Of all the reasons we hear about why kids aren’t ready for camp, the one we hear the most is, “They’ve just never done it before. They won’t know anyone,” and honestly, this IS the scariest part of camp. Kids spend every minute of every day for a week (or longer) under the burning heat of the South Carolina sun, they eat foods they’ve never been introduced to, they live without electricity or constant connection to the outside world, they face fears of heights, all while facing the stress of a completely new place. They do all these things, and the the scariest part of it all is people.
I know I experienced this fear when I first attended summer camp as a middle school girl, but I was interested to face this particular anxiety head-on as an adult who loves and believes in summer camp. Let me tell you something: this fear immediately dissipated in my first interaction with the Gravatt Summer Camp program. I clearly stick out in this community like a sore thumb. I’m 25, I work in an office all day, and I’ve NEVER even seen summer camp happen at Gravatt, but I was NEVER treated as the outsider I felt that I was.
As I approached the “strings ‘n things” table during morning activities I was immediately met with a smile and invitation to participate from the counselor in charge. This was shortly followed by a chorus of children saying things like, “here, take my seat!” “what’s your favorite color?” and “look at what I’ve made!” Every interaction following this was equally positive: countless smiles, inclusion, and sharing. If this doesn’t speak to the spirit of community found at Camp Gravatt, I’m not sure what will.
Speaking to all you parents: those of you who are afraid your child won’t know anyone. Well, they won’t; not at first, anyway. They’re going to go to camp an outsider, just like I was. That’s exactly why they are embraced immediately with zero hesitation, included with love, and encouraged to be exactly the person they are. No one is an outsider at Camp Gravatt. We are all invited to be a part of the circle of friends created here each summer. This circle is enormous, including generations of campers, counselors, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and the best part is…there’s always room for one more outsider.