Camp Friendships: Campers Share Their Experiences

Camp Friendships: Campers Share Their Experiences

- in 2020 Editions, Camp, February 2020, Magazine
Photo by Kim Stahnke Photography

A camp experience provides children an opportunity to learn new things, have fun and set aside the screens — it also gives them a chance to make lasting friendships. Camp also can help kids gain confidence and learn skills they can use for the rest of their lives. 

From learning how to invent things or finding out about nature to delving deeper into sports and technology, day and overnight camps across Northeast Ohio offer something for everyone to enjoy. 

Camps also offer kids a unique chance to make friends — either for the afternoon, the week or for the rest of their lives. We talked with a few campers to find out more about their experiences and how they were able to make new friends at camp.  

Juliana Cerny, 11, of North Ridgeville, has attended various camps at YMCA of Greater Cleveland for many years.

She has attended day camp and sports camp. Juliana enjoys playing basketball and she plays on a basketball team. She also loves playing volleyball. In addition to her sports skills, she’s comfortable making new friends, trying new things and she is at ease being herself. Her mom, Marsha, says she makes friends easily, and it often comes naturally for her, where it may not always be as easy for other kids. 

“It’s awesome to see her go up to somebody that she doesn’t know and introduce herself, and see where she fits in,” Marsha says, “or she’ll sit back if she feels the need to sit back.” 

Juliana talks about her experience…

What are some of your favorite things about camp?
“We get to choose what we get to do, so we get to make our own choices. We also get to go on field trips, play around and have fun. We also learn a lot, explore new things, and they make it easy to understand.” 

How would you describe your experience at camp?
“I made a lot of friends at camp, and that taught me that I can have friends wherever I go. Sometimes, I get to see one of the friends that I made at camp when I go on vacation at Put-in-Bay.” 

Tell us about the friends you made at camp? Did you know them before you got to camp or did you meet them there?
“I have another friend named Alex that I have spent a lot of time with. We had a lot of fun together at camp. I met my friends Sophie and Alex at camp, and we’ve been able to keep in touch outside of camp. Mainly, I get to see them at camp.” 

Was it easy to make friends at camp? What are some of the things you did together at camp?
“It was easy to make friends at camp. One of the things I did at camp was we went out to the playground and played. We played on the slides and other playground equipment. We also played basketball in the gym. They also gave us time to talk and eat lunch together.” 

What are some of the things you and your camp friends have in common?
“We have a lot in common. We like to play basketball and enjoy doing some of the same things. At other times, we were opposites, where even though my friend might like something and I don’t, we still learned to like it. I may not love it the same way she does, but I learned to try something new, and I gained an appreciation for it. It was interesting to learn new things.” 

Why would you encourage other kids to go to camp and make friends there?
“Because you’re not sitting at home, watching TV or lying on the couch. You’re always doing something fun, learning something new and you’re exercising. You’re always having fun, moving around and you still have the opportunity to learn a lot of new things.”

Daly and Hanna Schaeffer at Falcon Camp. Photo courtesy of Falcon Camp.

Hanna Schaeffer, 8, of Columbus, attended the one week Falcon Camp “Young Adventurers.” 

Hanna and her brother Daly, 11, had never attended a “sleepaway” camp before, nor had they been away from home without their parents for a week or two. This was a new experience for their family. Both Hanna and Daly signed up for this experience with different goals. Hanna wanted to see if she could sleep “away” from her parents for a week. Hanna not only loved her camp experience, she made it the full week, on her own, sleeping in a cabin with six other girls her age.

Hanna shares her camp experience…

Tell us about the friends you made at camp? Did you know them before you got to camp or did you meet them there?
“Trudy was a good friend I made while I was at camp. We had a lot in common. Violet and I played music together. Tali, my camp director, was so kind. She even came to my house a few times to see us. She always checked on me.” 

Was it easy to make friends at camp? What are some of the things you did together at camp?
“I was pretty shy at the beginning. I was missing home. Trudy came up to me and asked me to play with her and to go to H20 with her, so I did. I’m glad that I did. We became good friends then. I met Ellie at horse care, and she helped me feed the horses.” 

What are some of the things you and your camp friends have in common?
“Trudy and I both loved woodslore. We both love to share funny stories about our lives. We both love to create funny names like John, Paul, George, and we both love horses.”

Have you been able to keep in touch with the friends you made at camp?
“Trudy’s grandma lives near our house, and she comes to visit her often. We play at her grandma’s house. We like to sew and make cookies together.” 

Why would you encourage other kids to go to camp and make friends there?
“It’s a very enriching experience. You learn life skills that the camp people make really fun and you can use those skills later in life.” 

Daly attended a two-week regular summer camp session last summer at Falcon Camp.
Both Daly and his sister, Hanna, were able to form special friendships at Falcon Camp. Only knowing each other, he and his sister were dropped off at Falcon Camp the second week of June with a giant trunk of “stuff” they packed themselves — along with hopeful hearts. Daly, described as an “introvert” and an “old soul” by his mom, Heidi, says he wanted to find a friend, someone “just like him.” Daly’s wish came true. Daly and his new Falcon Camp friend, Erik, have stayed in touch after camp ended and they have weekly FaceTime chats. They even planned a sleep-over in conjunction with the Falcon Camp holiday party/reunion this past December. While Daly lives in Columbus and Erik lives in Cleveland, it’s been magical for both kids.

Daly talks about his experience…

Photo courtesy of Classroom Antics

What are some of the things you learned at camp?
“I learned to be self-sufficient. I was able to take care of myself without my parents. I also learned how to make new friends.”

Tell us about the friends you made at camp? Did you know them before you got to camp or did you meet them there?
“I made lots of friends. All of the kids in my cabin were my friends. I hope that we can be friends for a long time. We had long chats. Erik became my best camp friend. We were inseparable. I did not know anyone when I went to camp, and I left with so many new friends. It was amazing.”

Was it easy to make friends at camp? What are some of the things you did together at camp?
“I will be honest with you, for the first few days that I was there, I was a little scared of my new friend Erik. He was so outgoing and seemed to have an easy time being friendly with everyone. I am shyer. I enjoyed going to athletics with Erik. On opening night, I shared a laugh with Erik, and then I kept my distance for a day or two, but then, I felt safe. I was able to ask Erik if he wanted to be friends and he did.”

What are some of the things you and your camp friends have in common?
“I have almost everything in common with Erik. We both realized that we struggle to make friends. We both love swimming.” 

Have you been able to keep in touch with the friends you made at camp?
“I FaceTime with Erik a lot. It’s so fun.” 

Why are camp friends some of your best friends?
“We shared a special, unique time together that was away from technology. We got to do cool stuff like sports and activities that were different from what we normally do at home with our school friends. We helped each other through hard times when we felt scared or sad.” 

Dylan Carmichael, 12, of Independence, will attend Falcon camp this summer for the third time.

Prior to the electronics-free Falcon Camp, he camped at other area camps for two years. At first, his mom, Cheryl Chase, was hesitant to send him away to camp for the summer, but she soon realized that not… sending him would be the wrong thing to do, because Carmichael has thrived at camp. He begged to go back, saying there’s something special about Falcon Camp. He’s learned wood-working, about “woodslore,” how to spend time in nature, and a lot about sailing. He also has learned different techniques to help him with archery and riflery, like hand-eye coordination and accuracy. 

Photo courtesy of Effective Leadership Academy

Dylan talks about his experience…

What was your camp experience like?
“My first time at Falcon Camp, I went for the standard two weeks. Then, as soon as I got in the car, I was like, ‘How soon can I go again?’ Two weeks later, I went for the third session, so I went twice in one summer. Then, this past summer, I went for one month straight.” 

I imagine there are a lot of different kids that come to camp.
“There’s a lot of different people that you’ll meet there. There was one point, when two kids from Japan came to our cabin, and they didn’t speak English, but we just thought of them as normal people. It was a little bit hard to try to talk to them and explain things to them, but it ended up working out in the end, and we ended up having a good time together. There’s an energy at camp that is warm, loving and accepting.” 

Did you have any friends when you went the first time? And how have you been able to make friends?
“I didn’t really have any friends in mind the first time. I was going with an open mind, and saying, ‘Alright, either my cabinmates are going to be really nice, or they are going to be really mean.’ As I was there for a few days, I had picked up this energy of, ‘Wait, no one’s really mean here.’ Then, I really understood that you can pretty much go out there, talk to people you don’t know, they will talk back, and you’ll have a conversation. You might start by asking their name, and then you’ll talk, and see what happens from there. I’ve made some great friends throughout my time at camp. We do cabin activities a lot, where you do a lot of things together. You learn everyone’s name, and you learn things about them, and if you have things in common with them, you can talk about that. Then, you’ll learn from there…We enjoy the time we have at camp together and we always get to see our friends again when we come back.” 

Why would you encourage other kids to go to camp?
“It’s a lot of fun, and there are a lot of things that you can really learn from in the aspect of it’s like school, where you’re learning the whole time, but you’re learning without the same structure. It’s still structured, but it’s a little bit looser with what you can do. You can speak your mind about things, and you don’t have to be afraid to ask questions, or to fail and try again. If you fail a test — boom, it’s done; you can’t re-do it. But if you’re doing a sailing course, and you mess up on the sailing course, you can try again tomorrow, or later that day. It’s a place where you can keep trying, and trying until you get it the perfect way that you want it. I think that’s incredible. It’s like you get to decide what your grade is by trying again. At camp, you’re learning the whole time, but you’re having fun while you’re doing it.” 

Ezela Manko attended Camp Invention. Courtesy of Camp Invention.

Ezela Manko attended Camp Invention last summer for the third time. 

She started going to the week-long camp in second grade. She has learned skills like teamwork and working together as a group. At Camp Invention, participants create a variety of inventions from recyclable materials that have been gathered by campers. Each year, campers are taught a different curriculum. Monica Shadle, Coordinator of gifted services at Louisville City School District, has been directing Camp Invention for more than 10 years. 

She says campers like Ezela learn through hands-on science activities and creativity in an environment that’s fun. The kids participate as a group and they are with their group throughout the week. Camp Invention draws attendees from the Louisville City School District, as well as other surrounding school districts. Camp Invention also works with students who have special needs.

Ezela talks about her camp experience…

What was your camp experience like?
“It was very fun, and it gave me something to do during the summer, when I didn’t really have anything to do but go outside and play. So, we got to build things and do other activities. They kept us really busy.”  

Tell us about your early camp experiences.
“I didn’t want to go the first time, but then when we went, I realized it was really fun and that I should keep going.” 

What are some of the things you learned at camp?
“We learned that we can be friends with everyone, and we don’t just have to be friends with two or three people.” 

What were some of the activities that you did during the day?
“We got to eat lunch with everyone and we worked on projects together. We had these robots and we had to build houses and different things we could use them in. We also learned to work as a team and how to be good listeners for each other. We had to listen to everyone’s ideas, so we could find out how to make it work better. Through listening and sharing, we can always build on each other’s ideas. We can also learn to solve problems and we developed problem solving skills.” 

Did you know anyone from school, or have any other friends at camp? Were you able to make new friends?
“I did know one friend that I met in third grade. I also met a lot of new friends, too.”

What are some of the things you and your camp friends have in common?
“We helped each other to solve problems with our different inventions, and we got to share our thinking to make something new and creative.” 

What would you say is your favorite thing about camp?
“You can go there and you feel like you are part of the rest of the group. Everybody gets a chance to talk, share their ideas and you feel like you’re in a safe place.” 

Why would you encourage other kids to give camp a try?
“I would tell them they should, because they will feel like they’re part of the group. If they don’t have a lot of friends, they will make a lot more by learning different things.” 

Is there anything else you’d like to say about camp or the friends that you made there?
Inventing with someone you just met is a great way to start a strong friendship by learning and working together on different projects. And, if you don’t have a really good friendship with someone, you can make one by working together and trying not to argue. You can think together, outside of the box, to work together better.”  

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.