“I learned that it is okay to be me because being me is a good thing.”

This week I posted a question on my Facebook page: What did you learn at Camp Kodiak? I got scores of responses from campers past and present, and most of the comments were from adults who reflected on their childhood at camp and how it changed who they became. Dozens of counsellors responded, too, but I’ll leave their comments for another blog post.

Three clear themes emerged from camper comments:

  1. Making friends
  2. Personal development
  3. Practical skills

“Making friends can be terrifying, but having friends makes it worth it.” (Preston Macready)
Almost every respondent said that Camp Kodiak taught them how to make and keep friends. For some, this involved overcoming years of shyness. For others, it took a lot of courage to get past experiences with bullying or exclusion. One former camper, Tallie, shared, “I learned how to not be shy and [that] making new friends is easy if you just start by saying, ‘Hello.’” People talked about making life-long friendships and finding a sort of family among campers and staff. And a few people talked about the help they got from friends and counsellors to feel supported and meet their goals. “I realize[d] that I wasn’t alone” (Mindy Behrmann).

“I learned that ADHD didn’t have to be a liability and acquired the skills to make it an asset.” (Carrie Wager)
A second important theme was personal development. Some, like Carrie, talked about learning to live with and find the gifts in the very things they had always thought of as impediments, to “love the body and mind I was given” (Dominique Barker). Many others talked about confidence, independence, and self-esteem. A few people mentioned overcoming fears, including the fear of failure. “I learned that it’s okay to be wrong and how to take my failures in stride” (Michael Teener). Those people who had gone through our Leader-In-Training program or who grew up to be staff members mentioned the leadership skills and sense of responsibility they learned through helping others or doing jobs around camp. One person learned how to communicate her feelings rather than keeping them inside.

“I learned to try new things.” (Multiple Respondents)
Third, campers talked about challenging themselves to try new things. These included activities like sailing, kneeboarding, fishing, horseback riding, and running the Kodiak Games marathon. Other responses talked about learning to make a bed, clean the house, or live with other people.

Reading these “What I learned” posts made me deeply proud. As I read, a story emerged of a place that nurtures kids and helps them develop into confident, independent, social adults who are willing to take risks and learn new things—not a bad legacy. I really believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and reading the words of so many of our former campers, I was reminded about how lucky I am to be able to be part of that village for the kids of Camp Kodiak.

“Perhaps the deepest way that Camp has impacted my life is through the moral upbringing it provided, from the focus on collaboration instead of competitiveness to the emphasis on the journey instead of the destination. The core set of values I inherited from Camp Kodiak has coloured every interaction of my adult life and made me who I am.” (Tony Sandoz)

*Title quote by Krista (Ferguson) St. Amand. All quotes were used with permission from the authors.

About the Author

Shari Stoch

Shari has worked at Camp Kodiak since it began in 1991. She has been the Academic Director since 2010, and is one of the Camp Directors. During the year, Shari works for the Peel District School Board as a special education teacher. She earned her Masters of Education from Queen’s University.