunk photo printed in the mail after the summer ends. Campers also will be sent a digital camp address book by bunk to help them keep in touch with their new friends! You can read more about these honors after the summer when we highlight the camper award recipients in a Fall edition of our camp newsletter, The Kingswood News.
Today at lunch, we’re having a huge birthday party for our 110th Anniversary, and then we’ll have the afternoon to play all around camp before turning our attention to the Art Show and the musical, The Little Mermaid after dinner. I personally cannot wait for either event – both showcase the talents of our campers in such special ways! I’m also looking forward to seeing some of our CIT families when they come up this afternoon to help their campers repack for their Kingswood Israel trip, leaving from camp at the end of the session!
On Tuesday, some of us will load the buses and head home, while some of us will stay here and get ready for the families of our 7-weekers to come for Visiting Day. We’ll have an awesome Intersession here at camp, and then we’ll welcome our Second Session friends on Thursday. We can’t wait to see many of you Tuesday, whether it’s at a bus drop-off or here at camp. Everyone will receive a final email before Tuesday with the details for your specific plans.
If you’re a parent of a First Session camper, you’ll stop receiving this Shabbat-O-Gram by email next week, but you can always read up on what’s going on at camp when we post it each week on our Kingswood Blog. It’s crazy to think about Summer 2024, but as many of you know, we had wait-lists for several grades and sessions by the end of September last summer. We’d hate for any of our current campers to be closed out, so we offer an early Summer Special Registration just to returning campers and their siblings that will open in August. We’ll make sure you receive reminders about signing up early to save a bed!
It’s been so fun spending this month with your campers, and this afternoon I have a busy day planned. I promised some Olimers I’d go swimming with them, a few Tsof campers want time with Bowie, my dog, and I want to watch the Camper vs. Staff games on Upper Fields this afternoon. I’m not sure how I’ll fit it all in, but I’m going to try!
Thank you for your partnership, and stay posted for a Parent Survey that will be sent to all camp families in August. We survey campers twice each session, and already we’ve made changes this session based on their input. We look forward to hearing your feedback too, whether on the survey, or just by giving us a call anytime. Wishing you a great rest of your Saturday, even though I have a feeling my Shabbat is going to be way more fun than yours. 🙂