Musings on the Camp Experience
The camp experience begins with a registration. After registration comes packing, and then travel and of course arrival! Most who arrive at camp are at least a little bit nervous as camp can be a bit of a mystery and when it is someone’s first time there a lot of unknowns including the food, the grounds, and the people. The friendly, smiling faces of camp staff upon arrival helps folks begin to warm up and settle in for the experience which can include games, archery, high ropes, low ropes, hikes, crafts, classes, boating, campfires, Mass, and more. All which are participated in and accomplished without technology.
But… It almost doesn’t matter (almost) what activities or program you’ve come to camp to experience because honestly it is the connective pieces, of faith, fun, kindness, conversation, nature, laughter, and prayer, that make the experience. I recently heard a staff member say, “Technology cannot give you all of this” as he looked out into the trees.
As a 32 year “camp person” I’ve been privileged to be a part of so many of those connective pieces, and I know in our changing world where technology is at the forefront of our lives, that a camp experience is more important than ever.
The proof for me is in the experience…
I’ve experienced the smiles and the laughter. I’ve heard the songs being loudly and expressively sung. I have sat in the middle of the woods with a group of kids for no reason other than to listen in to the natural world and I have watched them be wowed. I have experienced moments of deep faith and grace. I have walked along side a camper on a horse who are working hard to overcome a fear. I have answered questions from overwhelmed and scared parents. I’ve hugged a homesick summer camper who I know can make it until check-out, even though she’s not sure. I have had the immense pleasure of watching 70 college age staff pull the thread through the moments of summer camp to make a week the best week of the summer for many, many hundreds of children. I have equally been awed by school year program staff who do it all in one day…food service, clean, facilitate activities, get kids to think and make them laugh, and smile through it all. None of this required my phone or the internet. It only required me to show up, be present, and hold the space for the experience to happen.
It is true that the activities and programs bring us together but once together the less tangible takes over and makes the real impact which links us to God, one another and meaning in this chaotic world.
Angi K Sullivan
Fall Camp Fun
Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love everything about it: the cooler weather, the sweaters, the leaves, the apple cider. And I especially love fall at camp. Camp becomes less and less green and more and more red, yellow, orange, maroon, brown, and gold. One of the reasons I love camp in the fall so much is that it reminds me of my first time coming to CYO Camp when I was a little girl.
Way back when I was in third grade, I was invited to go to fall camp at Camp Rancho Framasa with one of my best friends. I had never been to an overnight camp before, just day camp at the Girl Scout camp by my house with my Brownie troop. But I loved being outside, and I thought CYO Camp sounded so cool and different. So, my mom loaded up the car with our stuff, and we made the drive down Clay Lick Road for the first time, back when it was still a gravel road. Trees lined the road, just like they do now, and we past the horse pasture and the Canada Game field. We checked in and walked up to our cabin, and both of us immediately claimed a top bunk. I hugged my mom goodbye and once our whole group was together we got to go to dinner.
I don’t know if everyone remembers their first meal at CYO Camp, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. It’s a sensory explosion. Bright colors from the hundreds of people, smells of food coming from the kitchen, and the overwhelming, deafening sound of laughter, talking, singing, and challenging. Back before the “Challenge” sign was used, you had to be ready for challenges the moment you stepped into he OPC. And me, being eight years old and knowing nothing, had to catch on really quick. But the songs were funny and we were never allowed to stand on the benches in the cafeteria, so it felt special and extra adventurous. And plus, the counselors were doing it! These were adults, but they were cool adults, and you could tell they were cool adults because they wore tie dye shirts and had dozens of friendship bracelets on their wrists and sang louder and danced harder than everyone else at their table.
So after dinner, we played the evening game. We got to run through the woods! We charged through the fallen leaves and followed the beams of our flashlights and if no one had sounded the horn we probably would have just kept playing for hours. And that game, that was the start of an absolute whirlwind of fun. Campfires and horses, lanyards and pumpkin carving, hopping and fort building, telling stories and yelling the Great Amen, braiding hair and earning our bead. I had never before been in a place that felt like it was designed specifically for me to have fun.
My best friend’s mom picked us up from camp at the end of the session, and she never had to prompt us with any questions. We talked, we burst out laughing from inside jokes, we showed off our lanyards and our shirts and the new songs we had learned. We had an hour and a half-long car ride to figure out how to tell her why we had such an amazing time, but we just couldn’t quite put our fingers on it. After that, I had to go back to school where we didn’t sing songs on the cafeteria benches, and back to class where we sat a lot and needed to be quiet a lot. It felt like camp was my special secret, like I had gotten to visit this dream land where everything was always fun and everyone got to be silly and laugh until their sides hurt.
And now, years and years later, I still feel that way about camp. I love getting to be just one person in the generations of amazing staff that make camp a magical place. I love watching our campers jump in the leaves and wear their adorable rain boots and laugh and sing as much as their lungs will allow. There is nothing quite like fall in Brown County, and there’s no place that exemplifies fall in Brown County quite like CYO Camp.
Assistant Camp Director
CYO Camp Rancho Framasa
Camp is such an unique experience! Our staff take turns sharing their perspectives of the experience that is CYO Camp Rancho Framasa!
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