Summer camp courage

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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With the summer heat comes a migration of school-aged kids to summer camps. Our area is littered with them, representing an alphabet soup of denominations and organizations. Some camps are plush, and their guests may fly in on the family’s private jet, while others are rustic, and campers pray for a cool front to keep the cabins comfortable at night. Regardless of the type of camp, being left by your family conjures up many emotions for new campers as they live without a family member for a week for the very first time.

My first camp was called Camp Hope. It was a small camp in north Georgia with very rudimentary facilities. The uninsulated plywood bunk houses with metal roofing assured every parent that their kid would not be hiding in their bunk all day. They should have been advertised as saunas. Cram a dozen 11-year-old boys in there, and you can only imagine the memories that come rushing back every time I pass a feedlot.

Putting my sleeping bag down on a random bunk bed, my parents met my counselor and gave me a hug goodbye. I probably cried as I was, and still am, the baby of the family. A few of the other boys were trying to hide their emotions as their parents left. “You are alone now, and these people here may not like you,” was what my insecure mind thought. Thankfully, a counselor made me feel like he had been waiting all day to meet me and plugged me in with a group of boys.

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That’s the thing about middle schoolers. Their exceeding confidence is mainly a cover-up for the question that haunts them until high school, “Do you think I’m cool?”

As parents, my wife and I have tried to instill confidence in our kids through many outdoor adventures. My twelve-year-old son has killed deer with a rifle, doves with a shotgun, and caught giant trout with a fly rod. He has whitewater rafted rivers in the east and west, camped in bear country, and is a terror to the panfish and bass on the river behind our house. This kid has all the “cool” credentials, but that question still haunts him, as evident in his demeanor when we left him at camp.

I could see the hesitation in his eyes as we left, being the first time he was without a family member to help prove his worth to the new group of smelly, sweaty middle school boys. Driving away, I knew he had the internal strength to have a great time and meet wonderful new people. 

It will be until Friday before I hear how the rest of the week finished. The kids were banned from electronics and cell phones, but I’m confident he will thrive at camp. 

Most importantly, I hope he will find the answer to his question that his mother and I know. He is a cool kid. 


With the summer heat comes a migration of school-aged kids to summer camps.