The 6 Top Reasons Every Girl Should Go To Outdoor Camp

DSC06238It’s that time of year, the time when parents are bombarded with emails and snail mails asking them to send their children to camp.  While there are many different kinds of camps that focus on everything from making your child the next Peyton Manning to teaching them how to audition for Broadway, every child should have the opportunity to experience a good, old-fashioned outdoor camp, especially girls.

Why, you ask, is it so important to send my daughter to camp?  Simply put, there are things that your daughter will learn at camp that she might never learn at home, and I don’t mean building a fire or pitching a tent, though she may learn those skills as well.  The truth is that there are things that are much more important that she will learn to do that you can’t teach her but that she can learn on her own through experience and observation.  How do I know this?  Because after twelve years of volunteering at an all-girls camp and ten years of running the camp, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Simple Milestones 

Imagine your five-year-old pulling out her own clothes, dressing herself, and even tying her shoes.  Oh, she doesn’t?  You’ve tried over and over to teach her about the bunny crawling into the hole, but she just can’t do it by herself?  You might be surprised.  I can’t count the amount of girls who have come to me with brilliant smiles because they just tied their own shoes for the very first time.  All of the other girls can tie their own shoes, and suddenly that stubborn, strong-willed, “mommy, please do it for me” child wants to accomplish this task for herself.  Add to the mix a totally cool, upbeat, teenage girl who encourages her every morning to get dressed, fix her hair, tie her shoes, even brush her teeth, and every little girl wants to prove that she, too, can be the big girl that her teen counselor knows she can be.  I remember the first time my niece came to camp.  My brother was amazed when she came home and insisted on fixing her own hair “the way Giggles fixed it at camp.”

Handling Things Out of Anyone’s Control

It’s raining today, and your daughter refuses to go to school because she has to walk from the front door to the car.  Imagine her running, giggling all the way, from her cabin to the unit house to play games with her friends until the rain passes.  Imagine her swimming in the rain (as long as there’s no thunder and lightning), not only without complaint, but without even noticing the falling drops.  When it rains at camp, the activities must go on.  The lesson leaned – life goes on.  Just because something comes along that we can’t control doesn’t mean we throw in the towel.  As long as it’s safe, everything continues.  And if it’s not safe to be outdoors, we improvise – games and activities inside the program center, extra snacks, maybe even a movie, whatever it takes to keep having fun.  Life throws you curves, and time at camp teaches girls that they can hit a home run no matter what the pitch is.

Trying New Things

Whether it’s a meal she would never eat at home or an activity she would never dream of trying, camp is all about doing something new.  We once had a girl at camp who quickly gained the nickname, Carrots, because, as you may have guessed, she would eat nothing but carrots.  By the end of day two, she was trying new foods and asking for seconds.  Camp makes you hungry!  And if all of the other girls are eating it, there’s a good chance, she will, too.  The same goes for trying things that she might never do with or for Mom.  No offense moms, but there are far too many times that we don’t push our daughters to do challenging or even scary things because, well, because they’re our daughters.  Part of it is the fear that something will happen to them, and part of it is because we often don’t give them credit for being able to do it, or, let’s be honest, we don’t want to do it ourselves.  There are few things that get me smiling more than watching a little girl go from crying her eyes out and refusing to even climb the ladder to hearing her squeals of delight as she glides through the air on a zip line.  The satisfaction comes not from knowing that she was talked into going, but from knowing that she convinced herself that she could.

Coping With Fears

There was once a little girl at camp who cried herself to sleep every night.  She cried through programs, she cried through meals, she cried through swimming and archery and everything else that the other girls did with joy.  This year, that little girl is the floor manager at CNN and an adult camp counselor.  She has been coming since the age of five, through grade school, middle school, high school, and college. She comforts little girls and tells them her story.  After twenty years of coming to camp, she boasts that there isn’t any place she’d rather be.  Whether it’s zip lining over a deep ravine, being away from Mom and Dad, or surviving thunderstorms and spiders, girls leave camp knowing that they can overcome anything.  And nine out of ten of those girls will be back the next year.

Discovering the Unknown

There is so much that girls can learn and discover at camp, and some of them might surprise you.  Inner city girls come to camp and see giant, sunbathing turtles for the first time.  Girls with no siblings learn to share a room (actually, a cabin or a tent) and eat at a table of twelve talking, laughing girls.  First time campers feel the power that comes with spending the week away from home.  More importantly, girls learn tolerance, respect, and empathy.  This past year, we had a little girl with autism attend camp for the first time.  At first, the other girls weren’t sure what to think about Brie (pictured above).  Some may have been scared, and several were apprehensive about being near her or working with her because they recognized that she was different.  It didn’t take long for them to see her as a beautiful, loving, intelligent girl who isn’t really any different than the rest of them but who just needed their assistance and their patience.  While Brie’s mother felt that her daughter left camp having learned so many new things, it was really the staff and the other campers who truly learned the most.  We are all better for spending the week with her.

Becoming a Leader

The vast majority of girls who return to our camp have one goal in mind – to keep coming long enough to become a teen counselor.  Those ultra cool young ladies who brush hair, hold hands, dry tears, and read stories are the envy of every little girl at camp.  The girls want to grow up to be just like those teens with intriguing camp names like Giggles, Broadway, Twizzler, and Trouble.  That is quite an honor because those teenagers grow up to be remarkable young women.  Many of them, like Tinkerbell who works at CNN, continue coming to camp through high school, college, and beyond.  One of our counselors is a schoolteacher who comes to camp every year with her own daughters.  She has been coming since she was in grade school.  We have several college girls who plan to be doctors, nurses, and lawyers.  We have adults who are in those fields and others: a school administrator, a former crime scene technician, heck, even a published author.  Many of our all-volunteer staff went to camp themselves, either at our camp or a similar one.  They know the importance of instilling goals and confidence in our campers so that they can be the leaders of tomorrow.

So before you delete that email or throw away that brochure, picture your daughter.  Not the daughter you live with, the one you see every day, the one you dress and coddle.  Picture your daughter as an independent, self-confident, successful adult.  She can get that way through a number of routes, but the one she will always remember and want to return to again and again is an all-girls summer camp.  She will develop friendships that will last a lifetime and memories that will both entice and inspire her to become the person you always knew she could be.  What more could you ask for?

Amy Schisler is an author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages who lives with husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015.  You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

What is the Answer?

DSCN6495Let me begin by saying that this is not a political commentary. I think of it as a public introspection, a searching for answers where, perhaps, there is no real answer. I have always tried to act compassionately, to put others needs before myself. I am a passionate defender of the unborn, a believer in the dignity of all human life, and volunteer for social and humanitarian causes; yet today, I find myself at a crossroads. My heart and head are at odds, and I don’t know that there is anyone out there who can help me find the right answers to my questions.

First, I am a student of history and a firm believer in the adage that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I also believe that we are currently embroiled in the Third World War. While it is a war of weapons, it is also a war of ideology, not unlike the Cold War during which I was raised. It is a war of name calling, of hatred spewing, and of closed hearts and minds as much as it is a war of physical mass destruction. We are witnessing what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers witnessed with the aggression of Hitler, yet we have no single name to attach to this threat, just an ideology. How do we fight against an aggressive ideology in which nobody knows who the real enemy is?  For I do not believe that the enemy is all Muslims.

I’ve known people of Muslim descent and practicing Muslims, and I know that they are not bad people. They are peaceful people who do not subscribe to the beliefs of those such as ISIS; so I wonder, as we’ve all heard others say many times, why do they not speak out? I’m not talking about those in war-ravaged countries or those who are under constant threat or surveillance, but those who are free to stand up and say “this is not right, this is not what we believe.”  There are few places like Jordan, where all religions are welcome and where many of the current refugees have been able to flee; so where are the rest of the Muslim countries and their leaders?

During WWII, we brought in refugees from Europe, but we chose those who came. We did not open our doors to every person in Europe who wanted to flee the war. Was that right?  I don’t know.  But I do know that, on the contrary, we made sure that their homeland was safe for people to continue living secure, healthy, fulfilling lives. Those who say that was different and that we shouldn’t interfere with what’s going on in Syria or Iraq or any of the ISIS controlled countries, please tell me how is it different? How were the victims of WWII any different than those being persecuted today? Why wouldn’t we want, for our sake as well as theirs, to contain the threats in their lands and make their homeland safe for all people?  Even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, just yesterday, questioned why we are bringing people here who could be fighting for their homes.  Because they have families?  So did our Pop.

And what are our leaders here and throughout the West supposed to do?  How can we help these refugees when we have those here at home who we are unwilling or unable to help – our poor, our homeless, our Veterans? We have approximately 50,000 homeless Veterans in our country. How do we look at them and say, we cannot give you food and shelter, but we can give it to people from the region where you put your very life at risk?

Pope Francis recently said that “refugees are more than statistics; they are children of God, each with his or her own inherent dignity.” My heart breaks over this, for I believe it to be true to the bottom of my soul. So where does that leave us? Where are we to find the resources to care for these people when we cannot care for our own? For it is not simply a matter of security. It is a matter of human dignity.  Does that mean that we are to take care of everyone (Whatsoever you do to the least of my people… Mat 25:45), or do we help them to help themselves (let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Eph 4:28)?  What is the right thing to do?

As far as security, our country has the strictest vetting process of any country in the world, yet our own intelligence officials have said that we can’t even come close to a guarantee that the process works. The attacks that have taken place on our own soil were, for the most part, homegrown terrorists (Boston, Oklahoma City, the first World Trade Center bombing). The perpetrators of 9/11 were here legally, so how well does the system work? Threats to our nation and our citizens can come from anywhere. Three of the Paris terrorists were French Nationals. How do we ever know if we are safe?

So again I ask, what is the answer? Where do we go from here? All sides will never agree. The only thing I know for sure is that leaders around the world need to take their heads out of the sand and recognize what the real problem is, the root of everything that is going on.  There is an ideology (again, I won’t call it a religion – this isn’t the religion of Muhammed that we are fighting), but an ideology that hates the West and is determined to spread their hate throughout the world, destroying everything its path.  Unless we strike at the root of the problem, nothing will be solved, no questions truly answers, no lives left to uphold with dignity.  Which leads me back to the question of humanity.  The questions swirl around and around in a vicious circle that truly never ends.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.