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Why we do what we do. (A Place to Share).

There comes a time every summer when I am totally exhausted, when I'm bogged down with the day-to-day running of camp and begin to question my sanity. After all, I teach during the school year, have two young children ages four and six, a husband, and a million other things to do. But I find myself summer after summer returning to camp in one capacity or another. It could be that camp is in my blood -- I grew up at a camp where my dad was the director. Or it could be that I love the feeling of "check-in" day when all the returning campers rush in with smiles on their faces and announce, "We're back!" Or it could be that the memories of when I was a camper are still so vivid in my mind -- rumpriding down hills, racing a water snake across the lake, and so many more. Or it could be the glow of the campfire and the sounds of happy campers. I just cannot imagine a summer without camp.

One mother called me long after the summer was over and told me a horrific tale of abuse that her daughter had been suffering at home before she came to camp. Upon her return from camp, she told her mom everything, and the mother believed that camp was the most important thing that had happened to her daughter. Camp taught her to be independent and strong -- to stand up to her fears and to know what life was like without abuse. That camper's entire life was changed because of six days at camp. What a powerful experience we have to offer children!

It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day office and administrative duties of camp, but it is vital for all of us to get out and interact with the campers. This summer I logged quite a few hours at the lake guarding and teaching boating. What a great chance to really get to know my staff and the campers! A few times I had the opportunity to be a cabin counselor again, and just the routine of tucking in campers, telling stories with the lights out, and the sound of sleeping campers reminded me of how truly great the camp experience is.

So, when I am busy calling the county child protection office, listening to an irate parent, or calming a homesick camper, I need to remember why I am here. I know that camp is exactly what many of our children need and must have today. They need to feel safe, welcome, and happy. They need to learn from good role models who can teach them some of life's lessons. They need to experience nature, walk in the woods, listen to the birds, watch the campfire glow, and sing silly songs. They need to play capture the flag, swim in a lake, and sleep under the stars. They need camp. And they need the directors and the staff who care enough to give camp to them.

So I guess the answer to the question -- why do I go back to camp every summer -- why do all of us go back to camp every summer -- is that it is vitally important to the future of our children. Camp is a powerful, magical place, and it provides opportunities for all of us to grow.

Sally Burton-Szabo is the camp director for Camp Ho Mita Koda in Newbury, Ohio. The camp offers recreational experiences in a medically-safe environment for children with diabetes.
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Article Details
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Author:Burton-Szabo, Sally
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:588
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