As these words are written, we are in the midst of the busiest of Chanco’s seasons – summer camp. Camp property is being cleaned and prepped, volunteers are building additional benches in our amphitheater to seat our ever-growing number of campers, scholarship donations are being sought out and awarded to deserving youth from our diocese, Boy’s Home and ForKids (an organization supporting formerly homeless youth and families). Our camp leadership staff are busy planning staff week, Big Day programs, ordering supplies and preparing for the exciting summer season ahead.
Most would agree that summer camp is a transformative experience. But if you or your child have never experienced it, you may wonder, “What makes Camp Chanco different from other experiences my child may have this summer?” In our fast paced, technology and pressure laden lives, a week or two (or an entire summer for our staff) away from the fast paced and often stressful nature of life in the “real world” can be life changing. In an article published by the American Camp Association “Changing Places, Changing Paces: Recharging, Reconnecting, and Reflecting at Summer Camp”[i] the author discusses the benefit of summer camp as a time for “recharging, reconnecting and reflecting” offering both campers and counselors a “refuge from the stress and anxiety, offering a chance to slow down and unplug. A much needed antidote to an ever-faster, technology-obsessed world.” Indeed, when camp staff fill out their questionnaire we use to introduce them on our Facebook page and answer the question “Why serve at camp?” many refer to Chanco as their “second home”, as “family” and as a place of belonging. Eight-year camper and second year staffer Olivia Mathieson writes, “I serve at Chanco because it is a family tradition that I have grown to love throughout the years. Chanco is my second home. There is nowhere in the world where I feel more comfortable than Camp Chanco. This place truly brings out the best in me.”
Camp Chanco is a ministry both within and outside of our diocese. We minister to those within the Episcopal faith, those of other faith traditions, and those who are unchurched. Chanco serves those in intact families, single parent families, blended families, and those without a family. For some youth, Chanco may be the best experience of “family” they have ever had. The unique thing about a Camp Chanco experience is that whatever your family or faith background, when you come to Camp Chanco you are all on equal playing ground. No one at camp may know that you were formerly homeless, or that your parents have been going through a difficult divorce or that you struggled with friend issues or academically during the school year. You can just be you. And you will be just as important as the next team member when it comes time to pull that rope for tug of war, climb that rock wall, present your Battle of the Bands campsite performance, participate in that team relay race, or raise your sails on the the James River.
In our fast paced life of academic and athletic pressures, cell phones, tablets and the constant pull of social media, doesn’t your child/grandchild deserve a one or two week break to just be outdoors and be himself? In the “Changing Places, Changing Paces” article a former camper/counselor writes, “Camp is the ultimate stress-free environment because it eliminates the normality of everyday life such as phones, traffic, and classes. Camp gives you a completely new routine that ultimately serves the purpose of creating a loving place where campers and counselors enjoy doing fun activities together. It’s a sort of alternate universe where it doesn’t matter where you’re from, who your friends are, or what you enjoy doing because everyone is a part of the same tight-knit community. It’s the best feeling in the world to see some of your closest friends throughout the day unexpectedly, without texting to meet up or making some sort of extensive, ever-changing plan. You become so actively involved at camp that you almost forget that the real world even exists.” Best of all, you will take all that you have experienced and learned back home with you. And before you know it, you will be counting down the days until you can come back feeling that an entire year seems way too long to wait. We look forward to welcoming you home to Chanco where “friends are friends forever.”