I have had several years of day camp experience from being a camper during my childhood to becoming a camp counselor. When I decided that I wanted to try something different for a summer, I saw an advertisement on my college campus for Eagles Landing Camps and The Night Owls and how it would be a summer job near the beaches of South Florida. I told my parents about it and they thought that it would be a long shot, but it was worth a try and it would help to build my resume as a future educator.
After being offered the job, I made my flight reservations and prepared for travel to ELC. When I was on the airplane, I was scared to death. “What if they don’t like me?” “What if I don’t fit in?” I can’t think of a time that I have been more nervous. Once I arrived in South Florida, I was picked up at the airport by camp staff. I was in shock when this extremely friendly guy got out of the van, introduced himself, and said “You must be Kyle. I have heard great things about you!” It was so nice that he knew exactly who I was and he knew how to instantly calm my nerves. Once we arrived at camp, I was directed where to take my belongings. I was expecting to find a cabin without screens and bugs flying around everywhere. I was wrong! I walked into my bunk and I was amazed! There were beds with mattresses, large windows with screens, plenty of storage space, and even a television!
After getting my luggage situated, I went for a walk around the campus. I was expecting to see gravel walkways, log buildings, and wild animals. This was not the case at all. I walked out of the doors and was greeted by Florida palm trees, a lake, and a covered sidewalk that stretched around the entire campus to prevent getting drenched in the Florida storms. I also expected to see open fields for activities — not an astroturf football field, baseball field, and two huge swimming pools. Again, much more than I was expecting. While I was walking, I met a group of counselors who all introduced themselves and they were very hospitable. They invited me to dinner and it was the start to a great group of friends.
Weeks after the campers had moved in, camp was well on its way. The counselors were all forming close bonds with each other and the kids. One day, my Division Leader approached me about an upcoming competition called SongFest. He knew that I was a Music Education major and he asked me to write a few songs to teach the kids for the event. It was great to be given a leadership position. Teaching the Hercules boys was such a rewarding experience, but it all came to a climax when we actually won 2nd place in the competition! Watching the kids fly out of their chairs for something so simple really made me realize that I had just given them a memory that they would not soon forget. A few weeks later was Color War and I had no idea what to expect. Counselors kept saying how it was intense and stressful, but it’s camp –how can it be stressful?! After spending an entire weekend decorating, writing chants and shopping for the craziest outfits I could find, I could then see where the counselors were coming from. Yes it was intense, but it was also EXTREMELY fun! To the campers, it is one big competition, but to the counselors, it is a chance to watch the kids form bonds and work as a team. Although our team lost, the camp immediately reunited with new friendships and an understanding of teamwork and sportsmanship.
Soon after Color War ended, it was hard to believe that it was the final day of camp. Even though there were so many fun activities planned for the day, it was hard to believe that I would be saying good-bye to my close friends and campers. As we said our farewells, it was a mixture of emotions. We were sad that it was over, but happy to have been able to spend an entire summer together. After camp, I was taken back to the airport for my flight home. On the plane, I decided to look through pictures from the summer. Although the pictures were taken over the span of eight weeks, they seemed so recent. There was not a day that went by that I did not think about camp, my campers or my friends that I made throughout the summer.
I have now been on staff for 3 summers and am highly anticipating my return for my fourth. I am just as excited to return as I was after my first summer. My experiences from camp are some of the best experiences of my life. Each summer, campers and parents have left notes saying how much they appreciate everything that I did for them throughout the summer. However, they have impacted me in the same ways. Each day of camp, I wake up with the goal of making a difference in a child’s life because, although they aren’t aware, they have all made a difference in mine.