The irreplaceable impact of summer camp

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Why is summer camp such an important and irreplaceable experience for today’s kids? At Camp Hochelaga we believe the magic and lasting positive impact of the summer camp experience takes place because of a unique combination of people, place and values. At camp we combine an inspiring outdoor, screen-free environment with positive, patient, enthusiastic camp counselors, programs that support campers in trying new things and building new skills, and a set of core values focused on growing diverse friendships in a socially, emotionally and physically safe place.

The world kids are experiencing today is fast-paced, filled with highly scheduled time, both in and out of school, and centered heavily on screen time. Summer camp is one of very few remaining opportunities to disconnect from screens and focus on exploring interests, connecting with each other and appreciating the beauty of nature. The camp environment is intentionally designed to meet each camper’s unique needs so that she can grow skills and self-confidence. When a child takes on a new challenge or tries something new at camp she does so in a supportive, inclusive environment—an environment where her peers and her mentors are cheering her on.

Camp also creates unique opportunities for kids to grow team-building skills, collaborate across differences and gain leadership skills. From family-style meals and shared living spaces to activities that center on teamwork, each day at camp is centered on having fun by working together. When kids are immersed in a culture that thrives on teamwork they recognize and value their unique roles within the team, appreciate the importance of roles played by people different from them, and work through social challenges with kindness to find positive solutions.

Each season, we see the evidence of camp’s irreplaceable impact in the smiles that spread across campers’ faces as they overcome challenges. We see it in the confidence campers encourage in one another and in the value they place in traditions and ceremonies that have been carried on for decades. We see it when they come together after lunch to sing camp songs at the tops of their lungs and when they come back the following summer humming those same songs during check-in day. We see it when our campers become camp counselors and bring the spirit and value of camp to new campers. And we see it in the connections campers build with one another that remain strong support systems far beyond the camp’s front gate.

As Camp Hochelaga’s camp director, I have invested my career in creating outdoor spaces where kids come together to play, learn, take on appropriate challenges and connect with nature and with each other. My own summer camp experiences taught me to think critically and deeply, to value other people’s perspectives, to look at the world and my community through a lens of kindness and empathy, and to feel a sense of grounded self-confidence that continues to help me through challenges in my adult life. This is why I dedicate my energy to ensuring a supportive camp environment that provides the same life-changing experiences for campers today.

There is a magic that fills the air at camp. Every child should have the chance to discover what makes camp so special.

With ‘laga love,

Hannah Bogard
Hannah Bogard is the camp director at YWCA Vermont Camp Hochelaga.