Through the Eyes of the Counselors

If there is anything I’ve learned from the dozen (or more) camps that I’ve done, it’s that there’s no such thing as a “typical” day; every day is full of new surprises and unexpected stories, comments, experiences, jokes, laughs, tears, or whatever else that the kids come up with. With that being said, here’s what I think of as a typical day at camp:
 
Half of the kids are usually up fairly early, full of excitement for the day. The other half put up a fight to get out of bed in time for breakfast. After getting everyone in the cabin awake, cleaned up and dressed, everyone heads down to breakfast. If there’s a line, there are usually jokes or stories being told, or songs being sung to pass the time before Cookie Monster (the chef at Torino Ranch) rings the morning “dinner bell.” Everyone gets a hearty helping of food, lots of juice (or coffee for the counselors), and we head to the pavilion for morning announcements and camp songs. 
 

Everyone then splits into their color groups and goes to their first activity. We will start at arts and crafts. The Pink Ladies run the arts and craft tent and provide us with instruction on what the craft is for the day. They walk around giving guidance to the counselors and campers that need a little help. After the crafts are done, we get to relax on the couches until it’s time to rotate. This is especially nice if it’s later in the day and everyone is starting to slow down.

Next up is preparation and practice for the skit. Each group picks a song to perform to and we choreograph a dance to go along with it. This is where the campers show off their dancing skills, and the counselors get to show theirs off, as well as their motivation skills to get those more reluctant campers to join in. Tippy Toes is our usual choreographer and she really knows the moves and how to get the kids to do them. Right before the dance on the last night, each group performs their dance at the pavilion in front of all the other groups. This is where it’s great to see the most timid kids really come out of their shell as soon as they hear their peers cheering on them.

Next, we move on to the rock wall and canoes. The kids love to race up the wall and paddle around the lake on the canoes. On the rock wall, everyone cheers each other on to get up each of the sides of the wall. It’s always awesome seeing the kids motivate each other to get over their fear of heights and get to the top. Then comes the canoes. Some take a leisurely float around the lake and enjoy the calmness of the water. The bravest and more rambunctious of the group meet in the middle of the lake to have a boat-to-boat water fight by using water guns that were sneakily smuggled onto the boats or by splashing with the paddles. These usually end up with everyone being soaked and the lifeguards declaring the winner.

Now is about when we break for lunch. Cookie Monster and her crew prepare another delicious meal for everyone at camp. For the pickier eaters, they are always willing to whip up something special and are happy to do so.

After lunch comes swimming time. The lake is always a lot of fun, and almost always the campers favorite part of camp. It’s a good way to cool off on the warmer days and have a great time with their friends. There are sand castles to build, water fights to be had, and the best part – the trampoline in the middle. This is another time where many kids are afraid at first, but as soon as they learn how much fun it is and get over their fear, it’s hard to get them off.

There’s usually one other fun activity during the day which changes each day. Archery, making water bottle rockets, creating music videos, or sometimes just relaxing is what we usually get to do. If you’re lucky there may be a group of Tibetan monks staying at the ranch that is always willing to answer questions and even do a group meditation.

After all the activities are done, everyone heads back to the cabins to shower, get cleaned up, and get ready for the night activity. It could be the campfire, giant obstacle course, special guest performance, movie night, group performances, and on the last night THE BIG DANCE! Surprisingly the kids still have a ton of energy at this time of the night so we really try to get them involved and moving around to wear them out a little more; that way they get a good night’s sleep.

The group performances are always a lot of fun to watch. Each group, from the youngest group up to the oldest, surprises me each year with how well they all remember the dance moves and are able to put their own spin on things.

Then everyone’s favorite part of camp comes….the dance. What used to be the plain ol’ arts and crafts tent is now transformed into a dance club. There are flashing lights, disco balls, fog machines, and the best tunes the mountain (and DJ Brooklyn) has to offer. Cookie Monster is now serving delicious treats including brownies, cake pops, gourmet dessert popcorn, and root beer floats. The campers and counselors all dance the night away, usually ending with the crowd favorites of Cupid Shuffle and The World’s Greatest.

Now everyone is exhausted and danced away the rest of their energy. We head back to the cabins for one last time to prepare for bed. After the dance, unlike the other nights, everyone is in bed and asleep almost immediately.

As I mentioned before, there’s no such thing as a “typical” day at camp, but that’s what makes them the most rewarding, fulfilling, fun experience for everyone involved, and that’s exactly what keeps me coming back.