Like all residential summer camps, Summit is a community that is bound in tradition. Every season we enjoy re-visiting our special theme days, our songs, our dances, our end-of-session closing ceremonies, and many more things that make us uniquely “Summit”. It is important to balance our campers’ needs with the experience, however. For those of you with prior camp experience- either your own or another one of your children’s- might be familiar with the half-week “Color War”, the camp song that includes some silly phrases, the sporting competition with other units/bunks or even other camps in the same area.
Summit’s goal is to be every bit the traditional camp experience that our children and teens deserve and value. So, in that light, our community celebrates in a way that is meant to be fun and fulfilling- by being mindful of what will actually be fun and fulfilling for our camper. We keep in mind the need to balance competition with collaboration; spontaneity with sameness; surprise with expectation. We take every opportunity to find ways to lift up, recognize, and give confirmation of a job well done- be it having been the most helpful person of the day, having done something a bit outside of your comfort zone, or having cheered the loudest when it wasn’t your own turn.
Here are some examples of the ways in which your camper will spend time outside of the daily program.
Friday Night All Camp Activity: A once weekly time (usually on Fridays!) when all of camp comes together and enjoys a community event, including camp talent shows, after horseshoe. Popular nights are the camp “International Night”, where staff perform skits based on their home countries (we often have 12 or more countries represented at camp!), the Camper/Counselor Talent Night, or the “Summitstock” Outdoor concert- put on and hosted by campers.
Community Spirit Day: A day in early July which all of camp comes together for a common goal on different ‘color’ teams- Red, White, and Blue. This past summer the theme of our Community Spirit Day was “Camp is for Everyone”. There are always three causes represented by the various teams; in this case each one a non-for-profit camping program that supported individuals who otherwise would not have been able to access a camp experience- the Dyberry Day Camp, the Fresh Air Fund, and Camp Morris. During the day the campers will participate in “wacky races” and other various competitions- often earning points by showing team spirit, helping others, positive encouragement, and so forth. In the evening the campers enjoy a closing show, awards for successes determined by their counselors/Division Leaders, and finally- an optional fireworks show.
Track & Field Day: A day in mid-August that is our closest version of the traditional camp color war, Track & Field day is a fully themed activity that lasts from sun up to sun down at Summit. Often, the theme of our Track & Field is one that can be easily identified and is generally enjoyed by our camp populations; fairy tales, Disney stories, Harry Potter- many quite famous characters have visited us for the T&F event. Considerable effort is put in to making a play to be put on by the ‘senior’ staff- Division Leaders, Area Heads, and others- which introduces the need for the campers to “set forth and save the Magic On the Hill” through a days’ worth of challenges and adventures. The day ends with a large assortment of medals, trophies, and certificates for campers in all the age groups.
Here are some examples of ways in which we use tradition and fun to encourage and develop campers.
Shout-outs: Campers and staff are permitted to provide a “shout out” to a person or group of people (ie, all of lower camp bunk 5) at the dining hall during any meal that particularly notes something they did that was kind, helpful, new, or challenging- “facing a fear by drinking tap water” was one of the shout outs we had last year, for example! Shout outs allow for accolades based on the camper’s specific situation and are a way of “putting up” someone or something that others might take for granted, but is a true accomplishment for the person who is being ‘shouted-out’. They also model this behavior as a foundation and expectation of the community.
Camp Dances: Summit understood the power of the ‘flash mob’ dance long before the rest of the world! Our campers don’t necessarily enjoy noisy lunchroom songs. They have a tendency to question verses of the camp songs we might have grown up with- (like the one I recall in which there is a frog getting hit by a truck!)- more than the neurotypical camper! However, we have found that our campers do very much enjoy dance routines. “Reach for the Stars” by the UK band ‘S Club 7’ (we do have many international staff, after all) has been Summit’s fundamental song and dance for well over a decade, and each camper will get the chance to learn the dance- to his/her capability and desire- during Glee activities. Other popular camp dances have originated from routines made up by other specialist staff, including “Best Day of My Life” and “Shake it Off”.
Unit Plays: Campers who wish to get up on stage will certainly have their chance at Summit. Many of our kids and teens come to us already practicing a talent in music or performing arts; it just seems to be an area of success and enjoyment for many of our youth to begin with. Further, many campers who may have not felt comfortable getting up to perform but always wanted to suddenly ‘find their feet’ at Summit- it’s hard not to take the leap in a community that you feel assured will have your back. Each session provides at least two major opportunities for performance at camp- a Unit Play and a talent night. The play is conducted in a traditional manner- there are ‘tryouts’ for the play, auditions, and practice- however, every child or teen who wishes to be in the play will have one (and sometimes more than one!) role to enjoy. Some campers who do not wish to get up on stage wish to help out with the costumes or making the sets, which is also encouraged and appreciated.
These are just a few snippets of some of the special things we routinely do to make our campers feel members of a larger community, to encourage their strengths, and celebrate their interests. Our camp is built on the use of positive feedback and building self-esteem, a critical factor to your child or teen’s resiliency in dealing with their world in all settings.