As the summer grinds to an end and the passion and energy that make camp, camp, slowly dwindle into the approaching school year, we find ourselves reflecting on the annual “echoes of camp” we feel each year. The crowd gathers near the awaiting buses and the tears begin to flow for new friendships gained and memories made over the past several weeks. It is in this moment that the true impact and definition of camp are once again on the forefront of our minds. After ensuring every camper, bag and cell phone are carefully returned and ready for departure with their camper, I slowly climb the hill near the main gate in anticipation of the buses pulling out, and begin to wave while carefully wiping a tear from my sunglassed face as another remarkable summer officially ends.
When camp is empty of campers, our staff return to their pre-camp format by number but certainly not by spirit or mindset. Although excited and celebratory for completing their mission and delivering a summer to remember, they are permanently altered not only as a group connected by a lasting bond of friendship but also of accomplishment. Yes, they are tired and ready for a well-deserved break without question but a small part of them begins to experience and settle in on the emptiness they feel without the village of campers they have just helped mentor and grow.
Now the final work begins, the closing of camp and the celebration of all that has been accomplished. Outside of the inventory sheets, equipment checks and breakdown of program areas, there is a sense of accomplishment and growth they begin to feel within themselves. They are plotting their next adventure, planning their journeys, and negotiating with their new best friends for another summer together at camp.
Once the staff have completed their contracts and duties the director team expresses our gratitude, well wishes and excitement for all that has been accomplished as, we too, begin to approach and negotiate with the staff that have truly shined throughout the summer for a return to this magical camp for another season. And when that staff bus pulls away for the final time, the echoes of silence truly begin to resonate across the 220 acres of our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain we call home.
Camp Blue Ridge is a place of excitement, energy, and spirit. As are we sure our neighbors will attest, we know how to be loud. This loud only grows as the summer nears it’s end and the start of color war 2022 makes it’s passionate and excited appearance for our 53rd CBR summer! In those final days, we truly break the sound barrier with cheers, chants and a megaphoned mealy of competition directions for all to hear. Voices are tested, endurance questioned as we watch these now well-seasoned campers and staff truly come to life in all the best ways. It is for these reasons, this final day the quiet soundless echoes of camp can be heard and felt by all that love and embrace this special place.
Retired CEO of the American Camp Association, Peg Smith, once wrote, “Camp is a vital element in a child’s total development, and it complements the academic skills that are learned in school with the experiential based life skills.” No better is this philosophy demonstrated then in the curriculum and daily schedule that we provide our Camp Blue Ridge campers. The combination of individualized camper-based activity selection, daily management of their own independent schedule and the opportunity they have to interact with all campers regardless of age or interest during our special event programming helps provide them with the opportunities they need to navigate the social and emotional challenges all children experience in the real world.
As preparation for summer 2023 begins, we are left with the quiet echos that remind us of the lasting impact our “home away from home” has left on all who have entered our gates. As a generational camp that has served mothers, aunts, sons and daughters, it is rewarding to know that the tools and experiences we have given generations of families remains a profound and lasting piece of their family’s fabric.