Winter Scenes around Camp!
Hey guys! It’s Sumer, and lately, I’ve been reflecting on the time I spent at camp this year. I lived for seven weeks at my favorite place on Earth this summer, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it. I’m often asked what my favorite memory from camp was this year, and usually, I can pin point it pretty clearly, but this time, it’s a bit more generalized. It was the people.
I have never in my life been surrounded with such outstanding and inspiring people. The staff was filled with truly amazing individuals. I was a member of the E-team this summer, and it was my first year on staff, and the first thing that I noticed was how welcoming the other counselors were. They really took me under their wings and showed me what it takes to be a counselor. These overgrown kids were able to make a lot of campers’ summer in such a short time, and I feel honored to be apart of their team. They always know what to do in any situation, and they manage to turn something that would typically seem negative, into something fun and exciting for their kids.
I worked in Lakeview for most of the summer, and I learned so many amazing counselor skills there. In Lakeview, the kids are so young and for a lot of them, it’s the first time they’ve been away from mom and dad for long periods of time. Needless to say, there were some meltdowns. However, you could always see a counselor running over to save the day! Almost instantly, the counselors would find out the problem, resolve it, and get the camper back to having fun in no time. The first time I witnessed one of these events, I remember being completely stunned by how quickly the counselor fixed the problem. This counselor made a sobbing kid laugh and realize how much fun they were actually having.
The counselors at camp are changing lives in simple, yet profound ways. From eating pudding with no hands, to leading brilliant devotions at night, they made a lot of kids’ summers perfect. They made my summer perfect as well. I loved being a part of the E-Team, but working with the other counselors made me even more excited to be a counselor next year. Even though many of the older staff members are leaving to let their light shine elsewhere, they’ve left the younger generation of staff with the proper skills, knowledge, and inspiration to carry out the tradition for next year. They’ve left us well prepared, and I personally can’t thank them enough.
You guys pump me up so much, and I can’t wait for next summer.
This past summer I got to meet Khensli, a little girl from Walnut Hills, who came to camp with a group of children from the Melrose YMCA in Cincinnati. (The photo is us at the Camp Ernst Party on that Thursday night, with another friend!) Every time she saw me, she flashed a huge smile and said, “Hi Miss Eli!” She was so proud and thrilled to be spending a week at camp, making friends and having fun with cool camp counselors as role models.
In 2013, YMCA Camp Ernst served 300 campers who were there on scholarship. I am so proud of our hundreds of generous donors, including many of the outstanding young camp counselors, who made possible this life-changing experience for so many children.
THANK YOU, and BIG CAMP CLAP to all the folks who give their time, talent, and treasure for deserving children to learn about nature, discover themselves, make friends, go ziplining, be responsible, play gaga, try new things, conquer their fears, develop confidence, and grow in spirit, mind, and body at camp this past summer.
You can help us kick-start our 2014 camper scholarship campaign now! Go to http://www.crowdrise.com/GiftOfALifetime
Yes it’s true; we do ask that our campers and counselors leave behind their technology for their stay at camp. We don’t want anything to distract from reconnection with nature, having meaningful conversations with friends, and being active.
Although, we do think that technology plays an important role in sharing our experience. While some people need to create moments to share, here at camp there are special memories being created constantly and it’s impossible to capture them all. When viewing our photo website http://campernst.zenfolio.com/ during the summer you will see pictures from the ropes course, the lakefront, and traditional camp activities like archery, basketball, and fishing. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, we miss the moments when campers holds the door for a friend or work together to win Cabin of the Day. We give our camper’s family members the chance to live vicariously through their children as they experience all the best things about being a kid.
Twitter posts that tweet about a wide variety of activities give us a live update on events like the Camp Ernst Talent Show or some special memory a cabin is creating. Live tweets help give a sense of how much fun we can pack into a short week! During the off season you don’t have to miss Camp Ernst either, Eli is always updating at https://twitter.com/campernst telling us about fun ways to connect with camp. Social media themes like Throwback Thursday are a great opportunity to share the history of camp, showing the old valley pool or the smaller cabins of the early days. Instagram lets users place filters on current photos to look older but it is also a great way for us to share our actual vintage pictures from our collection. Another great media type to share is video. Short 30 second videos on Instagram make the camp experience even more accessible to those who aren’t here during a week (or weekend) of camp. Our Youtube page “CampErnstTV” is full of wacky videos of future actors and actresses from the Fine Arts program.
Discover something new on one of our outlets and spark a conversation today!
This past summer I had the pleasure of serving as the Red Unit Girls (RUG) Color Leader. As a color leader it was my job to lead my own cabin of girls as a head counselor and also to serve as a mentor and first line of help to the other counselors and campers in my unit. As a veteran camper and staff member who has spent the past 11 summers at Camp Ernst, I can easily say it was one of my favorites yet! I got to work with some of the most amazing and devoted staff members in the world and I got to know so many inspirational and utterly beautiful girls.
This summer the Valley Girls, which is both the red and yellow units, worked really hard to build up all of our campers into better young women. We spent our Sunday nights in what we called “Valley Girl Orientation” where we talked about what it meant to be a valley girl and how special it was to be in this beautiful place. We learned about some camp history and the importance of curiosity and exploration during their week stay with us. We talked about what “Stay Golden, Valley Girl” meant and how God could play a role in shaping us all into beautiful young women. We even adopted our own bible verse, Proverbs 31:25, to represent us. It was important for Shae, the yellow unit color leader, and I to tell everyone that camp is a gift we often take for granted. Then, on Wednesdays we held our fabulous dodge ball tournament and followed up with Vespers. Vespers is a long standing tradition and a time to reflect with your peers on how this week and your time at camp has helped you grow. Counselors and campers alike talk about what camp means to them and why they come back year after year after year.
During my time at CE this summer I was a leader and was supposed to be teaching others, but in the end, I was the one who learned. I learned by listening to stories of triumphs coming from 11-year-old girls who had never been away from home before. I learned what it meant to be beautiful when campers would affirm each other in the most sincere way. I learned that true friends don’t have to play the same sports as you, go to your school, or even know you for more than a few days to really make a difference in your life. The most important lesson I learned though was that being yourself is really easy when you’re surrounded by other Valley Girls.
Once a Valley Girl, Always a Valley Girl.
Meals at camp are always a party! The festive atmosphere of girls and boys singing One Direction songs, eventually leads to dancing and will often escalate to singing from the benches. Rest assured, with all of this fun our campers and counselors do get their meals in. We serve family style meals with passing food up and down the table for refills. Campers have a great opportunity to get to know their cabin mates and reminisce about their morning or afternoon activities before the party music plays signals it’s time to “CLEAN UP!”
While we do have different menus every other week, there are certain meals that must be repeated weekly due to their overwhelming popularity. You’d be surprised how excited people get about their breakfast foods! Pancakes, french toast, bacon, and cinnamon rolls are swooped up from serving platters more quickly than a Dodgeball on Wednesday night. At lunchtime “Bug Juice” flows from the pitchers as if it has some quality of everlasting youthfulness. Although every Tuesday we have the same lunch, counselors still always ask each other “what’s for lunch today?” Only to burst with euphoria when they find out it’s “TACO TUESDAY!” Tortillas shells, nacho chips, taco meat, chicken, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar, sour cream, salsa, black beans, pinto beans, and rice make for many combinations for vegans, vegetarians, or any picky eater. I’m sure there are also some kids (and adults) out there that wish mac & cheese were the lunchtime meal everyday too! The classic chicken tender with mashed potatoes and green beans is probably the winner when it comes to dinner. Our lunchtime and dinner cooks (and chef Kevin) pride themselves not only on the main meal but also the side dishes they offer on the alternatives bar. As with every camp dinner, I’ll finished with dessert! Rice krispy treats, chocolate chip cookies, cake, ice cream cups, pudding, jello cups, I can’t pick one!
Keep it Ernst Fresh,
Well coincidentally, today is Monday, and earlier this morning, it was 6 o’clock and I was in the middle of a dream. (Though the dream had nothing to do with Valentino nor a crystal blue Italian stream; rather, it was the standard “camp starts tomorrow and you forgot to hire anyone!” panic-dream)
When I was a camp counselor and unit leader, one of our traditions was to stand up on the benches in the dining hall and sing “Manic Monday” every Monday morning. Today as I got my kids ready for school I was thinking about the value of tradition in a child’s life. Even a silly tradition like singing the first verse (the only one we could remember) of the Bangles’ song seemed sacred at that time.
The days of singing Manic Monday may have gone the way of poofy bangs, but the traditions swirling around Camp Ernst are still central to the experience. Conventional parenting wisdom teaches us that children crave routines. I will take that a step further and claim that kids (at least the ones I know) are constantly sorting their experiences into ones with and without value. They’re looking for friendship, connection, and for someone to say, “You’re OK!”
How better to say that than by standing on a bench, arms around each other, in front of a few hundred people at summercamp, singing “Just another Manic Monday…”?
Have a GREAT DAY! (“Great Day” was another one of those songs…)
Last Saturday we had our first Charity Horse Ride of the season, a fall tradition to raise money for camper scholarships. Were you outside last weekend? It was such perfect weather, and great for riding.
Sarah, our new ranch program director, and Nancy, our longtime stable manager, took rides out with the help of a few other dedicated staff members.
A few of this past summer’s ranch campers came back for another ride on the horses they fell in love with this summer. Moms and dads got to go too, and experience the thrill of riding through a creek and on our beautiful wooded trails. A few Girl Scout groups made it a field trip, too.
Can’t wait for the next one, November 2! Give us a call to reserve your time slot (859-586-6181).
See you then!
What is it about camp that facilitates friendships?
This past weekend we had a bunch of campers and counselors back here at YMCA Camp Ernst for one of our fall camps, “Lumberjack Weekend.” A few campers came with a buddy or with a group of friends, but most came “alone,” and left rich with friendship.
"Find out 3 fun facts about your s’more cooking buddy!" said one counselor during the campfire.
"Help spot your friends as they climb down the ladder!" was the instruction at the ropes course.
Formal or informal, there are endless opportunities to make friends at camp, and the counselors do a great job facilitating that. Kids are immediately brought in to the fold and introduced to each other. One counselor told me, “I tried to break the ice by having everyone write their names in the air with their butts.” (!!!)
Really, the magic of camp happens when kids realize they can be themselves here. They clap for a log, stand on the benches screaming for a shark attack, ride horses for the first time, and play capture the flag in the rain, all under the caring supervision of cool camp counselors. When you’re at your best, feeling your best, being yourself to the fullest, you make friends.
We’re counting down the days til our next Lumberjack weekend so we can make more friends! (32 days!!)
P.S. Jon Perry says that “Lumberjack Weekend” dates back to 1978 when camp director Dick Conrad held the first one, which featured log chopping and firebuilding competitions!
Nope, no real Lumberjacks here at camp (though we do have a counselor named Zac who enjoys being known as “LumberZac” in the fall). We are just continuing the wackiness known as summercamp…in the fall.
The October Lumberjack weekend is always one of my favorites! The leaves are still on the trees, though there are more yellows and reds. It’s not actually COLD yet, though we get to wear sweatshirts and drink hot chocolate anyway. It’s not too windy yet so we still have the waterfront open for boating. The counselors and campers haven’t had TOO much time away from camp so they remember the songs and traditions. And, well, I just love having people here enjoying camp!
I actually don’t know why they’re called “Lumberjack Weekends.” I’ll ask Jon Perry and get back to you on that. In the mean time, I hope to see you here this fall, with our without your plaid flannel shirt!