I have always been a firm believer that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. And my time at Camp Sunshine’s Teen Week of summer camp was certainly one of these moments. As a first time volunteer, who as a child had never attended an overnight summer camp, I honestly had no idea what to expect upon my arrival at Camp Twin Lakes. Everyone had told me in the weeks leading up to this moment that I was in for a life changing experience; however, because of my skeptic nature I had to actually see it and experience it firsthand to believe it. I would also be lying if I said I was not nervous for the upcoming week of camp. As I pulled into the camp’s gravel parking lot, a thousand questions were coursing through my head: “What if the campers do not like me?” “What if I do not make any friends while I am here?” (Even 22 year olds still worry about making friends at camp!) “What if I am simply not strong enough to give these kids the support and love they may be needing?” Well… ready or not there I was standing on the doorstep of camp and it was time to see what it was about this place that keeps volunteers coming back year after year and why it is the best week of summer for the kids that attend.
As the week went on, the fears I had upon my arrival to camp were quickly quelled. The people I came in contact with were unlike any I had ever met before. At camp nobody had their noses in their phones or moved to the other side of the street to avoid having to speak to you. Every single individual I came in contact with was genuinely kind and welcomed me with open arms into the Camp Sunshine family. I quickly made friends with my fellow volunteers and will keep these connections in years to come. And the kids had an impact on me far greater than anything I expected. What I thought was going to be a week of me mentoring and nurturing these kids soon turned into me learning so much more from them, especially the girls of Cabin 28 who I was assigned to be a cabin mom for. The girls of Cabin 28 will forever hold a special place in my heart. These girls taught me the true meaning of strength and positivity. They showed me resiliency, perseverance, and what it means to be a true friend to each other. And as we stood huddled together on the last day of camp, I looked at each of these girls with tears in my eyes, astonished at the impact they had on me over the course of the week.
Camp Sunshine is so much more than the camp T-shirts, songs sung after meals, and fishhook bracelets; it is the feeling of community and sense of belonging that makes this place truly special. No matter who you are or where you came from, Camp Sunshine is a place where you feel you can truly belong. It is this united spirit that makes camp so much more than the free T-shirts or bracelets. To the ladies of Cabin 30, thank you for quickly becoming some of my greatest friends and for your constant support throughout the week. To the returning staff, thank you for your wisdom, guidance, and service to camp over its’ 35 years; it is you that have made Camp Sunshine what it is today. And to my girls of Cabin 28, I will forever be their “Mommy” and cannot wait to see what each one of you accomplishes in the years to come. The most important lesson I learned over the past week was once a member of the Camp Sunshine family always a member of the Camp Sunshine family. And I cannot wait until next summer when I can return to the place that changed my life forever. “Forever let the Sun Shine on.”