S’More Fun To Be Had

DSC01385For a country where all are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we sure do have to put up with a plethora of rules and regulations.  In my ten years as a camp director, I’ve seen the regulations regarding overnight camps skyrocket.  This year I will have 100 girls and 60 staff members at camp all week.  Think about that – a 6 to 10 ratio!  Why?  There is now a requirement that I give a two-hour break to all staff members every day.  I know, I know, that sounds reasonable enough; but this is an all-volunteer camp.  These adults have volunteered their time 24 hours a day (because incidents at camp don’t stop when the lights go out), and they expect to be busy running programs, watching on the beachfront, helping with crafts, going on hikes, etc. None of us expects to sit lazily under a tree or take a nap in our cabins for two hours.  And mealtimes and recreational time don’t count as breaks.  I’m turning away girls because I have to house staff in order to satisfy this rule.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our volunteers, but I’d love to welcome more girls to the joys of camp.

And paperwork!  You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork that has to be done to become a volunteer.  In addition to a lengthy application and three references who submit very detailed analyses of each volunteer, everyone has to do a background check through our Girl Scout Council, a state and federal fingerprint check, and a child protective services background check.  The theory is that one will catch what another misses.  Add to all of that the number of trainings required in order to run any type of program, and I’m surprised the volunteers don’t go running in the other direction.

Believe me, I know that our top priority is the safety of the girls, and I’m all for that.  But as Director, all of this paperwork is killing me.  Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the medical information we are required to obtain, each piece carefully documented and signed by a physician.  Something tells me that Lord Baden Powell and Juliette Gordon Lowe would have given up before they even got started if they were trying to take children camping today.

Let’s hope that all of the state, national, and Council requirements don’t steer others from stepping up as camp directors and volunteers. Imagine all of this plus the time and effort put into just the administration and operation of the camp itself – planning programs, unit and cabin assignments, scheduling all events for the week without conflicts, meal planning, evening activities, and much, much more. It’s a grueling and full-time job at times, and I often wonder why I continue doing it.

Then the most amazing thing happens.  The time for camp arrives, and I see, often for the first time in a year, the wonderful volunteers I have come to love.  After spending 24 hours unpacking, cleaning, organizing, and setting up for camp, we greet the campers, smiling, happy girls from ages six to thirteen.  We work hard all week, but we have fun, too.  From the first night scavenger hunt to the closing ceremony, the smiles and laughs far outweigh the frustrations.  There is nothing else I would rather be doing each summer than spending it with this group.  We are family, and as we all know, family stays together through good and bad, thick and thin, sun and rain (but, please, no rain)!  So as the time grows near, and the first day of camp quickly approaches, I say let’s have s’more fun!

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Girl Power

DSC04512This past weekend, I took my Girl Scout troop to a nearby state park to try their skills at the Tuckahoe Challenge Course.  The course consists of a 50 foot high rock climbing wall that leads to a 300 foot long zip line, a spring swing that drops a person from a 70 foot height, and a 15 foot high fireman’s pole from which the climber needs to stand and jump to a bar swing in order to get down.  My girls, ages 12 to 19, were told that a Boy Scout troop had visited the day before, and only one boy made it over the wall.  Of course, this spurred my girls on and laid down the challenge for all of them to do their best to make it over the wall to the zip line on the other side.

Morgan was the first in our troop to attempt the climb.  The other DSC04431girls marveled at the way the muscles in her legs bulged as she made her ascent.  A couple of times, she lost her grip or became confused about which way to go, but her friends on the ground cheered her on, guided her steps, and encouraged her in her climb.  Within about five minutes, Morgan lifted her legs over the wall, stood on the platform on the other side, and looked down triumphantly at the cheering girls below.  They all basked in the glow of her achievement.

Not all of the girls had an easy time.  Morgan’s best friend ended up in tears about halfway up and announced that she was letting go so that she could be eased down to the ground, but her friends at the bottom would have no part of that.  “You can do it,” they called to her; and through tears, she plowed on until she reached the top.  The victory was not only hers but every girl yelling and cheering for her from the ground.  In the end, every one of the eleven girls who decided to tackle the wall made it over.  Three chose to climb the rope ladder to the top, no easy task in itself, and their friends stood below them and cheered them on as well.  I’m sure that the squeals of delight as the girls flew through the air on that zip line could be heard throughout the park that morning.

DSC04463The girls went on to do the rope swing where they had to all work as a team to hoist each girl into the air.  The harder the girls pulled together, the higher the girl went up into the trees.  From there, the girls moved on to the fireman’s pole.  As they stood at the bottom of the pole, they again DSC04519cheered on their friends, marveling at their agility in climbing to the top, standing on the pole, and jumping to the swing.

Of course, I have to admit that I was pretty darn proud of all of the girls on Saturday.  I was amazed by their determination and inspired by their confidence.  What I am most proud of, and what left the biggest impression on me, was the way they cheered for and encouraged each other.  Most of all, I was in awe of the way they stood together and supported each other.  These wonderful girls proved to be more than a Troop, more than friends, more than average teenage girls.  These girls were inspiring and empowering.  Never before have I been so proud as a mother, Troop Leader, and human being.  If only all people could aspire to greater heights and encourage each other the way my girls did on Saturday, think of all that we could accomplish in this world.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com