8 min read

Shabbat-O-Gram Week 6

By AllyCKW August 5, 2023

Dear parents and friends,

Earlier this week, Zach, an Olim camper, came up to me at lunch and asked how to give feedback if he had something he wanted to share. Campers had already done their Mid-Session Surveys a few days earlier, but Zach had another suggestion in mind. “How about you make a Feedback Box?” I asked him. He thought about it, we talked about how he could make it, and he agreed. A few hours later, when I stopped by my office, there was a recycled Amazon box sitting on my chair with the word “FEEDBACK” written on the top in big, bold 10-year-old kid letters. The next day, I called Zach up to introduce the box and tell everyone how to use it. By the end of the meal, the box already had a few folded pieces of paper in it. Over the last few days, campers have turned in suggestions ranging from “Let’s get jump ropes at Chofesh!” to “Olim should have later bedtime.” I’ve started sharing a few of the suggestions at meals, and what changes we’re making as a result, showing campers how using their voice and speaking up can lead to change. It may seem small, but to me, it’s everything.

Speaking up and using your voice productively is something we teach at camp in lots of ways, big and small. Advocating for what you believe is right or for what you want to be happy is a skill. Developing life skills takes practice, just like learning how to do a backflip at the New Rec or mastering a song on guitar to perform with the Rock Band elective. When we train our staff, we teach that when it comes to life skills, we can’t just say it on our website and hope it happens, but we need to create opportunities for kids to practice. When our brochure says that at camp kids make best friends for life, or that they gain independence, we must be able to back up those claims by showing when and how it happens. Zach’s Feedback Box is an example of how we look for these opportunities for kids to practice every day.

This past week at camp, we saw so many examples of kids seizing moments. It started at the end of Shabbat, when the costume parade for Halloween in July was cut short by a police car driving into camp! We were all in the Old Rec when we saw the sirens outside, and when the policeman walked in looking for me and Mitch, the music stopped and you could hear a pin drop. The campers learned that one of our ski boats had gone missing, and the policeman had found it on the other side of Woods Pond. He said they hadn’t found the culprit, but they also had reports from Camp Kingswood of other program area supplies that had gone missing, including reports from Dylan in A&C, Josh at Upper Fields, and Juandre at Ropes! He had just finished saying they had no leads on a culprit when Scooby Doo showed up on stage with Velma, Shaggy, Daphne and Fred! They offered to help the police officer find the culprit, and then announced that it was the start of SCOOBY DOO COLOR WAR! Everyone was going crazy, because while campers often have theories about when Color War will be breaking or what the theme is (it’s always a surprise), the presence of the policeman threw off even our most die-hard Color War detectives.

Sunday and Monday were off-the-charts amazing, as campers and staff faced off in challenges and games across camp. Water and land competitions, Counselor Hunt, and the all-camp Relay Race kept the energy high, as the teams collected points for their teamwork, spirit, and skill. At the end of the second day we all came together for Creativity Night, where each team showcased their talents through their team songs, skits, dances, and plaques.

One of my personal favorite moments of Color War is the final event of the relay, after the whole team works together to fill a garbage can with only buckets and cups. The garbage can is carried by a crew of team members past the Old Rec to the Canoe & Kayak Dock, where there are four fire pits set up, each with a rope across, tied to posts. The team there first can start building their fire, but it’s anyone’s race until a rope is burned. It’s a moment of crazy suspense, and even if a team has been ahead the whole two hours of the race, the team captains building the fire could struggle and come in last place, making it extra intense.

What I love most is how all the teams keep cheering until the last rope is burned. Even though a few minutes earlier each team was screaming their own color’s cheer, by the end, we’re all cheering for the final team. All of the teams side-by-side, with the colors already blurring together. While it may seem like a lot for younger campers, and yes, sometimes there are even tears, learning how to lose is also a skill that takes practice. At camp, when kids lose with role models showing them good sportsmanship, it gets easier every time.

For all of Color War the teams were close, and at each score update a different team could be seen jumping up with excitement. Heading into the Relay it was anyone’s Color War, but after the Relay, the Green Team thought they were done. Yellow Team dominated the rope burn, finishing way before anyone else, and Green Team’s rope seemed like it would never break. By the time it finally burned through, all the other teams had been done for a few minutes. But the Green Team didn’t give up, and they headed into Creativity Night with confidence and incredible spirit, mirroring how they saw their captains show up during the rope burn. At the end of the night, when the Scooby Doo characters took the stage to act out their final scene, the crowd erupted to learn that the Green Team won! As one Chalutzim camper said on the way to their team’s victory ice cream party, “We never let ourselves get down, even after the race! We didn’t let one loss get in our way….and see? It worked.”

Sticking with it was also a theme at Wednesday’s Two-Weeker Ceremony, as we said goodbye to our friends who left Thursday. While more than half our two-weekers this summer extended to stay longer, those who sadly had to go home were at our Two Weeker Goodbye Ceremony at Rest Hour. After the counselors spoke about each camper and presented them with their bunk award, area heads took to the microphone to present area awards, just like we’ll do next week at our Closing Campfire at the end of the session. As the area heads called up two-weekers, you could hear the theme of perseverance loud and clear. Whether it was on the climbing tower or on the stage, they made the most of their time at camp, squeezing in so many different electives, playing in tournaments, creating cool projects in A&C and Wood Shop, going on camping trips, and pushing themselves to go beyond what they thought they could do. Just going to camp for the first time takes perseverance, and as each two-weeker received their “1st Year at Camp Kingswood” picture frame, we talked about how proud they can be of themselves for an awesome two weeks at camp! When registration opened yesterday, it was extra special to see some of those very campers as our first kids registered for 2024!

Bogrim chose ‘imagination’ as the theme of Shabbat this week, so last night at our Shabbat service I spoke about Peter Pan, and what it would look like to imagine our own ‘Neverland’ this week – a perfect place where we can just be ourselves, and for one week, feel no pressure to grow up, or be anywhere else. We have that right now, as we head into our last full week of camp. I asked the campers to think about what they want this week to look like, and what they can do to make it amazing, given that next month, when they look back on this week, they’ll wish they had made the most of every moment. Going back to Zach’s Feedback Box, we talked about how to speak up for themselves and advocate for what they want, whether it’s at elective sign-ups this weekend for the final elective cycle, or in their bunks if there’s any drama or conflict getting in the way of their fun. This last week of camp anything is possible, and while it may seem like the end is nearing, in 9 days so much can still happen.

Today’s a beautiful day here in Bridgton, and tonight we’ll be wowed by all the campers in the gymnastics, dance, and martial arts electives as they perform in the Gym & Dance Show. Another opportunity for the whole camp to show up for one another, cheering and chanting each camper’s name as they take the stage. It really does feel a bit like Neverland here, and it doesn’t take too much imagination to see it. I’m heading down to the Waterfront because I promised a few campers I’d finally try Paddle Board Yoga. I have no coordination and doubt I’ll even be able to stand on the board, but wish me luck! After that, if there’s time I’m headed to the New Rec to help out with the 110th Mural. I can’t wait to show you the finished wall – the campers who have been painting have been doing such an awesome job!

See you next week for the final Shabbat-O-Gram of the summer,

P.S. Registration is now open for returning campers and their siblings only until August 15 at the Summer Special Rates! Secure your camper’s space now, be the best parent ever for registering early, and take advantage of the Summer Special Rates by clicking here to register.