Making Sense of the Camp Towanda Experience

reunionEven if you could not make it to one of our reunions (the recent Florida Beach party, NY Lucky Strike reunion or the Fall Foliage BBQ), you probably can still sense why people often say that Towanda is not just a CAMP, it is a FAMILY. In fact, a few parents mentioned to me at the recent reunions that Camp Towanda is not just a camp, it is a lifetime experience!

1525185_694984937208671_841563249_nAt the reunion, there is an overwhelming warm, frenetic loving camaraderie, coupled with a strong sense of confidence, growth and appreciation. Being part of Camp Towanda naturally nurtures friendship, respect and development.

If you had a chance to read Ethan Kripke’s sermon on the cover of the Towanda Times, you can sense that a normal day at camp consists of sports, activities and events that create what on the surface appears to be what camp in general is supposed to be about; BUT, the truth is LIFE AT CAMP Towanda is so much more.

huggingkidsThe opportunity of experiences is what we are about. The good with the bad, the challenges with the easy stuff and the ups with the downs; is really what happens. Learning to grow up, learning to handle different situations is WHY our campers and staff unwittingly appreciate and feel that Towanda is special.

One usually doesn’t realize what they have gained until after they are have left camp. Parents usually don’t see it until after their child has grown up.

Dealing with homesickness, a friend who is not acting like a friend, a frustrating game, a burnt pancake (I made that up) or just about any other disappointment in the supportive atmosphere of Towanda is a privilege.

After all, all that, balanced with the laughter, intense fun, inside jokes, creative conversations and over all goofy, being comfortable being silly stuff allow all of us at Camp, to build on the foundation that will shape who we will become. Not only do Ethan Kripke and his Club brothers get it, but everyone who passes through and takes a bit of Towanda with them, does, too.

girlsCamp Towanda is a happy place; Camp Towanda fortifies life skills and social skills and Camp Towanda is a family of support, care, friendship and growth.

This is what I sensed at the recent reunions and it feels great to be a part of it!

Experience, Wisdom, Appreciation.

Ethan Kripke, a 2nd generation Towanda-er, completed his Club year, is currently in 10th grade and will be back in the future as a counselor! This past July, Ethan wrote the following reflection as his sermon to the rest of camp. 

IMG_7116Lots of camper sermons start out with something along the lines of: the first time I stepped off the bus onto Camp Towanda, I was scared. It was a strange new place, filled with people I didn’t know yet, and I was without my family for the first time. My experience, however, was a little different. I had been raised on stories of camp for my whole life. Thanks to encouragement from my father, my brother, and my sister, I was more than ready to hop on the bus and go. I was excited for the weeks to come, with activities and sports, talent shows, trip days, Olympics, and of course, making new friends.

So, for me, the last time I stepped off the bus onto Camp Towanda, I was scared. It was my final year as a camper, and I knew that after the summer, I might not see some of my friends for a very long time. And though this fear has been plaguing me from the beginning of this summer, I have since come to realize that it has also helped me to appreciate the summer even more. It motivates me to have as much fun as possible while I still can, and to be the best I can be to the people who have been a huge part of my life for seven whole years.

In these years, here at Camp Towanda, I have learned many lessons that I have used and will continue to use throughout my life. In this respect, camp is just as important as traditional schooling. At camp, you learn how to take care of yourself and gain personal independence, while also learning and appreciating the value of trust and teamwork. Camp is a place where you understand that friendship is one of the strongest bonds on Earth, and can overcome any challenge. These types of lessons are never taught at school, yet are seamlessly integrated into the daily life of Towanda, helping you learn from your experiences, whether they are mistakes or successes. That’s the beauty of camp: no matter the activity, you’re having fun while also learning, even if you don’t realize it at the time.

club13One of the most important lessons I have learned throughout my time at camp is to live in the moment. While it would be easy to spend my days reliving the past or only worrying about what is to come, I would find that my summers become less enjoyable, and some important experiences would pass me by. In the end, the advice that I have to give to the younger campers (of which I was one) is to cherish the “now”—not the “then”, or the ‘will be’, and to fully appreciate things as they happen, because before you know it, they will only be fond memories.