Camp Friends Are The Best FriendsPosted by Alicia Theriault on February 27, 2017
It astonishes me to think that my first day of summer camp was almost thirty years ago. If you had asked me in 2002 how long I would work at Fernwood Cove, I certainly would not have told you fifteen years. There is a multitude of memories from those years of camp. And with each of those memories there is at least one friend. Summer Camp has brought me my childhood best friend, my Maid of Honor, as well as a Bridesmaid. It has brought me my best friend, and some of the most dedicated mentors I could have dreamed of. In no other aspect of my life have I connected with so many individuals, and in such meaningful ways. While it may be cliché, a truer statement couldn’t be said: Camp friends are the best friends.
When you ask Fernwood Cove girls why they return to camp, one of their first responses will likely be because of their friends. At first this may seem like they are simply focused on “hanging out”. And not developing skills and participating in activities. However boys often respond with the same answer, with the same level of enthusiasm. The relationships developed at camp are like none other. Much of this is due to the 24/7 nature of camp. And the fact that we cram so much into each minute of every day.
Camp Friends and The Magic of Camp
Another aspect is the fact that with each passing day campers gain a better sense of themselves. They have a stronger understanding of the person they are, and the person they want to be. Their unique character traits are celebrated and their weirdness is welcomed. Part of the magic of camp lies where “relationship development” and “sense of self” intersect. Where else in life are girls ages 7-15 able to develop relationships with people who are their truest versions of themselves? AND accepting of others in their truest sense of self? With their weirdness shining in all of its glory?
Campers quickly learn who has the best bedhead, and who is the best at folding laundry. After a few days they all know who always forgets to rinse the sink after brushing their teeth, and who always makes a point to not let the door slam behind her. There are few places in life that you learn the ins and outs of other people so quickly. This environment creates the opportunity for campers to build connections almost immediately. Campers and counselors quickly transition from bunk groups to bunk families. Soon these connections positively impact life outside of the bunk. With the support of their camp friends, girls choose to take dance even though they have never had an interest in it- much less the coordination. And when it’s Performance Night their nerves are quieted by the fact that their camp friends are in the audience supporting them. Camp friends support each other’s new endeavors, they push their friends to take healthy risks, they challenge friends to move outside of their comfort zone. It is in this space that change occurs- where growth occurs.
The Summer Camp Sisterhood
For twenty-five days Fernwood Cove campers and CITs experience this ongoing cycle of growth and change. As each individual learns and grows, she supports her friends who are doing the same. As they support each other they develop skills well beyond how to tie a knot in climbing or how to score a round in archery. Fernwood Cove girls learn compassion, empathy, dedication, and trust. They learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. They learn they don’t have to be great at something to be able to enjoy it. In this almost magical cycle of growth and development connections are woven between girls. This cycle continues day to day, week to week, summer to summer. As girls return each summer their relationships continue to grow, in both quality and quantity. With each passing camp experience, the bonds create a sisterhood that connects the campers, CITs, and staff for many years to come- often for life.
When someone says they are returning to camp because of their friends, know this is the truest explanation. The magic of camp can’t be replicated anywhere else. It’s not because of the facilities, or the lake, or any aspect of the physical location. It’s because of the people. Only in the microcosm known as Fernwood Cove, where girls come together for twenty-five days each summer to create a supportive and inclusive community, can we experience the Extraordinary World. It is only in this space that strangers from different time zones start out as bunkmates and end up lifelong friends. It is only in this space that two individuals from opposite sides of the planet work together as camp counselors and end up husband and wife. (Okay, that happened for four out of the five Fernwood Cove directors!) It is only in this space that you travel down Island Pond Road looking for summer camp, and end up with a family.