September 16th, 2022Uncategorized
And so we come to the end of another wild and busy summer at Echo Pond Summer Camp. With 9 sessions of camp and over 300 campers, this was our biggest season yet.
As Camp Director, I could easily fill a blog post about all the fun adventures we had this year. Late nights playing spotlight, pond swims and freezer cookies, intrepid berry pickers and new friends. The hottest July we’ve ever had. The return of overnight trips.
Instead, I’d like to tell you about my favourite part of camp this summer – the Junior Leaders and CITs.
When we started Echo Pond all the way back in 2015, we dreamt that eventually we would have a slew of campers that would “grow up” at camp – summer after summer returning to the forest and the fields, moving up from junior to intermediate to teen camp, bringing along their friends and their families. We imagined that they would love camp so much that they would want to stay there and eventually join our leadership team. We started our Junior Leader Program 2018 with a handful of older campers. In 2019 we had 6. In 2021 we had 7…
In 2022 we had 27 kids sign up for our Junior Leader program.
Friends, the dream is finally coming true. The majority of our JLs this summer have been attending camp since they were preteens, coming back each year taller, kinder, and with another tree cookie added to their pile. When they finished their last year of regular camp in 2021, many of them let me know that being a Junior Leader wasn’t going to be enough for this year, and that they’d like another week of camp. They wrote lists of things they’d like to do at this imaginary camp. They signed a petition. And friends, if you know me, you know that I love saying yes when kids take initiative.
So this year I rewrote our leadership program, led a bunch of training meetings on Zoom, and this summer…
…we had Leadership Camp
A full week of exploring, moving out of our comfort zone, and learning from each other. We had a fabulous guest speaker, Julia, from connecting with bloom. We put our new Adventure Coordinator, Denali, to work and planned our first overnight hike with campers sleeping in shelters that they built and cooking their own food. Junior Leaders also get to pick their own special camp name. To celebrate, we tie dyed their camp t-shirts!
A big part of Junior Leader training is “pulling back the curtain” on how we run Echo Pond – letting them in on the little secrets that went into making their years of camp fun and special. We all spent time sharing stories and pictures from their youth, reminiscing about their favourite memories and counselors. We ended camp with a big talk about transitioning from camper to leader, centering the child’s experience, and working together as a team. Once camp was over, they returned in three groups to volunteer at our Junior camps with our 7-9-year-old campers.
This is where the magic happens.
Our Junior camps are a lot. The kids are young and new to the camp experience. Our program is jam packed full of fun activities and magical moments. The days are long and sometimes the nights are longer. This year we learned that the key to a successful session of Junior camp is apparently a pack of fresh faced Junior Leaders. They spent their volunteer days playing games, singing songs, tying shoes, canoeing, making bracelets, swimming, hanging out with campers, reading to rooms at night, and playing characters. They provided an undercurrent of youthful energy that makes a camp like this so, so good. All of our littlest campers loved having nine older sibling mentors to run around camp with and our Junior Leaders loved being the counselors that they once looked up to when they were that age.
In addition to our brand new Junior Leader program, we were also excited to welcome back two of last year’s JLs in a Counselor-in-Training role. Dragonfly and Tundra are also long time campers, both starting camp all the way back in 2016. We were thrilled to have them join us at our intermediate camps as part of our staff team where they helped with planning, led our regular programs, and took on a more substantial leadership role. We were also pleased to hire our first long time Echo Pond alumni in a senior staff role!
We can’t wait to see what our growing community gets up to next year!