Camp--The Final Frontier

By Rick Braschler

I slept well last night as the rain fell against the composite shingles of the roof, down the aluminum gutters, and out through the storm drain.

I woke this morning in my private bedroom on my Sealy Posturepedic pillow-top mattress covered by a down-filled comforter encased in my Bladvass duvet cover. I felt a slight chill in the air, so I adjusted the temperature in the room using the digital thermostat on the wall.

After leaving my private bathroom—complete with a polished porcelain toilet, ceramic-tiled floor, Avanti bath rug, and herbal potpourri—I walked down a carpeted hall to the kitchen.

After exchanging pleasantries with my family, I poured my organic almond milk on my favorite pre-packaged, pre-processed, and pre-sweetened cereal while listening to my iPod.

While driving to school in my 2006 Mustang GT with black-leather interior, I drank a double chocolaty-chip frappuccino, and contemplated the day ahead and the strength I would need to overcome the stresses of life that were sure to confront me.

I asked myself, “As a 16-year-old boy, am I ready?”

Morals And Values
As a parent, I desire to instill within my five children the essential elements needed to overcome life’s difficult trials. Not only to overcome, but to be a positive contributor rather than a burden on society.

However, my desire to provide a better life than I had for my kids has resulted in a conflict that sabotages my very intent. For I know intuitively that comfort, convenience, and affluence are not character-building directives.

And to compound the problem further, technological advancements have produced such an environment that my children no longer have to manually flush a toilet, open a door at the supermarket, or even pick up a pencil to hand-write a letter.

There was a time when the majority of America’s youth awoke early and worked hard, experienced nature, overcame trials, endured inconveniences, depended on each other, and waited patiently on the weather.

This was in 1935 when 6-million family farms graced this country, and scores of youngsters worked tirelessly and with devotion.

Some refer to the people of that era as the Greatest Generation, not because “the good old days” were fun, but because they were hard, and children endured and were better for it.

Nowadays, there are an estimated 2-million family farms as the industrial revolution and job search caused families to exchange the farm for the cities. As such, those life experiences and lessons once learned on the farm are being replaced by a virtual world of comfort and technology.

The hardships and challenges that once encouraged perseverance and adaptability have been replaced by a new “dialed-in” reality, managed by thermostats, dish network, and fast food.

I present to you, camp—the final frontier!

Experience The Camp Community
Today’s camp introduces people to experiences that will not only produce positive traits, but leave a lifelong sense of satisfaction. Camp experiences come in different shapes and sizes, and all have unique characteristics.

The journey begins with a common core experience: community. While people have a sense of community in their everyday lives, such as school, work, or the neighborhood, the camp-community dynamic reaches further.

The value of communal living in a cabin or tent setting demands a social acceptance, dependence, and tolerance beyond that of any other interface. Within hours, this communal reality reveals those who possess higher or lower social skills and adaptability.

The residential component lasting a week or longer without interruption demands social order, requiring individuals to forsake old habits of self-promotion or reliance and work toward group accountability and harmony.

The end result is an individual who recognizes the value of others, respects their space, and returns home desiring to replicate this experience.

Bursting With Self-Esteem
Camping offers an escape from the technological pastimes that do not produce callouses, perspiration, or endurance. People seldom brag about the fact we can fly around the world, but they do about completing a marathon, finishing a challenge course, or kayaking a river.

Camp experiences are designed to place people in situations that may initially produce fear, but when that fear is overcome, the result is confidence and esteem.

Nature can be unforgiving and unrelenting. Whether it’s a simple hike through a forest, a canoe trip across a lake, or rappelling down a 50-foot bluff, our interaction with nature and its forces leaves us both exhausted and exhilarated.

And when the experience is coupled with knowledge and training, then shared by peers and mentors, the end result is a memory too awesome to forget. Staff and campers arrive home only to tell the endless stories of those great times and adventures.

Camp is a place where kids of all sizes, shapes, colors, and beliefs come together unaffected by the boundaries that may separate them elsewhere. In fact, there is an intentionality of inclusion, acceptance, and lifting of spirits.

In the camp setting, there are no wealthy or poor neighborhoods, racial hallways, or status symbols. Ropes courses, horses, and lake water simply do not care about such things, other than the need to be experienced.

Three days into the camp experience seemingly have a healthy effect, revealing the core of a kid. From then on, this boiling stew called the camp experience produces an aroma that is intoxicating.

Adaptability, acceptance, perseverance, overcoming fear, confidence, inner-strength, character, integrity, and trust are attributes both experienced and received. It’s camp, and nothing else simply compares.

I slept well last night as the rain fell against the tin roof of my cabin, blew in the open screen window, and soaked the end of my sleeping bag.

I woke in cabin three on the top bunk, lying on a 3-inch plastic-covered mattress on a wooden bed frame with writing on it: “Billy was here--1958.” At one point, I felt a slight chill so I threw on another shirt, wrapped a towel around my head, and pulled my feet up in the sleeping bag away from the wet part.

After leaving the shower house, complete with 12 urinals, four showers, a concrete floor, cinder block walls, and at least 10 daddy long-legs, we campers made our way down the dirt trail to the dining hall.

Upon arriving, we chanted the Pledge of Allegiance, offered a blessing, screamed out a cheer, and then started eating from large bowls of awesome food prepared by older ladies.

While waiting in line at the 30-foot pamper pole and wearing a full-body harness and helmet, and with mosquito bites, a slight sunburn, and something else red and itchy but unconfirmed, I contemplated the day ahead and the strength I would need to overcome the challenges I faced.

I asked myself enthusiastically, “As a 16-year-old young man, what’s next?”

Rick Braschler is the full-time director of risk management for Kanakuk Kamps, and the senior risk consultant for CircuiTree Solutions Camp Risk Consulting. He has been a licensed insurance broker for more than 20 years and assists camps around the country with selecting brokers, identifying coverage gaps, and saving premiums. Contact him at 417-266-3337, or .