Family, Another word for camp

Wyonegonic FriendsRecently I have been looking back at my initial parental expectations of camp. Reflecting on the experiences that both of my children have had, this perspective has evolved enormously. To say that my initial expectations have been exceeded is an understatement. The values and blessings that Wyonegonic and Winona have imparted upon our entire family is remarkable.

By example my parents taught me to enjoy, appreciate and respect the outdoors. They taught me to marvel the natural world around us. My husband has a similar longing for the outdoors and as parents we wanted to instill this desire in our children. But neither of us had attended overnight camp.

The choice to send our children to camp came from the basic values our parents taught us. We wanted our kids to be outside, as opposed to inside watching TV. We wanted them to meet people from different places and learn how to get along, to appreciate a beautiful sunset, as well as a threatening thunderstorm. Additionally, we saw sleep-away camp as a place to learn coping and self-help skills that are sometimes best learned outside the home. Finally, we wanted to give our children a reprieve from increasing technology and the proliferation of digital devices and social media. We wanted to give pause from the onslaught of our digital world and to have our kids recognize the value in that kind of disruption. These are principles I am confident other parents share.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACamp has successfully accomplished these hopes. What we didn’t count on was that we would gain another family. Wyonegonic and Winona friends, counselors and staff have all become part of an extended family that circles the globe. There is a certain bond created from sharing the time, space and experiences with those at Camp. My children talk about their counselors as if they were true blood Aunts and Uncles (not just the camp title) and look to their camper cohorts as more than summertime connections. Between September and May they text, facetime and plan mid-winter Camp reunions to keep that sacred summer spirit. Holiday cards are exchanged and when traveling, the chance to connect with someone from Camp is always considered.
Part of it is hard to explain in simple words, it’s an understanding and an awareness. Just like with any family, everything associated with Camp is now part of us and lives at our core. We celebrate accomplishments and we mourn losses. As adults we are able to look back on the experiences in our younger selves and see the moments that have had a major impact. That is what I see from Camp for our children. Watching them blossom in this environment is everything we wanted and more. This is why I often share that I consider the choice of sending our children to Camp as one of the single best parenting decisions we made.

In reflecting on Camp and that first time we pulled down the dirt road, our car packed with the typical stuff, not much has changed physically but so much has been gained. That bendy dirt road, twisting through towering pines, shares a proverbially likeness to our life. Wyonegonic and Winona have given us so much more than just experiences and memories. It has given us a link with others that doesn’t end on Closing Day in August or with the pulling of docks in September. It is a part of us as we each meander down our own roads of life. Camp is Family.

Darcy Conlin
Wyonegonic parent and staff member 2010-present

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