Woodland’s Breakfast Club: Reflections of a Camp Alum and Parent

Posted by on July 22, 2019

by Becky Coady Langton

For those that remember the movies of the 80’s, there is a final scene in Breakfast Club where Jud Nelson reminisces on the day of detention he endured with the most untypical group of students from his high school. Over the process of the detention day, they break down their personal walls and expose who they truly are. Due to those brave acts, they walk away learning so much about each other and themselves. This classic film describes something very similar about my experiences as both a camper at Camp Woodland in ’88 and as a current parent of campers at both Woodland and Towering Pines.

I was a sophomore in high school in 1988. It was a year where I had begun to hang with the “wrong” crowd, and at 15 my parents decided to send me to camp in order to remove me from that environment. I was mortified to be “punished” by being sent to camp. What was I going to do without all my comforts of home and rowdy friends? My sister, Sarah, had gone to Woodland the summer of ’87, but she was ten that summer and in my 15-year-old mind was less connected to her life at home; therefore, she had nothing to lose.

Reluctantly, I began to accept I would be going. Shortly after the decision had been made, JoAnne assigned me a camp sister named Maureen. She had attended camp for several years and was going to be in my cabin – Aquarius (which in my mind was going to look like the song out of the musical Hair I’d seen at Great America my freshman year in high school). We wrote back and forth for a few months (we still have the letters), and I began to feel more connected to leaving my life and heading up to the Northwoods for the summer.

That summer turned out to be the most magical and personal growth oriented summer of my life. I learned how to shoot a rifle and an arrow, how to ski and sail (EN Forever!!), and I got to participate in the best CO-ED show ever! All of these activities I never would have experienced without getting out of my comfort zone just by saying YES.

Activities aside, the most impactful take away from that summer were the friendships. BEST friendships. Friends that I am still deeply connected to today, friends that know the real me and love me anyway. Friends that will tell me my butt looks bad in “those” jeans and friends that make me laugh so hard that I actually pee those same jeans. I just can’t imagine what my life would be like without these people. Camp for me was life changing…life lifting… and personal growth oriented. In no small part I believe I am the person I am today because of that love and caring I received all those summers ago.

Today my kids are at camp having those same experiences (for the 3rd year in a row – lucky ducks!). Syd and Sammy, you are both so fortunate to have the opportunity to do this earlier than I did. I can’t go back in time and attend camp any more years than I had, but you get to do all of what I did and more. I know the impact it’s had on my life, and I know your life will be enriched in a way that you’ll never know any differently. You are getting outside your comfort zones, learning personal communication skills, how to play well with others, how to be goofy and how to be caring and sincere. You’re eating yummy food, working hard at your activities, being a good friend, using your imaginations, setting goals, sleeping hard, and growing into the people that you’ll become. My hope is that one day you will send your kids and make it a 3-generation tradition.

In closing, I will say that each of my camp experiences aided in my gaining a deeper sense of who I was. I left camp that summer and made some different decisions on the friends I would hang with. I began to make better decisions which let to greater personal accomplishment and focus in school. I’m so thankful that my parents insisted I go to camp, my own Breakfast Club experience. It was the opposite of punishment, it was one of the greatest gifts of my life. It was the unexpected. The gloves are off, the emotions are flowing, my heart is open, and I am so deeply grateful for Camp Woodland and Towering Pines…here’s to another 50 years!