Camp Gravatt has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My first official session was the All Ages of 2010, but Gravatt was important to me long before then as well. My mom has been on year-round staff since 2007, so I lived on site even as a toddler. Naturally, I adored every bit of Gravatt, and still do to this day. I can say with absolute certainty that my life would not be the same without Gravatt.
When you look at camp on its surface, you see a place filled to the brim with activities. There's swimming, archery, canoeing, field games, sports, ropes courses, and so much more. While, of course, there's nothing wrong with them, I don't feel as though the activities provide a fair grasp of what Camp Gravatt gives you. The activities provide you with fun experiences, yes, but I feel as though their most important role is connecting you with people and building bonds as well. The people at Gravatt are what keep me coming back, overall. It's especially great because you can make friends with literally anybody there, if you wish. I have made the best friends with peers, but I have also become good friends with younger campers, older campers, LITs, junior counselors, counselors, and even staff members who aren't directly involved with campers, such as interns or kitchen staff. I believe that the reason this works so exceptionally well is because at Gravatt, there are few limitations to what you can and can't say, and what you can and can't do. You are free to present your true self without much restriction. In other environments, people are forced to put on a sort of “mask.” When at Gravatt, you come to learn that it is an environment where everybody is accepted, no matter your background. Your ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender, social class, ability, education – absolutely none of that matters when you are at Gravatt. People are allowed to come together as people, and I see that as a beautiful thing.
Another reason Gravatt is so important to me is due to how it has shaped me as a person. As I stated, Gravatt provided a place of acceptance for me when the rest of the world wouldn't. However, it also gave me the responsibility of accepting other people for who they are. I found that it wasn't a difficult responsibility to take. As summers came and went, this trait bled into my life outside of camp. I could reach out to people when they might have been struggling for a friend, whether that be due to shyness, cruelness from others, or anything else that may have been plaguing them. I could be a friend to anybody no matter what. Gravatt taught me the lesson of how crucial kindness is, and why acceptance of others is so important. I've also found that Gravatt improves my emotional state, almost purely through nostalgia. Whenever life becomes too much, with stress and anxiety and the whole lot, I can always think back to my experiences at Gravatt. Perhaps I look back to the Dance, where I could enjoyably go around like a fool, or a free swim period, where I could have thought-provoking, entertaining, or just downright silly conversations with my friends, or even the last Shalom Circle, seeing the tears glisten on faces as we sing “Circle of Friends.” This nostalgia fills me up with the most bittersweet feeling, yet also grants me excitement for whatever session edges ever closer.
The reason having camp to look forward to is so important to me is because sometimes life can become too much to bear. Perhaps, as only a middle schooler, I don't have plenty of room to talk, but dealing with day-to-day life can be a struggle. Sometimes all that can be felt is hopelessness, as if you'll forever be in a sort of turmoil. With Gravatt, you're allowed something to hold onto, one thing in a world of hatred and terror and sadness. After only a session, a spark ignites in you that, even months or years after leaving Gravatt, can never fully burn out. That spark takes you and warms you in the cold, provides you the necessities to brave the cold of the world, and hopefully lights the way right back to Camp Gravatt.
Camp Gravatt is my sanctuary, by all means. It allows me a place to be at peace with myself and with others, temporarily freeing me from the problems in the outside world. Not only that, but has molded and continues to mold me into an accepting, outgoing, and hopefully kind individual, qualities which I personally value. Gravatt will forever hold a place in my heart, as it has with so many others. Without this incredible place, my life would be severely different in a negative way.