Camp Woodland Blog

To Our Spectacular Campers

Posted by on August 8, 2022

Today we “raise a glass” to our Campers. You are perhaps on the road with your parents or still making your way home. For some, things have settled down, and you are checking the Blog for the first time. Perhaps you are back in your house and sitting alone in your bedroom missing camp. Perhaps you are on an airplane destined for a relaxing ending to your summer vacation before school starts. Whatever the circumstances, the motivation is the same. You want to read what we wrote about the summer and see the photos that tell the story of the past 6 weeks. You should know that our thoughts are filled with memories of you, and we miss you dearly.

You were spectacular…

This summer was great because of YOU.

Our hearts are full and we want to say thank you…

For Embracing Camp We live in a cynical world that is skeptical of the simple message of camp. A world that might poke fun at our routines, standards, and traditions. School is not like camp, yet you embraced our 5 core values (respect, community, growth, responsibility, and safety) from the minute you arrived and kept practicing them till the day you left. We may have had to make a few reminders to get back on track, yet we know that your intentions were good. When we had some challenges early in the summer, you stayed positive and lived each day to the fullest. When we served a meal you weren’t fond of, you didn’t groan (that much). When we announced an evening activity that might not have been what you wanted, you jumped in without reservation despite your misgivings. We love that you love camp so much!

For bringing your best. The various productions at the end of camp showed remarkable talent and remarkable effort. We know you sacrificed a lot to memorize lines, learn the songs and dances, and do the backstage work. The Art Show was jaw dropping. The Horse Show was amazing. The Water Show was spectacular. Thank you for sharing your skills and accomplishments!

For your smiles. You had the best smiles… keep smiling girls. Those smiles will keep us going in the months ahead as we count down the days until we can be together again.

For your Parents. We are profoundly grateful for their support. They entrust us with the responsibility for your care during the summer… know that we deeply appreciate their confidence. It is an honor and privilege to do this “work”. To say camp is here because of them is a fact.

For You, Wonderful You.  A Woodland girl remains true no matter where she is, who she is with, or what she is doing. We know you will take the Woodland spirit with you wherever you go! It’s Cool to be YOU in ’22.

Thank you for being YOU. See you next summer!

Savoring Every Moment

Posted by on August 5, 2022

Camp is overflowing with emotion today. Wake-up, breakfast, cabin clean-up, morning assembly, activities… every moment is infused with poignancy. Mundane details usually ignored are now special, and we are prone to a few tears. The bell rings, and we pause to listen (it is a beautiful sound… unlike anything we hear elsewhere… there are not many 100+ pound brass train locomotive bells rung these days!). Riding class gathers at the barn and there is a pause as the counselors take their positions to lead one last time… everyone knows that the next 60 minutes will not be replicated for a very long time. All over camp, in every setting, in every hour, these moments are appreciated. Deeply appreciated.

Our Smiles…have you ever seen a place filled with genuinely smiling girls? Not fake, forced smiles but wide, face-to-face, shoulder grabbing, hugging, bright-eyed smiles… well, it is awesome (and hard to explain how wonderful it is). And, yes, it is possible to laugh and cry at the same time!

Everything is exciting. The last cream-of-wheat day, the last activity, the last picnic, last mail call, last rest hour, and, of course, the much anticipated banquet, awards and candlelight ceremony. We are especially excited about Parents Weekend tomorrow. The girls have been working so hard to put routines, performances and projects together for the final shows. Our hearts leap in anticipation of every detail… yet it is bittersweet. We are sad to see the summer of 2022 come to an end.

It is always hard to say goodbye to a good friend, but these partings are especially poignant after 6 weeks of camp. We ate every meal, enjoyed every surprise, and endured every hardship with this amazing group of girls for a month and a half. Such familiarity might breed contempt (or at least get very old) but for some reason, it rarely does. The girls love each other… STILL! We see them walking arm in arm, heads held closely in conversation, and truly happy to be together.

Words are not enough to describe the day nor enough to express our gratitude. We are thankful for every single moment we have had together (and for the precious memories yet to be made over the next 24-48 hours).

We look forward to welcoming you to camp. Forgive the “mess”… the last week is always a messy one… we have prioritized having fun!

It has been such an honor to serve, host, and love your girls this summer. They are a-mazing.

Thank you for trusting and appreciating camp… for making it a priority in your family.

It is an honor to be a part of your summer.

The Closing of Camp and Opening of Home: Advice from Your Campers

Posted by on August 2, 2022

Thanks to a suggestion from a parent who is looking for advice about the upcoming Parents Weekend, I am offering some thoughts your campers shared with me (without mentioning any names) about the transition from camp to home that will be occurring in a few short days. As mentioned earlier this summer for drop-off on Opening Weekend, there are a lot of clashing emotions – some understandable and relatable, others not so much.

Heartstrings will be pulled again as there are mixed feelings about the change that is about to happen. For those of you driving to camp, it will be noticeable when you join us for Parents Weekend. For others of you, it will take place when you pick up your camper/s from the bus at O’Hare or when you greet them at the airport in Mexico or other destinations. As one camper eloquently shared, think of it as the closing of camp and the opening of home.

Please know that as you read this, your daughter/s love you very much! They can’t wait to see you – 6 weeks is a long time to be separated. They are also a little nervous in anticipation of what this coming weekend means. It is hard to understand from your point of view, and it is hard to explain from their perspective. When I interviewed campers of varying ages, I framed it in a way that parents would like “advice” on how to “act” when they see you at Woodland or after the journey home. I am going to try to keep it as candid as possible so that it is genuinely their words and not mine.

For those of you who have campers on the young end of our age range or who are with us for the very first time, these girls don’t really know what to expect. Keeping this in mind, you may find some of their answers to be rather humorous. First of all they want you to know that all of the shows are going to be good. That is actually an understatement – they are going to be GREAT as I’ve been able sneak a few peeks in activities this week as they are rehearsing and practicing for all of the end-of-year shows. They are VERY excited for you to see what they have learned and accomplished in riding, swimming, drama, dance, gymnastics and arts & crafts (don’t worry – you can see other activities, too, on Saturday before the shows). They also suggest that you take lots of photos (for those of you not able to join us at camp, we will be posting these online and via social media). Oh, and if you are bringing the family dog, bring a leash!

They also wanted me to tell you that Woodland is the BEST. CAMP. IN. THE. WORLD. They want you to have fun while you are here. They want you to see the animals, the lake, and all the places they travel to and from during their day. Ask them questions about camp. What are the names of the horses? Which one did you like riding the most? Where do you eat meals? What is the favorite new food you tried? Where did you hang out during Rec Swim? What games did you play? Where did adventures take you in canoeing or sailing? Where was the Mother Lode hidden this year? Where did you find the CIT’s during “Alien Invasion”?

They want to tell you EVERYTHING! Listen to their stories about what they did and who was in their cabin. They also want to catch up on news from home. Did the dogs have fun? Was the extra room added? How is Grandma? There were a few requests like having their bed made, room clean, and favorite food waiting (LOL). And, they are looking forward to a BIG HUG.

The older campers are and the more years they have been with us, the more challenging the transition can be. These girls are looking for “space” to do their thing and be with the people here. They are very much aware of how hard it is going to be to say good-bye to their camp friends and summer “family”. They also don’t want to ignore you or make you feel bad. They understand it is hard for you too. These girls prefer not to talk about school, sports or activities, what’s next, SAT/ACT prep, etc. They want to stay in the moment of the here and now of camp for as long as possible. They need closure on this experience before opening the door of what awaits them at home or in the “real world”.

Veteran campers request that you take their sadness seriously. It is real. It is deep. It is unpredictable. You may see tears at odd times. Or laughing and crying simultaneously. Some campers may not say much on the ride home, others will be talking non-stop. You just never know. They will share when they are ready. Let it come in their own time. Show you are interested and engaged when the words start to flow. All they really need is for you to listen.

For those campers on the bus to Chicago, there will be multiple “good-byes”. They will be sad to leave camp and then once they settle in for the long ride to the airport, they are happy to be traveling with a bus full of people who were part of their summer experience. There will be another “good-bye” once they get off at O’Hare. For those members of our camper family from Mexico, one more farewell will take place once the plane lands in Mexico City. This is the final “adios” on the closing of camp and the opening of home. It is still hard to let go. Emotions are a tricky cast of characters. Your camper/s will appreciate your empathy as they make their re-entry. You may not understand it, and that is OK. Your child/ren will recognize the effort being made.

This weekend and the first few days home, campers just need a little time to process their experience. It will come in large waves at the beginning and wane as the days go by (but never completely go away). They will remember stories and snippets of the summer of 2022 indefinitely.

While some of what the campers said may be hard to take in, please don’t take it personally. Think of the wonderful gift you gave your daughter/s by sending them to camp. Often material gifts are novel for a short period of time and then they go unused or forgotten. You gave your child the VERY. BEST. GIFT. OF. ALL. TIME. You will see the effects of the Woodland experience all year long (and beyond!). We THANK YOU for sharing your most precious gift with us and hope you will consider having her return for 2023 (click HERE to register)!

p.s. The CIT’s are SUPER excited for you to see the Co-Ed Show on Saturday night at 7:30 pm at Towering Pines!

p.s. #2: It’s perfectly OK NOT to introduce technology right away (several campers even told me so)…they have been “unplugged” for 6 weeks and have done just fine without it (this could be a topic for another blog)!







The Gift of Time

Posted by on July 29, 2022

Time is such an interesting phenomenon. Young kids, especially, often have a distorted view of time and can have no concept and/or easily lose track of it (both good things!). They generally know that a few minutes is shorter than a few hours or days, but that is about the extent of it.

You might be familiar with the saying, “the days are long, but the years are short”. I sometimes feel that way about camp; the days are long, but the summer is short! I have often said that a typical camp day is really 3 days. The morning is a day. The afternoon is another day. The evening is a third day. This explains why we are so tired at night. By the time we crawl under the covers, we have really been up for 3 days straight! It is also the reason we sleep so deeply and so well in our cozy cabins.

There is no doubt that we are aware that the number of days at camp are dwindling. And quickly. We can’t help but feel it. The end of the summer always goes faster than the beginning. When the staff arrived and we had 10 days of pre-camp training this year, 7+ weeks of summer stretched out ahead of us. We had all the time in the world. In June there seemed to be an endless supply of the camp days we long for the rest of year. Or so we thought. The roughly 1.28 weeks remaining now seem like nothing. All of a sudden, the surplus of time we banked on earlier in the summer can be counted on two hands. Now we wonder where did the time go?!

This realization makes us truly value the gift of time we have. While we can’t completely stop the clock from ticking, at the very least we can make it appear to slow down as we savor every moment from this point forward. To make the most of the remaining days that are left, it might be helpful to reflect on those things we need to do MORE and LESS of so that we are truly present and enjoying every single minute of this precious commodity called time.

Things we should do MORE of:

  • Spending time with friends
  • Singing
  • Building pyramids
  • Being in the moment
  • Adding new twists to activities
  • Being flexible (knowing that some things are out of our control)
  • Recognizing the good things
  • Being silly
  • Wearing costumes just because
  • Focusing on the positive
  • Appreciating nature
  • Getting rest
  • Being grateful
  • Assuming the best intentions of others

Things we should do LESS of:

  • Stressing over the little stuff (someone borrowing something without asking)
  • Complaining (it’s so hot, the water is too cold)
  • Comparing our achievements to others (better to compare to earlier versions of ourselves)
  • Drama (unless it is your activity)
  • Worrying about what’s next after camp (school, work)
  • Eating Dan’s lasagne (well, maybe not…)

I can assure you that since we know what we are up against with our fight against time, we are acutely aware of what needs to happen to make the “Cool to be You in ’22” one for the books! Bucket lists are being made. We don’t want there to be any regrets. Staff are pouring everything they have into making the final sign-up of activities one of progress and skill advancement. We are enjoying time as cabin groups and a camp community. We are throwing in a few surprises here and there to keep things exciting (spoon tag coming up – get ready!).

This week was the much anticipated all-camp Olympics. There was an ENORMOUS amount of cheering across the swim area, field and Woodland Road as campers supported their own and the opposing team (Good Job Everybody, Good Job!). The counselors were SO into it – face paint, costumes, energy, and spirit – nothing short of the best kind of pure camp fun.

Regardless of whether we are at camp or at home or school, time is a gift. A gift without a price tag. Time has a way of showing us what really matters. At Camp Woodland, the people are what matter most. Yes, it may feel like “crunch” time and the days are getting to be less and less, but there is still MORE summer to do!! A LOT more.

p.s. What can YOU do more/less of in the days before your camper/s return home?

Anything But Ordinary

Posted by on July 26, 2022

When you hear the morning bell at Woodland, you can picture parts of your day right away. You know what activities you’re going to take, you know at what times you’ll eat, and you’ll pull yourself awake knowing that rest hour is coming in the middle part of the day. You’ll probably have a suspicion that you’ll laugh a lot during the day, that someone will do something kind for you, that you’ll go to sleep at night with a different camp song stuck in your head.

But for all that you do know as you start thinking about today, there’s also a rush of excitement realizing there’s so much you do not know about the day, and it’s rife with possibility. There is a novelty and liveliness about each day that makes getting up that much easier, as you anticipate all of the paths the day might take.

You go to your first activity and stretch on the gymnastics mats. Today is one of the final rehearsals for tomorrow’s end-of-session shows, and you find that you are excited and nervous at the same time. As you take off your shoes and socks, you notice the pile of multi-colored Crocs. You realize that certain camp traditions (like wearing Crocs) is something that connects you to the other campers. You love collecting and trading Jibbitz (shoe decorations) with your friends.

You step back and think about how friendships are born here–some of the best friends of your life may not have been made because they were your bunkmate, but just as a happy accident of being in the same activity or sitting next to each other at movie night. Making friends is easier here, maybe because you’re away from your phone and you’re engaged in more conversations, maybe because people are just a little gentler here, softer, wanting to be your friend, too, and maybe this will help you realize that you can make friends easier away from camp as well.

As you transition to another activity and see some of your cabin mates on the path down to the beach, the news hits your ears that your cabin got a “30” on inspection. Yes! Everyone is working together to do cabin chores after breakfast in the hopes of winning the coveted “Clean Freaks” award for the week. This could mean  a pizza party, trip to Cathy’s or a special night of tubing on Sand Lake!

You go to lunch and after, your counselors bring back the mail. You hop on your bunk and spend several minutes basking in the delight of hearing news from home. You know you are missed and yet your family and friends are always eager to hear the latest update from camp. You quickly grab a piece of paper or BunkNote to write a response to the questions of how things are going. How do you accurately describe the fun you had on your cabin’s overnight across the lake, the excitement of finally getting a bull’s eye at the archery range, the feeling of accomplishment when you cantered for the first time, the pure joy of hanging out with your friends during Rec Swim or how you laughed so hard at lunch that water came out of your nose?! You wonder if the people on the other end of your letter will think it is weird that you now LOVE eating American cheese and carrots sticks as a new snack combo thanks to Counselor Jackie!

The bell rings again to send you off to your afternoon activities; today the periods are shortened so that everyone can get ready for Woodland’s annual birthday celebration. As dinner approaches, you are enthralled by the rush of energy that the assembly area is filled with tonight. Cabins and friends are eager to record this moment with as many photos as possible so that the memories are at the ready to pull out at any given moment in the upcoming year.

You are delighted when you see all of the decorations and the beautiful cake the kitchen staff prepared specially for tonight’s party as you enter the lodge. You enjoy chicken patties and tater tots followed by cake and ice cream and the recognition of each person’s time at Woodland. There is applause and cheers as campers and staff stand for their 1st year, 4th year or 7th year. You wait on the edge of your seat as those who are marking 5 or 10 years are waiting their turn to receive a much anticipated Woodland pendant or blanket. A poem is read that speaks to the journey each person has taken and the growth that has occurred during their time at camp. You marvel that there are staff who have been at camp for 20+ years and think how fortunate they must be to have a way that brings them back to camp year after year.

The day ends with birthday games and you watching the splendor of a dramatic sunset lighting up the sky, surrounded by the deep blues of clouds, the orange and pink shining above the tallest of pine trees. And you think about how well-lived this day was, and know that none of your others will be just like it. Maybe it was a normal day at camp for you–a routine you anticipated, a predictable structure. And yet when you look back on it, it was special. Today brought you closer to friends, it made you feel more connected to the Woodland community, there were delights you never could have anticipated and wouldn’t trade for anything. Because at Woodland, you realize, there simply aren’t ordinary days.

adapted from RBC blog, July 2022