Camp friendships last a lifetime. Ask anyone who has spent even one summer at camp, and they will say the same thing. I recently got married at Camp Pinnacle, and both my husband and I filled our guest list and bridal party with friends who we met over our combined 24 years at various summer camps.
We always talk to our campers and staff about building quality friendships at camp versus the focus on quantity of “friends” that is reinforced by social media. Rather than think about how many friends you have or how many “likes” you can get, at camp, you are put in a unique situation where quality friendships are formed in hyper-speed. Campers are placed in cabins with their peers where they must collaborate together and communicate face-to-face 24/7.
Like most children, I had a very difficult time making friends when I was in school. It didn’t help that I had ADHD and my family had two very big moves (one to Chile, and one to the Virgin Islands) at critical times in my childhood. It wasn’t until we started attending Camp Pinnacle that I started to make quality friendships. Maybe it was because social media had no place at camp (this was when AOL was the new big thing). Or maybe it was living in close quarters with a diverse group of girls; everyone was always able to connect with someone in the cabin. When arguments would arise in our cabin, we had about a two-second rebound rate before we were back to giggling about what happened earlier at swim lessons. I became more confident in my friendships and started to realize which friends were of value and which “friends” were OK to let go of. Over the years, I have had friendships come and go, but my camp friendships have always held strong. Whether we keep in touch daily, once a month, or even once a year, my camp friendships continue to be unwavering and loyal.
At Camp Pinnacle, we look for ways to intentionally cultivate these relationships. The first day of camp, campers will be introduced to their cabin mates and counselors as soon as they arrive. They will spend the rest of the afternoon participating in activities to keep them engaged and active while also bonding with their cabin through fun challenges. The first week of camp, campers will spend a majority of their time in cabin groups. They will participate in every in-camp activity and go on their day hike and overnight together. We intentionally schedule cabins to do these activities first because we believe these are the activities that form friendships. What better way to bond a group of children than spending a night eating s’mores over a campfire? Campers will be challenged to try new activities in the comfort of their cabin groups, creating stronger bonds through teamwork and support. Campers spend this first week with one of their counselors leading them from activity to activity; this allows counselors and directors to keep a close eye on all cabin dynamics.
On the weekends, campers will be able to choose their own activities. We love that this gives campers the opportunity to spend time with kids outside of their cabin groups. Once the second Monday of camp rolls around, the entire camp community becomes stronger as campers venture to make new appropriate friendships with campers of opposite genders and varying ages. The second week of camp is “cabin choice,” so cabins are able to spend more time together at the end of their session but are able to choose their favorite activities to do together as a group.
One of the most important times of the day is before bedtime, when cabins come together for their evening circles. Campers are able to share stories from the day and talk about their favorite moments and things that they would like to change for tomorrow. Throughout the summer, campers will be recognized in front of their cabin mates for being their “best selves.” Everyone is able to share the spotlight during evening circle, and it’s a wonderful time to watch children build confidence and communication skills.
I am very grateful for my camp friendships and feel honored to help a new generation create these kinds of lifelong friendships of their own. We cannot wait to see what kind of friendships will form this summer!