Being welcoming at summer camp: set the tone

Every summer I take professional pictures for summer camps so that they have a set of pictures that they can use for their brochures, newsletters and websites.  Some camps bring me back for different sessions every summer so that their "stock" images cover all age groups and all of the activities.

When I was at Camp Kintail last summer I recorded this message with my thoughts on the amazing way that Kintail welcomes guests.

I think it's something that we can all work to improve at our camps.


Alumni Letters

Every night of staff training we would end off campfire with a fireside chat.  The last thing we did before we said "Thanks for the Evening, Friends" was read an alumni letter.

Starting about this time of the year we would reach out to alumni who had been on staff the previous summer have them "pass the torch" by writing a letter to the present staff.

Here's my letter from 2008.

Camp People.

You are camp people.

I am camp people.

I want you to know deep down that who you are because you are camp people is Important.   There are famous bloggers, cartoonists, national radio hosts, musicians, athletes and even OTHER photographers that are camp people.  Once you learn that they went to camp you will say to yourself "that's why I felt that they were different".  You too will get to take a piece of camp with you when you leave here and use it to make all of your next places special.

Now before I get carried away, I share with you my biggest regret.  To this day, I regret that I followed my father's pushing and went to university without going travelling like I planned.

I can't say this strongly enough:   I don't care what your family wants.   Learn the way you learn best.  Travelling for a year could be the best learning experience you've ever had.

Another thing that others might not tell you.   NO ONE WILL CARE HOW HIGH YOUR MARKS ARE IN UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE.     Learn the way you learn best.  And have fun for crying out loud.

When you leave camp I want you to do this.  Better yet... blow this one away:

Sometimes you need a mnemonic or a trick to help you remember things so I've written one just for tonight.

Things i recommend for camp people:

A - Advil. also known as Ibuprophen. A guy we took our WFR course will called it vitamin I.   It's kept me going during many a busted bodypart from camp life.

B -  Baths are what you do when you are dirty.  Not everyday whether or not you need one.

C -  the crimson glory... Frank's Red Hot.  Try some. It's good.

D - Dogs.  Get one.  Treat it like it's dog not like it's a baby and you will be rewarded.

E - Energy -  I'm with Abrigo.  Turning off light switches is one of the stewardship things that we can all do easily.   The stuff to watch out for - the bathrooms, the kitchen after snack, resource staff rooms, the photocopier and these lights up above us.

F - Firm Handshake - Don't you give anyone that deadfish handshake.  I've known 2 men in particular who had awesome handshakes and I think it's something that the CAIRN staff is also known for.  People will take you seriously if you have a great handshake even if your nose is pierced, you have a bar in your eyebrow and 5 earrings.  I'm the proof.

G - Grace. As in the Grace we sing before meals.  When singing "Thank you Lord for giving us food" it's important to remember that it ends with TWO CLAPS.  Can we sing it now?

H - Higher Ground - yes there is a tactical advantage to having the higher ground in a water fight... this doesn't mean that you should try and throw yourself up on the lodge roof.... Your unbroken ribs will thank you.

I - Itching.   It never makes you feel better when you're done.

J - Jig of Joy - Stand & Spread.

K - Kitchen.   A camp friend of mine told me early in my camp career that the  people that you should make friends with first at camp is the Kitchen and Maintenance.  My experience tells me that she was a wise woman to say so.

L - Light.  The buttery, unique camp light that I love. The light in this place has made it a wonderful place for me to learn the photography that has become so important to me. Take pictures.  Camp is important and worth the taking the time for pictures.

M - Muskoka, the beautiful place we love.  It is imperative that we care for our land.

N - Nature - in my camp life time we have seen dozens of bears, two pilliated woodpeckers, some bass, a lynx, too many deer to count, 20 or so moose and too many damn snakes.  None the less, I'm thankful of every opportunity.

O - Oh, The Lord Is Good To Me...  and so I thank the Lord" for starting this song together, in key and with a 1/2 beat "Oh" that lets us all sing together.

P - Prayer is some thing that for me what always best done while walking. I recommend getting up 45 minutes early, suiting up and hiking the trails beyond the new ropes course.    It's important stewardship for us to use those trails so that they stay around for people to use.

Q - Quiet.   It's here at camp.  You just have to listen for it.

R -  is for Repeating Song.  Everyone will understand what they are to do when you say your line and then EVERYONE ELSE sings the line back.  I hope that that makes my point plain enough and that you never again have to say "This Is A Repeating Song".

S - Sit.  I tried to find a couple of minutes a day to just sit and listen to camp.  You'll be able to tell alot about how camp is going if you listen.   I love the screened-in porch on the health centre.  You are in the middle of camp so you can hear really well and it's in the shade for most of the day.

T - Tattoos - I heartily recommend them.

U - UV - protect yourself.   No one wants a dried up leathery old camp counsellor for their child.  Trust me.

V - Venus.  One of my favourite things to see in the night sky.

W - Water.   Drink lots, swim some and learn to roll your kayak in it.

X - having to have X-rays in your camp career in no way provides a measurement of your Awesomeness (refer to H = Higher Ground)

Y - let our Your awesome out everyday.  It mattered to you that you had great counsellors.  Be a Great Counsellor to your kids.

Z - is for Zoic and the name I leave behind.

Thank you to Match and Taps for all that you have done for me.

Abrigo - I'm proud of who you have become and I'm grateful that camp has been a part of the making of that man.

(Gerber wasn't at camp that summer or else would have told him how proud I am of him, too)

...and Fae:  I am so grateful that I have got to work so closely with you on this.  We all know that camp is what it is because of the way you have taught us all love each other.   You're my favourite.