Guest Blog by Courtleigh Reimer, SALT Director 2017

Who has a degree in Bio-Resource Management, a year of administrative experience, student loan and car payments to make, and still chooses to work at camp? This girl.

camp was that place your parents shipped you off to when you were younger so they got a break. It was the place that you got to goof off for a week or so, eat all the junk from the tuck shop because your parents weren’t there, and consequently stay up so late you drove your counselor to the brink of insanity. Who would voluntarily spend entire summers being the overtired and overworked staff member supervising these munchkins? This girl.

What delusional person would decide that the never-ending chaos that is summer camp is the only thing that could get you through the year? Definitely this girl.

Why, you ask, would you possibly believe that this girl is psychologically sound? Because camp is the greatest.

I grew up in a camp-loving community. My church camp was the place to be all year round. I absolutely lived for fall and winter retreats there with both church and school, and when it came to that week in the summer for goofing off… I hated it. Every part of it. I hated sleeping in the same room with other people, having to wait in line to shower, and people regulating and scheduling my fun. I also hated not being able to sit around and watch TV like the lazy lump that I could sometimes be. Who knows what the difference was between retreat time and actual camp time? Maybe it was the new people, or the slight difference in free time. Maybe a week was just too long? I did this week of regulation camp once when I was 11, and then again when I was 14. Camp was not for me. Who could live in such conditions for that long?

When I was 15, I went back to camp as a favour to my aunt. She wanted me to volunteer for a week to help her out with a program, so I reluctantly agreed (mostly because I had a crush on one of the summer staff members, but that’s not important). I have no idea what changed, but I was hooked. Maybe it was the snack cart that campers didn’t have access to? Or the fact that there were only 2 other girls in my room? Maybe it was just that being a staff member helped me feel more important. Either way, something had changed.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized what the difference was. This time I was a part of something, and that’s what has kept me inside one camp community or another for this long. The sense of belonging that I feel when I’m part of a team of summer staff is addicting. The idea that this group of like-minded people are there for the same reasons you are is astonishing to me. These people are goofy, uninhibited, and want to make sure that the kids that they meet this summer are falling in love with camp just like they did. I don’t know why the younger me couldn’t see the magic of camp, but feeling the way I did in the past helped me relate to those kinds of campers in the future. I’ve made it my mission to try my very best to make sure that each child that visits camp is welcomed and finds the same sense of belonging that I finally found after so many years.

Camp is that place where you can be yourself. It’s the place where there’s no pressure to be dressed up, made up, or even cleaned up for that matter. There’s a certain transformative magic in a camp setting that sends your self-esteem and confidence straight through the roof. As soon as you realize that everyone is embracing their quirks, you can too. Where else can you dance around to Disney songs in a tutu and still have people look up to you for your growing leadership skills?

This ideal applies to both staff and camper alike. One of the greatest rewards in my experience is watching a kid grow in one way or another throughout their time with you. Whether it’s trying something they’ve never done, finally mastering something they’ve been working on, or simply making new friends – seeing kids be transformed by this positive atmosphere puts a smile on my face every time.

I’ve recently realized that I want to be surrounded by fun for the rest of my life. Camp is where my heart lives, and I never want to leave it behind. This is where I belong. I’m constantly learning from the people I meet, be that campers or other staff. I will forever be in love with working long days so that a camper can learn something about themselves through the power of fun. I will always be the person to give a fellow staff member the encouraging boost they need to believe that they can step outside their comfort zone or help that kid who just wants to go home. I will never stop telling people about the wonders of camp in the hopes that one person will be changed by this place in the same way I have been.

I truly believe that the craziness is worth it and I hope that someday you’ll feel the same. Even if you have never been a camper, it’s never too late to experience camp life. I encourage you to find a place to be silly and vulnerable, and to surround yourself with endless amounts of creativity and excitement. Even if it’s only to see what all the hype is about, humour me. Send your kids, send yourself – find a way to be a part of one camp or another because we can’t change lives all by ourselves.

In case you don’t have any summer plans yet and you’re feeling compelled to see if I’m right – here’s your opportunity. Click on the link to give us a hand! https://widjiitiwin.ca/work-at-widji

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