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!

Senior Sleepovers and Towanda Ski-Hats!

What an amazing couple of weekends up at camp for our annual Senior Girls and Senior Boys sleepovers.  Beyond the chilly temperatures and snow flurries, fun on the lake, frozen Ghost, basketball by the fireplace, sledding, ice fishing and delicious home-cooked dinner and breakfast (including Hibachi Eggs and Spaghetti and Meatballs), we had the chance to sit and talk with them in front of the fireplace. We spoke about our expectations, proper behavior and respect, how to make a positive impact on others, what is a friend and so on.  We expressed our anticipation of them becoming the future leaders of camp and what it takes to get there.  The good news is that not only were they listening and digesting it,  we actually do get there with each group, each year; no matter the challenges … and that is what the next 2 summers are about.

Girls Head Counselor Amy Miller came all the way from Florida to join the Senior Girls’ Sleepover this year.  Here is a beautiful recap of her experience.

“I have so much to share I don’t even know where to start …. Do I write as a Mother of a 10 and 14 year old girs , The Girls Head Counselor , or an alumni who started as a young camper in 1979 !!?   It’s funny to have so many titles 🙂  I think I will just share my thoughts, with all my different camp hats on …

First,  I just want to say thank you to Mitch and Stephanie for a beautiful weekend filled with love, hugs, laughter, excitement, tradition, yummy food, fresh country air, lots of layers and of course … snow!!!

The Senior Girls Sleepover  weekend was better than I ever anticipated it to be … and we were very excited. I have been at camp for a long time, in many capacities. That being said … I have never been at Senior Sleepover !!! I have heard about it though and have seen amazing pictures,  but never experienced it for myself !!!

I am overwhelmed with so many different emotions. I think the most important feeling I have is feeling very grateful. Grateful for the beautiful friendships the girls have made, grateful for the life lessons and coping skills they are learning, for the independence they are developing  and especially grateful for the  emotionally safe environment they have to do all this “growing up” in.

Being a Mom of two girls on girls camp and the Girls Head Counselor I think I experience all the different things at camp in very different ways.  At the Senior Girls winter sleepover I felt so thankful as a Mother and also so proud as Girls Head Counselor and felt especially privileged to be part of the Camp Towanda family & team.

I have seen the Senior Girls grow and mature over past summers. As we all know there has been times that were a bit trying to say the least !!!  That being said I have come full circle with them as I have with many of the groups on girls camp.  Watching ALL of the girls come together through the weekend was amazing.  All the lessons we have been trying to teach them just clicked.  They were kind, loving, inclusive, happy, respectful and thankful. Most of all they were plain, old … HAPPY.  That is an amazing way to describe 30 teenage girls !!!

I think parents are thrilled to send their children to sleep away camp …. they know it is a good experience and that their children are happy.  Though, I don’t always think they are  aware of all the magical things that happen at camp. I felt like a fly on the wall this weekend. Enjoying, helping, but also so impressed and proud. The planning and organization of the weekend was incredible. Everything ran like a well oiled machine. The hot chocolate that Stephanie & Jared made hit the spot. The cooking by chef Mitch was delish … homemade sauce !!!  I was REALLY impressed !!!

Of course the sledding, ice fishing and frozen s’mores were all fabulous too but the  “mansion talks” with both of you and now Jared (who grew up at camp) about being a good person and friend, about taking care of each other, about being a mensch were priceless. You could hear a pin drop in the room as they were all snuggled on the couch sitting in front of a awesome fire and just listening. Absorbing every word.   If I didn’t see it for myself I wouldn’t believe it. I feel very lucky to have been a part such a special time.

On the drive home … one of the girls in my car said … “Hey guys, Do you realize that Mitch and Stephanie choose to be with us, at their home, in the middle of winter.  I guess they could be on vacation, but they are here with us!” The girls got it !!”  When parents ask me what makes Towanda different … I always have so much to tell them …. I speak to them from my heart. What I truly believe.  Senior Sleepover just validated everything that I already knew and more.

Lucky Strike Reunion Recap!

Wow! What a REUNION!

It was great to see all those who were able to make it to our November Reunion at Lucky Strike this past weekend! Can you think of a better Saturday than to be with your camp friends? Well, take that and mix it with the Summer 2012 FNF Highlights, some arcade games, bowling and tasty pizza and you’d be feeling pretty LUCKY!

How did everyone bowl? I think I saw Casper score a turkey…well, it was that or he was chasing one! Either way the Thanksgiving spirit was in the air and you could definitely sense the love and feel the power of the Camp Towanda family. Along those lines, thank you to those that were able to support and contribute to our Hurricane Sandy Relief Food Drive…. it was a great success!

The FNF highlights were amazing as everyone crowded onto the lanes to get a good view on any of the 13 ginormous HD monitors! It’s hard to think we will be able to top the fun and excitement we had in 2012… but I’ve got a feeling we will be Lucky in ‘13, for the NEXT BEST SUMMER EVER!!!  But until then, be a part of the excitement with our Offical Facebook Fan page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @CampTowanda, check out our Pinterest page, listen to us on Spotify and don’t forget to practice your knockout skills with your new official CT basketballs!