Dear 2017 Staff,

By Anne Mead

The last act we do as a staff, at the end of summer camp, is to move all of the summer’s spirit stones to their final resting spot on the hill. When you walk up into our upper council fire area, you will see 30 years of spirit stones decorating the hillside. It’s a pretty powerful vision- to see all the stones of those that have come before.

Preceding the sprit stone ritual is our final staff talking stick ceremony. We open and close the summer with this tradition. If you are not familiar with a talking stick ceremony, a stick is circulated to each community member and when it reaches you, you have an opportunity to address the crowd. To be clear, there are no expectations in the talking stick. The speaker can say whatever is on their heart.

At the beginning of the summer, many staff talk about their goals or expectations for themselves. At the end, they typically talk about how they grew. The full spectrum of emotions is usually shared; tears and laughter being the most dominate. At the end, it’s even more emotional because there is the recognition that this is our last time forever as this particular community.

Have you ever walked away from a situation and wished you had said something else? Or handled the situation differently? Or just said this one additional insightful thing? I don’t regret what I said to the staff, but a few times this fall thoughts have flooded my mind centering on what I wish I had told them.

So, here goes…. a few more words I would like to share.

Dear 2017 Staff,

I know I told you thank you for all of your hard work. That is to not go underestimated. I neglected, however, to thank you from my “first time as a camper parent” perspective.

My oldest child, Phen, was a first time camper during the final one-week session. He was in a cabin, had a mentor group, ate meals at his cabin table, and went to different activities on camp all by himself. It was a game changer- and I can honestly say in those five days my child grew so much.

There is something to be said for your child learning something new from an adult who is not their parent. This really rang true for Stephen and myself during this one week with our child.

For six years now, Phen has been watching campers fly fish at his home. This summer, he was one of those campers. For three years, we have been taking him and his brother, Hawkins, to the climbing wall. Phen has always stopped at one particular part on the wall and refused to go any further. This summer, some counselor, convinced him he could make it to the top. And, he did!

For the last year, Phen has been pretty obsessed with ninjas. When picking out activities, he wanted to take Ninja Skills, also known as Tae Kwan Do. He loved it, so much so he got up and performed in the variety show.

I watched my child become more independent during session 5. And I watched you, the staff, build his confidence. A part of me is sad- you got to experience some of his “firsts” with him. I know you might not realize how special that is, but as a parent its pretty exciting to watch a skill, an activity, a love click with a child. Another part of me is extremely happy. My child pushed himself. My child grew in a safe place. My child learned more about being his best self. Thank you 2017 staff. I am forever grateful.

Continue to seek the joy!