The Timeless Value of Summer Camp


By Charles Rand

The Timeless Value of Summer Camp

It’s been decades since I was a camper, but to this day its legacy lives deep inside me.  I remember faces and games and learning new things. What I didn’t know then, I now know, I was shaping my character.  In 1976 I experienced my first rapids. As happens, our canoe flipped and our well bound bags floated downstream alongside us. The chaotic moment called for confidence, and courage, and thoughtful actions.  A tall order for an adolescent swept into doubt, fear, and panic. Yet I emerged aware of a strength I didn’t know I had. I suppose we all get “swept up” at some point in our lives, feeling helpless. Mine was then. I’ve had others, but each one builds on that early experience. There is no doubt that navigating these moments makes all of us stronger.  For me, it remains an important learning, and underscores the value I place on the summer camp experience.   

Summer camp is more than a mere getaway for kiddos during the summer school break; it really is a formative experience that enriches their lives in countless ways. In an age where technology often dominates children's time and attention, summer camps offer a refreshing return to nature, fostering skills and values that are crucial for their development into well-rounded adults.

Skills and Independence

At camp, kids learn a variety of practical and social skills that are not typically taught in the classroom. From building a campfire to navigating hiking trails, these activities cultivate a sense of self-reliance and problem-solving abilities. Being away from home encourages the kiddos to manage their own time, make decisions independently, and handle responsibilities such as keeping track of their belongings and maintaining personal hygiene. This newfound independence is a significant milestone in their journey toward adulthood. It was mine.

Team Building and Social Skills

One of the most profound benefits of summer camp is the emphasis on teamwork. Camp activities are often designed to be collaborative, requiring children to work together to achieve common goals. Whether it’s paddling a canoe, cabin cleanup, or strategizing during a game of capture the flag, these experiences teach children the importance of cooperation, communication, and trust. These skills are foundational for forming healthy relationships and working effectively in group settings throughout life. I still play the “telephone game” when entertaining; what a great early lesson on communication and how messages can take on a life of their own. 

Character Development and Resilience

The rapids story is but one of many stories that helped shape my character. When speaking with others who have attended camp, there is resounding agreement that camps play a vital role in character development. Challenges such as homesickness, learning new skills, or dealing with interpersonal conflicts provide the kiddos with opportunities to develop resilience and perseverance. Overcoming these hurdles fosters a sense of accomplishment and builds self-esteem. The kiddos learn to adapt to new environments, cope with uncertainty, and emerge stronger and more confident.

Manners and Etiquette

Living in close quarters with peers also instills important social manners and etiquette. Kiddos learn to respect each other's space, share resources, and practice kindness and consideration. Meals at camp, often taken family-style, provide a perfect setting for teaching table manners and the importance of polite conversation. These lessons in courtesy and respect are invaluable as children navigate various social settings throughout their lives.

Memories and Lifelong Impact

The memories made at summer camp are cherished for a lifetime. These experiences shape young people in profound ways, leaving an indelible mark on their character and outlook on life. The thrill of adventure, the bonds of friendship, the sense of achievement—all contribute to a reservoir of positive memories that kiddos can draw upon in times of difficulty or stress. Like my moment in the rapids, these memories serve as a reminder of our capabilities and the joy of embracing life fully.

Nature's Wisdom

Among my favorite takeaways from camp is the healthy relationship with nature that I continue to enjoy all these years later.  Engaging with the natural environment at summer camp offered me a wisdom that cannot be gleaned from books or screens. Time spent outdoors teaches kiddos about the interconnectedness of life, the beauty of simplicity, and the importance of stewardship of the earth. The rhythm of nature—sunrises and sunsets, tides, the changing seasons—imparts lessons in patience and the cyclical nature of life.

I’m a big believer in sending kids to summer camp! It’s is a gift that pays dividends far beyond the weeks spent there. It equips kiddos with essential life skills, fosters personal growth, and creates memories that shape their future selves. Immersing them in the wonders of nature and the camaraderie of camp life, we really are nurturing the next generation of productive, kind, and resilient adults.

The junedays Camp Fund honors these traditions and lessons learned by dedicating $10 from each sale of its small cooler and small caddy.   By giving the gift of camp to your children, grandchildren or a child who otherwise couldn’t go, you’re changing the world…one kiddo at a time. Stay cool with junedays.