Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kids Kamp

Second Session ended with the usual teary good-byes and promises of next year. 2 days later, we were handed our last batch of campers: the 8-12 year old monsters...I mean, darlings. They are cute as a button, friendly as can be, enthusiastic beyond belief and they wear us out! After spending 7 weeks with wonderful but generally mellow teenagers, the sheer noise and energy of Kids Kamp often threatens to send counselors into early retirement.

Personally, Kids Kamp can either be very refreshing and rewarding or the ultimate stress machine. Last year, I had 2 diabetic campers, a case of cleaning products sprayed in the eyes, and 1 post-corneal transplant, so I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This year, my biggest complaints were a recurring anxiety attack and a nasty case of brown tailed moth. So I had more time to just play with campers and time to assist the staff.

You see, in addition to the counselors, we have 7 or 8 junior counselors (JCs) who help during Kids Kamp. They each have a group of 10 campers and they are responsible for moving those campers from activity to activity and for crowd control at each activity. Most of the JCs are 14 or 15 years old and the majority were campers during one of the summer sessions. Therefore, I know them well and I love being able to spend time with them during the day.

Our most precious hour of the day is rest hour. The campers go to their cabins and the JCs are allowed to have their rest hour in the infirmary with me. It was our chance to reconnect, to talk about how things are going with our campers, and to be refreshed.

It always amazes me to see how swiftly the Kids Kamp kids trust the counselors and to see how some counselors just thrive on the energy and affection of those younger children. But the best part for me is watching the JCs. Since I don't have my own cabin of campers, the JCs unofficially become mine. Some of them have been with me all summer and it makes me so happy to see them stop being campers and become leaders. It seems like they flourish and mature overnight. Suddenly, they are the ones being called out of the audience at a moment's notice to act out a part in a skit, and they are the ones being sent to check all the cabins to make sure everyone is present. They are the ones enforcing rules about life jackets, and they are the ones holding the campers' hands during bouts of homesickness.

I've seen a JC get in the cold Kennebec to swim alongside one of his scared campers. I've seen a JC getting hugged by each of her wet campers, one by one. I've seen a JC playing in the mud with toy trucks because that's all his toughest kid wanted to do. I've seen a JC bandaging a bloody toe. I've seen a JC losing at a game that he could easily win so that his kids can taste victory instead. I've seen a JC holding a crying anxious camper and telling him that everything's going to be OK.

My JCs make Kids Kamp what it is and I am so proud of them.

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