What a whirlwind these past few weeks have been. The kids have been here less than a month, some have already left and another group leave on Thursday. I’m exhausted but the fact time has actually flow indicates just how much fun I’ve been having.
The day the kids arrived was wet and windy but that didn’t stop us making it an epic welcome. There was singing and dancing in the dining hall; cheering and screaming as the buses pulled in and absolute chaos helping multiple small boys attempt to relocate their hockey sticks. I have been assigned to HB1, the youngest boys in camp, and it has been both the most rewarding yet stressful time. For the first 2 weeks there were 16 boisterous boys in that cabin each with their own individual quirks. While making them be quiet during announcements and getting them to settle down when it’s time for bed makes me want to rip my hair out and question why anyone would ever want children, there are so many more moments where the things they come out with make me cry with laughter or feel such a sense of pride, I find it hard to imagine ever being mad at them. I spent most of my first day hanging out with the boys and trying to get to know them as we weren’t running activities. Lunch was an interesting affair as there was an ENORMOUS puddle round the clock tower outside the dining hall and these boys decided it would be a great idea to play in/around it. I turned my back for 5 minutes to catch up with some of my girls from last year and the boys were all drenched from head to toe. I also got soaked in the process of attempting to get them out and 3 of them had to go back to the cabin to change before lunch. This set the tone for the next 2 weeks!
Once lunch is over the dreaded swim test is always the main part of the first day. I know from experience how traumatic this is as I completely lost it during mine this year so I try to stick with the kids who I sense will find it most difficult. Most of the boys in HB1 absolutely smashed it and were in and out as quick as possible so they didn’t get cold. Unfortunately, one boy was not feeling the ice cold water and no amount of persuasion from myself or one of his counsellors seemed to work. We got his brother involved and another member of staff but the more people who were around the more he closed off, so I attempted a different tactic. Tommy (his counsellor) and I totally backed off and watched from a distance while he came to his decision alone. Unfortunately a few other members of staff didn’t seem to be aware of what we were trying to do so pounced on him again. He did nearly end up going in but it was all too much for him and the poor kid was freezing so we decided the wait for another day. However, this kid now associates me with that day and really, really doesn’t like me. But hey you win some you lose some.
The first 2 weeks of camp were crazy busy and there were so many kids it was hard to find time to breathe. I think I sat down for about 30 seconds each meal time and any spare time not spent with my boys I was hanging out with some of my girls from last year who are now first year Sequioas so super old and cool. Thankfully not too cool to want to spend time with me which is very sweet. The rest of the time I’m down at Outdoor Rec attempting to make the kids understand there’s a lot more to our activity than fishing and fire building. We have been partially successful, although not as much as I’d have hoped. Still it takes more than a summer to change a perception and I’m hopeful that the changes we’ve made this year could snowball into something more over the next few years. Our biggest achievement has been the vegetable patch which I have been discussing with my Dad for the past couple of months before camp and am so happy we got planted. The initial planting of the seeds was a tad chaotic and if we do it again next year will be more structured. Still, the fact we have 2 canoes with fruit and vegetables growing is awesome. The kids got into it more than they let on as well because they still come down and ask to water the plants and check on how they’re doing.
Our Super Sunday ideas have been more successful than I expected too. The paint decorating was great fun and some of the masterpieces created were truly spectacular. The kids got pretty messy and I had to hose one of them down but its Outdoor Rec so it’s all part of the fun. By far our most successful Super Sunday has and will always be raft building. The constructions the kids come up with and create in such a small amount of time is always so impressive. Some of them disintegrate immediately upon impact with water but a small number of them actually make it out onto the lake. I’m always slightly nervous watching 6 tiny Hawthorns float out on the lake with nothing but foam, logs and twine supporting them but then I remember they weigh nothing and 7 year old children have no fear. Some of the rafts they built this year were extremely impressive and actually made it out to the target without collapsing- they are certainly more creative than me!
The main issue for our team this year has once again been the organisation of overnights. Part of Outdoor Rec’s remit is that we are supposed to organise and facilitate camping trips to the site on the other side of the lake. They are always great fun once we’re there but getting there takes time, coordination and more time. We tried to recitify a number of the issues with them this year by coming up with a schedule before camp started. Unfortunately, this schedule fell apart pretty quickly and as a result, I feel has caused some problems within the team and with the kids. A number of cabins were told they were going on overnights because they were as part of the original schedule but this then had to changed because events were moved that they couldn’t miss. We’re also paddling over this year which is great because it means we have two more staff to help out but also causes problems because we have to fit in timings around another activity that works to a different timetable. As a result we have so far only managed to take 4 cabins on full overnights and 2 more just for dinner. Despite the stress the kids we have taken seem to have enjoyed themselves and there’s been some truly stunning sunsets I’d hate to have missed. In my opinion there really is no better place in camp than the overnight site: the beautiful sunsets; endless s’mores; early nights for the kids and a real sense of peace. In the stress of organising them I sometimes forget how peaceful it is over there but it really is a special place to be even if the only thing we ever seem to eat are burgers!
Special programmes and camp wide events also make overnights tricky because we don’t want the kids to feel like they’re missing out on anything. The timings of these events are pretty fluid so even when we try to plan around them we still have to change at the last minute. The one thing I refused to miss this year though was the Hawthorn play, mainly because I’d promised too many of my boys who were in it that I would be there and also because Peter Pan is my absolute favourite. Sometimes the lack of respect shown by the rest of the camp at camp wide events makes me really angry, expecially at something like the Hawthorn play. They are small and quiet but so adorable and the fact people can’t be quiet for the hour the show lasts is a little bit ridiculous. Still, the play itself was absolutely adorable and definitely worth the rath of a certain person for missing the overnight. The talent show was another camp wide event where people struggled to sit still and stay quiet- I do understand as the theatre is an absolute sweat box when everyone is crammed in there- but you can tell a good act when 90% of the audience stops talking. This is what happened when my favourite child got up to perform a song from Hamilton. Not only does she have the voice of an angel but she also signed the whole song too. It was so powerful I almost cried.
With everything going on at camp, from activities, to Super Sundays, helping out with bed time and hanging out with the kids during rest hour I have found I’ve cherished my days off this year more than ever. Just getting out of camp for a few hours and doing something that doesn’t involve worrying about the safety of someone else is a dream. My first day off I went exploring with Bek and Amelia. We had a glorious night in Bracebridge town involving a refreshing bottle of wine and karaoke in a empty bar followed by the obligatory breakfast trip to Nick’s family diner. From there we drove to Port Stanley to play in the waterfalls. The water was a lot higher than we expected so we ended up just relaxing on the rocks. From there we headed to Huntsville for dinner at Pub on the Dock in the sunshine and topped off the day with ice cream. It was the perfect day off and much needed as little did I know it was the most rest I was going to get for a while…
TOP TIP FOR THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF CAMP: Say goodbye to sleep and hello to a sugar gut. Chocolate is the only thing that keeps you going.