Why Parents Should Send Their Children To Camp.
Gain Independence and Responsibility
Going away to camp gives the opportunity to make great strides in this capacity. Going to camp away from home means being on your own, most likely for the first time... at least before leaving for college. Camp puts a lot of responsibility on campers and helps them to gradually mature. They are put in charge of their own belongings and keeping track of them, they learn to care for themselves and others, they learn time management, they are assigned a small daily chore to help keep their cabin [home] clean, taught how to clean up after themselves after meals, and so many other valuable lessons. Campers are able to get out of their comfort zone and camp pushes them in many different ways. We are faced with a multitude of new opportunities, experiences, and challenges each day and campers are encouraged to try new things with the support of their fellow cabin mates, peers, and staff members by their side.
I know sending your child away that far from home may be extremely intimidating at first, for both the child and the parents, but it teaches campers and parents alike that they are capable of doing things on their own. It’s completely normal to feel anxious or apprehensive. And I promise you that your children will be well taken care of. Father Stephen Loposky, the director, and His Grace Bishop Gregory alike, make sure that the entire staff is well trained and highly experienced. We go through a rigorous application process and counselors go through a full week of training, the kitchen crew is Servsafe, the lifeguards and nurses have their credentials, and we have a handful of wonderful Diocesan clergy that attend with their deaneries each week. Your children will be in good hands and gain an abundance of responsibility and independence after just one week at camp.
Grow Closer To God & Deepen Their Faith
Once you turn onto Pew Road, everything changes and your worries of the outside world go away. You are at joy, peace, and ease when you arrive and that allows us to easily live an Orthodox lifestyle. We are all Orthodox and face the same struggles, but are all so different at the same time and each camper is sent by God with their own struggles. We all come from different home lives and camp can be a safe haven for some children. The “real world” is getting more and more complex and is full of many distractions and temptations that make it hard for us to live an Orthodox lifestyle. At camp it is different and we have a routine that manages to intertwine Christ into everything we do, which is absolutely incredible. We have a schedule jam packed full of activities ranging from a campfire, pool party, movie night, free time, and a dance, to sports, religious education classes, a Rusyn Festival, and Molebens to our saints; there is something fun offered for everyone to enjoy and Christ is the center of every activity. As the campfire song goes, camp is a place where you’ll find God everywhere. We pray together and prayers are enforced before meals and sports, we eat together, we play sports together... everything is done together in a Christian manner. The past two summers, both the diocesan and non- diocesan weeks, we have been blessed with a visit from the Kardiotissa, the myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God from St. George’s Church in Taylor, which I strongly believe has made a huge impact on not only our Diocese, but the camp, the clergy, the campers, the staff, and even the volunteers. Many of us have witnessed this miracle before, whether previously at camp, the visitations around the diocese, or physically in Taylor, but it is a new experience each time for all of us and many of the new campers, and Father Mark Leasure always has new stories to tell. You truly do feel the presence of the Mother of God in the church during the Akathist between the beautiful chanting, the smell of the myrrh, and just being in the presence of the icon. Thanks be to God for all of these incredible opportunities and for helping to make Camp Nazareth a place where you are truly able to grow and feel closer to God.
Unbreakable Bonds & Lifelong Friendships
There is something special about the bond between camp friends that is inexpressible. You get to know each other in such a short period of time, but by the end of the week, it feels as if you have known each other forever. Whether you are a camper or staff, we all become so close. We were, still are, and always will be a family. It doesn’t matter how long we go without seeing each other, we always manage to pick back up where we left off when we are together again. With camp being technology free, you learn to live in the moment, enjoy camp for what it is, and enjoy the presence of God and your brothers and sisters in Christ, not be glued to the screen of your iPhone and the worries of posting a Snapchat about what is happening. Camp is a judgment free zone and a place where you can be the best version of yourself. Your children will be loved and accepted for each of their qualities and that love is a huge factor in what makes camp so special. There is a saying that is always repeated at camp, “school friends come and go, but camp friends are forever”, and it is the truth.
The friendships I have formed at camp are much stronger than the ones I have created with friends back home and I am thankful to have so many incredible [Orthodox] relationships, despite the time and distance that may be between us.
Genuinely Make A Difference
Both campers and staff members affect each other more than they know and realize. As a staff member, no matter what your position is, you are a role model and an example to campers, and you are who they look up to each week. Campers inspire their staff members as well and these impacts honestly do last a lifetime. There are plenty of counselors and staff I still remember admiring as a camper. I know personally my campers never failed to steal my heart and it was truly such a blessing to see them deepen their faith each week and grow closer to God, while enjoying every aspect of the program at the same time, just like I did as a camper (and staff member, of course). Camp in itself truly has so much to offer and helps makes a difference in so many lives. It was so hard saying goodbye to my campers when Saturday morning rolled around, but it is honestly such an incredible feeling knowing that you had an impact on each individual camper, how much they inspired me, and God willing, knowing that they will be returning the following summer.
It's Not Goodbye, It's See You Later
A week at camp is over in the blink of an eye and before you know it, it is time to leave, but the memories never fade and the friendships never die. Camp taught me how to say goodbye to the ones that I love and helped me realize that time and distance make the heart grow fonder. Camp becomes a home away from home and a place for kids to learn, grow, and change. We are so lucky to be able to stay connected when not at camp through social media and group messaging, and have even more opportunities now to see each other throughout the year than we did years ago. Whether it be at ACRY Bowling Tournaments or Conventions, OCF College Conference, or even the retreats held at Camp Nazareth and different parishes around our diocese throughout the year, we are all able to keep in touch. These opportunities help make that gloomy drive home a lot more bearable and the goodbyes (see you laters) a lot easier.
Whether as a camper, a staff member, clergy, or a parent, in the end you realize that camp is something important and should be part of your life. Camp is life changing, amazing, and the atmosphere is truly like nothing else in this world and does things that no other place can do. Your children will be able to have fun, while learning about our faith and growing closer to Christ at the same time. Thank you Camp Nazareth for the best summers of my life, for changing my life in such an indescribable way, for helping me become the best version of myself, for 10 incredible years of memories, and God willing, many more to come. I'll be back this year with great anticipation and with the deadline quickly approaching, I hope that many of our parish youth will be able to attend and experience the spiritual euphoria and wonders of Camp Nazareth this summer!
By Hailey Meyernick, 2015 Camp Nazareth Staff Counsellor