Four Cups of Kool-Aid and an Index Card

Guest Blog Post by Devin Riggs

At Cheley, near the end of each term the campers are asked to explain what camp means to them on a 3×5 inch index card. For the past four summers I’ve heard the same thing, “An index card doesn’t begin to cover the extent of what camp means to me.”

The transformation from that first weekend, to the last is truly incredible. Girls who were nervous at first end up crying on the last morning because they don’t want to leave. Even if it’s their ninth summer, the experience is uniquely incredible. It’s always different and it always leaves them a little bit speechless. Four weeks can hold an awful lot of breathtaking moments…and multiple that by nine or ten…

How do you put that on an index card?

And yet without fail, they manage to express it in simple terms and eloquent phrases. They relive taco nights, and All Camp skits, and epic hikes…using the Code of Living as the picture frame to capture all those memories.

The counselors don’t normally participate in this tradition, but it never stops me from reflecting on what camp means to me personally. I never went to camp when I was younger, but what did it mean as an adult? What does being a camp counselor mean to me?

It took a while for the experience to fully hit me. Every summer another puzzle piece fell into place. Every summer I got a little bit more than I expected. During my first summer at Girls’ Trail’s End, I finally felt like I was a part of something. Something really magical. I not only appreciated the experience the campers wrote about on those index cards, but I understood it in a way I couldn’t before.

Being a camp counselor…it means the world to me. It’s exciting, challenging, hilarious, exhausting, exhilarating, overwhelming, and life changing. There is no greater joy than arriving back at the unit after a day of program to hear the laughter and voices of girls eating their treats and sharing the highlights of the day.

I have never regretted not going to camp as a kid. My adolescence was pretty amazing, but I’m so grateful to be part of the camp experience now as a young adult. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to spend my summers getting to know these amazing young women, teaching them about the outdoors, watching them learn and grow. It’s something I would not trade for the world. And if I had to sum it all up on an index card, I would say only this:

“Camp has taught me the importance of a quiet moment, in the presence of a good friend, and the delight in laughing so hard you cry. It has taught me that not all triumphs involve arriving at the summit. Success is not always about achieving your goals; sometimes it’s about the mistakes you make and the unexpected obstacles that you face along the way. And it’s okay if you make mistakes. That’s the only way to grow. Camp allows me, at the age of 22, to still learn and grow, from my fellow counselors, from my directors, and from my campers. And that is the greatest gift I could ever receive.

And it’s the reason I am so excited to come back for my fifth year.

Devin will be returning to Cheley as a Sports/Mountain Biking counselor at Girls Trails End

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