The Palisadian-Post asked its spring interns to share memories of summer camp, whether they were here in the Palisades or long-distance sleepaway camps.
Brett Abrams | Summer of Fun at Coast Sports
Summer camp started as something I would dread. The prospect of leaving my parents for hours throughout the day to interact with complete strangers was a concept my 4-year-old brain loathed.
During my sophomore year at camp, my mother would have to practically drag me out of camp to get home; there was nothing I looked forward to more than the first day of Coast Sports Summer of Fun.
Created and led by Steve Morris, known as Coach Steve by the many fans he has accumulated throughout the years, Summer of Fun is, quite possibly, the most unique summer camp there is.
To start the day off, campers and counselors would compete in daily competitions. The constant variety of contests brought out the hidden talents of campers through dancing, singing, lip-synching, impressions and many more. The contests continued at lunch as campers would compete to see who could eat the most slices of Domino’s Pizza.
Campers would then have the choice to participate in an assortment of pre-arranged activities. Some were simple and common, such as King of the Court basketball tournaments and Home Run Derby. Others were unique, in typical Coach Steve fashion, such as soccer-tennis or indoor soccer on scooters.
Likely the biggest attraction of Summer of Fun were the themed days and accompanying activities. One of the most popular themes was Halloween Day. In the midst of July, campers were encouraged to dress up in Halloween costumes or have their faces painted. The day was concluded with a walk through a haunted house, comparable only to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.
One of my personal favorite days of camp was Water Wars Day, where the whole camp would be divided into two groups for an all-out water gun battle. Although the intent was for the two groups to compete in some type of game, some campers would disregard the objectives of the game in order to drench the opposing team. Water Wars was memorable for campers and parents alike—the latter often wishing they didn’t send their kid to camp with a brand-new pair of shoes.
Perhaps my favorite camp memory is the annual food fight both campers and counselors participated in. Although they called it a food fight, in reality, we were simply playing dodgeball with whip cream. It was, and still is, the only time I’ve been able to hurl food at my older sister without punishment. Not only was I free from punishment, but I was encouraged to empty as much whip cream on her as possible. If that isn’t a younger sibling’s dream, I don’t know what is.
Karina Eid | Summer in Switzerland
Ever since a young age, I have always been unadventurous. Starting from second grade, my best friends all spent their summers at sleep-away camps across the country. I, for one, never wanted to join them, despite their encouragement.
Two years ago, however, during eighth grade, my mindset about camps shifted into a more positive light. As the summer was beginning to draw near, my mother shared stories about her many thrilling summer camp experiences.
The only story to ever captivate my attention, though, involved a camp somewhere in Switzerland. I was suddenly intrigued. So, I quickly started researching; Le Rosey, a Swiss boarding school, was the first program to pop up. The more research I did, the more excited I became. Eventually, my parents obliged, and my friend and I were off to Geneva.
During our arrival, we noticed the beautiful architecture and greenery. Upon request, my friend and I shared a room, and we instantly started decorating, attempting to add a sense of comfort. All my pent-up excitement, however, suddenly seemed to diminish as I realized I would not see my parents for a month. My fearless 13-year-old facade came to an unsurprising halt as I spent the entire first night in tears.
Adding to my dramatic trepidation, on the next day, the counselors took my group to climb an entire mountain. We simply used ropes and hooks to ascend our way up. Frankly, I felt terrified and even considered calling my parents to complain; but, I did not. After I climbed the mountain, I was so proud of myself; this essentially pulled me out of my restricted comfort zone, both physically and mentally.
On the winding bus ride home, I finally relaxed and started meeting more people. A girl from Russia started explaining her life under Vladimir Putin’s rule—a topic I had only ever heard about from school and the news. Then, someone else from England began speaking French, Italian, Russian and German. I instantly felt uncultured and convinced myself that I would learn how to speak Russian; I never got around to it, though.
Although this sleep-away camp experience was nearly three years ago, I still talk to my friends from around the world—all the way from Germany to Kuwait to Texas. Despite my friend and my homesick-based urge to run away after the first night, I can say, with confidence, that we would certainly not trade our time there for anything.
In the end, I left Le Rosey with an endless string of memories, bonds and possibly even a stronger sense of adventurousness.
Charlie Kapinos | Finding the Perfect Match
Sleep-away camp was an interesting experience for me, with lots of mixed feelings about the many that I went to. When I was younger, it was pretty bad, but as I got older, it got so much better.
I went to my first sleep-away camp when I was 9 years old. The camp was very far away, across the country in a little town near Augusta, Maine.
As beautiful as it was, on the lake and all that, I was an anxious little kid. I didn’t like being so far away from my parents, so pretty much every other day, I got hit with waves of homesickness. This went on for the two weeks I was there, it wasn’t a super pleasant experience, but I still had some good times. I went back to that same camp the following summer, and had a very similar experience.
The next summer, when I was 11 years old, I tried an entirely different camp. This camp was amazing, it fit me perfectly and I had a lot of fun.
I had gone to the day camp they offered for a couple sessions and loved it. We would just build stuff all day. There were tools, wood, rope and everything a creative little kid could ever want.
There were all sorts of different projects we took part in. One time we built a roller coaster, another time we built a zipline. Everything was done with adult supervision and intense effort on safety, of course.
Originally, I was a bit nervous to go to this sleep-away camp, given my experience with the past two years, but since this camp was located just a couple hours away, in a small town called Julian, I was already feeling better about it.
Once I got there, I was instantly surprised with how kind and welcoming the other campers were.
This camp was a little more modern than the first camp I went to. The camp was small—really small. There was a max of 20 to 30 kids at one time. We would eat every single meal family-style around this humongous table that sat on the deck of the boys’ cabin and faced mountains that looked like a painting.
During the times in between meals, we would build all sorts of projects, from a ridable Ferris wheel to slingshots made from tree branches. This camp was so much more my style.
Even with a couple homesick moments here and there, I felt so much more comfortable with the people and staff at this camp. It was a really great experience overall, and I went home that summer, overjoyed and excited for next year.
The summer after that was another great year with the same camp—even better, actually. The location was different that year, nestled up in the incredible Sequoia National Park. The location gave more of a traditional camp experience, which was totally great, given I was with people I enjoyed spending time with and felt comfortable.
This year was much like the last, we would build awesome projects, from a zipline to musical instruments. In between building time, we would play capture the flag or hang out in the common room that had foosball, movies and couches.
Other times, we would go to a lake at the center of the National Park to kayak, swim and dive off rocks. The friends I made there are still people I miss to this day, years later.
The counselors at that camp were some of the kindest, funniest and wisest people I’ve ever met. The counselor I had in my bunk would tell us stories about his time in other countries going on amazing adventures.
The memories I made there are some of my fondest memories to this day. I miss that place so incredibly much, and I aged out just this past summer, so I won’t be able to go back, as a camper at least.
Overall, sleep-away camp is kind of a trial-and-error type thing. One size does not fit all. Some people like a more traditional experience and some don’t, it’s not worth it to just go to the same place year after year and be unhappy just for the sake of doing something or keeping yourself busy.
Camp is a really incredible experience, if you find the right one. At first, it was hard for me, but once I found the right and perfect place for me, it was amazing and I’m sure I’ll be remembering my good times at camp far into my adult years.
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