Fun is not our mission. Fun is what we feel when we have accomplished our mission.
For years, the summer camp experience has been touted as a place to come have fun. And much of that is true.
Camp IS FUN. The friends that you make, the activities you do, and the experience you have is all part of the FUN that the camp experience offers. It is what we think of first when we are asked about our camp experience. And to be fair and honest without the FUN, many kids would not return year after year after year. Yet fun is not the mission of summer camp it is simply the byproduct of a years’ worth of planning and structure that takes every detail of the experience into account.
Camp exists to make a positive impact in the life of campers.
The camp experience is one that I feel every child should have. It goes far beyond the traditional fun experience and instead is a life development experience that is hard to duplicate anywhere else. Summer camps across the world, including Heart of the Hills, have been developing children for life for over a hundred years.
While there are many reasons to send your child to camp, here are a few of my favorites, a top five list if you will.
- Community– At camp your child will live in a community that is filled with diversity and guided by caring role models they can look up to. Camp is an environment that strives to help each camper make connections and meet new friends. This is where kids connect with one another and make friendships that can last a lifetime. But beyond that it helps teach our children that living and supporting a community is tough work. Everyone belongs, everyone has a role to play, and everyone has a place to contribute no matter how big or small. Camp gives kids a great place to see a thriving community in action and helps them see the importance of improving our communities across the world. Camp provides a place and the tools to help kids learn to build authentic relationships with peers and adults alike.
- A chance to slow down– Today our families are time crunched! We sprint from the time we wake until the day ends pretty much nonstop. Our days are spent over programming our children and seldom do they ever get to just slow down and take it all in. Especially without the crutch or distraction of technology.
When I go visit my daughter at camp, or go do one of the many camp tours across the country I am reminded about how great camp is for just slowing down the day. Camp, while filled with activities all day, has a relaxed environment that celebrates the down time, encourages the unplanned learning opportunities, and fosters free play and creativity. Camp reminds us that leisure time is not wasted time but instead time that replenishes the soul and recharges us for the sprint that is yet to come.
- 21st Century Skills– If you don’t know what this is yet don’t worry. Your child is not falling behind. But this is a game changer! Skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration are at the top of the skills that the future employers of the world are looking for. Sure, technology is important but let’s be honest what kid growing up in today’s world does not know how to use a smart phone or out do us on a computer?
What employers are really looking for is the skills that our schools are not teaching. Camp is a GREAT place to learn and develop these skills daily! Campers learn how to communicate and collaborate while living in and supporting the community. They are challenged each day with activities and opportunities that help develop critical thinking skills. And creativity and ingenuity are celebrated at every opportunity. Want to really prepare your child for the future, find ways and places to help develop these important life skills. Curious to find out more about 21st century skills? Learn more here!
- Independence and confidence– I am amazed each summer when I pick my daughter up from camp how much she has changed and grown as a person. Her sense of independence and creativity are nurtured in an amazing and supportive environment. She has the confidence to try new things or to carry out old ones because at camp she is challenged and exposed to so many new opportunities. I have seen how this independence and confidence has helped her each year at school as she takes on the challenges or at home as she strives to do more independently. I love seeing this as a father and while sometimes I just wish she would stay my little girl forever I LOVE seeing her grow to be a strong, confident, and independent young woman.
- Acceptance– I have spoken to many campers, camp counselors, camp directors, and parents about what makes camp so great. Repeatedly I hear “at camp I get to be the real me”. Seldom in life do we ever find that place where we can just relax and let the “real” us just shine through. For so many kids camp is that place. An accepting community based upon love and support that allows kids of all sorts to meld and co-exist. A place where creativity, or a love for sports, or reading, or acting, or singing, or whatever all find a place and are celebrated and encouraged. At camp the pressures of living up to someone else’s expectations are replaced with being me is awesome and being my best “ME” is something to strive for.
My top five list grew to be a top six.
- Ability to fail– Failure happens. It is healthy, it is important, and it is a part of life. But learning how to fail is something the world does not teach very well. At camp, campers are challenged daily to try something new or push themselves past the comfort zone. Sometimes they fail and sometimes they succeed. But when they fail at camp they are encouraged to try again. They are coached and supported to make their best effort in the next attempt and they learn that failure does not define a person. Camp gives kids a safe place to try new things and to fail in an environment that allows them to dust themselves off and try again.
As a father, I love that my daughter gets to attend camp each summer and I look forward to the year my son is finally old enough to experience that for himself after watching big sister have all the “fun”. I have seen firsthand how camp has made a positive impact in my daughter’s life and has become something she looks forward to all year long. Camp has helped us as parents shape our child to become a strong, confident, creative, independent, and caring young person all while having the time of her life in a FUN and supportive place. The skills she learns, the friends she makes, and the memories she creates will last her a lifetime and help prepare her for an ever changing world with the confidence she needs to succeed.
Editor’s note: Tim Huchton is member and program development specialist for the American Camp Association, and the ultimate grown-up camper! He grew up in Kerrville and has worked in many area camps, including YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow and as program director at Mo-Ranch’s Cabo Rio and Loma Linda camps for boys and girls, before starting to work for ACA on the national level. In his free time he does radio spots. You can see some of his amazing photography at TimHuchtonPhotography.com.