by: Cori Miller, Camper Care
On the eve of opening day: a pep rally, “not to be missed”, was had. It served to motivate and remind all staff the reason for being at camp. What a wonderful display of emotion and heart felt wishes for how the staff will impact the lives of all of our campers. That’s not what stood out for me. I learned very quickly, in my rookie year at URJ Camp Harlam last year, that great staff, truly invested in the mission of camp and caring for campers, is the norm and an absolute job requirement.
What stood out for me was something simple; something that could seem meaningless, but epitomizes Camp Harlam. The “Great Aaron Selkow”, (not to be mistaken for sarcasm – he truly is great, and is surrounded by great people), led an exercise that involved a football being passed back and forth between seated staff in the amphitheater and Aaron on stage, with the beautiful Lake Joshua as a backdrop. Ball after ball was returned to Aaron and should have landed in the lake, bounce after bounce, about to fall through cracks and slats; yet not one did. Anywhere else, yes, but things like this don’t happen at Camp Harlam. In fact, nothing that happens at Camp Harlam is easily mimicked anywhere else. Nowhere else can you find a collection of people all completely invested in your child’s well-being and development. A place where kids learn from staff by example. A place where people’s differences are valued, where strengths are seen, and everyone is accepted. We are all the same, but different. How wonderful to have such connectivity and individualism within the confines of camp.
Last year, my first year as staff in the Camper Care Department at URJ Camp Harlam, I shamefully admit I didn’t understand the “welcome home” on opening day. To be brutally honest, I found the welcome home a little confusing. Home, for me, is the safest and most sacred of places and nothing could compare. This week, as I experienced Opening Day Number 2, I feel blessed for my family and for me, that URJ Camp Harlam has become another place that feels like home. When I had my second child, my first child cried to me that his sister was, “taking all of his love.” I explained that when parents have new babies, their love isn’t split in half and divided, but that the amount of love is doubled. When kids have 2 places that feel like home, it doesn’t diminish the importance or value of home. In truth, it helps kids recognize their good fortune in having two environments where they are always accepted for who they are. It provides parents with some peace of mind that in the glowingly complicated web of raising children, URJ Camp Harlam plays a role in helping kids feel good about themselves.