A Letter To The Summer Camp That Changed My Life

A Letter To The Summer Camp That Changed My Life

Thank you for making me the person I am today.
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Dear Camp Ammon, BSA,

When I walk through your gates at the end of each July, it feels like coming home. It wasn’t always like that, but I’m glad we settled our differences.

See, you and I started off on a bit of a rough patch. I was in the heyday of my emo music phase and I wasn’t very stoked about the idea of leaving Van’s Warped Tour a couple of hours early to go to a Boy Scout camp. Better yet, a Boy Scout camp where I would have to do hours on hours of community service, wear khakis, and sleep on an army cot. Not the most appealing of ideas to a 14 year old girl.

That feeling was changed pretty quick. When I walked through your gates and to my tent, I was instantly met with a bunch of people sitting around, someone strumming out “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers -- a song that still makes me emotional to this day, 5 years later -- and I knew I would fit in just fine here.

I’m missing you a whole lot, Camp Ammon. It’s been just over a week since I packed up my footlocker, tucked my uniform away, and hung up my lanyard for the next 50 weeks. I got to see 13-year-old first years experience your magic for the first time, and 17-year-old fifth years see their last days as a camper before joining the ranks of staff. A lot of things can happen in your two week duration, Camp Ammon, but I wouldn’t give these memories up for anything in the world.

The other day, I was trying to explain what makes the confines of your gates home to me. I say “Oh, it’s a 14 day service camp at the Wisconsin State Fair,” and people instantly lose interest. When I detail the discipline, or the four military-grade inspections a day, I wish I could show the camaraderie and teamwork those things pull out of your campers. I wish I could show the friendships and true love that these 14 days will spark from everyone who spends time in the QM, who sits at the picnic tables in the Oasis. Maybe, just maybe, they would get it.

You see, Ammon, you’ve lead me to some of the best friends that I’ve ever known. You’ve taught me responsibility, accountability, and discipline. You’ve made my mother yearn for all of those skills after I return home from my 2-week vacation, evidence of my absence marked by the amount of grass and dirty clothing strewn about my room. But most of all, you’ve taught me love.

Wearing the signature pristine white polo, fingertip length khakis, and an unflattering ballcap while scanning tickets of fair-goers, ushering people to their seats at a concert, or fetching people ice was the highlight of my summer. On July 1st, I would count down the days until I got to sleep in the comfort of my sleeping bag atop a rickety old army cot, surrounded by people that I love, and people who love me.

So, Camp Ammon, I guess what I’m trying to say is: thank you. Thank you for the service you provide to the Wisconsin State Fair. Thank you for the memories I’ve made, the memories I will continue to make. Thank you for the friends -- no, the family -- I’ve met. Thank you for the bugle calls at 0655, and taps at 2300. But most importantly, thank you for making me the person I am today. I owe you the world.

Love Always,

Ria

Camp Ammon is a distinctive service camp located at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis, WI. Running annually during the Fair, Camp Ammon allows you freedom, fun and the opportunity to explore new friendships.

Sponsored by the Three Harbors Council - Boy Scouts of America and the Wisconsin State Fair, eligible boys and girls who are at least 13 years old and registered as a Boy Scout, Venturer or Explorer are invited to join the party.

For more information visit the Camp’s website here!


Cover Image Credit: Camp Ammon BSA

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15 Things Only Lake People Will Understand

There's no other place you'd rather be in the summer.
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The people that spend their summers at the lake are a unique group of people. Whether you grew up going to the lake, have only recently started going, or have only been once or twice, you know it takes a certain kind of person to be a lake person. To the long-time lake people, the lake holds a special place in your heart, no matter how dirty the water may look. Every year when summer rolls back around, you can't wait to fire up the boat and get back out there. Here is a list of things you can probably identify with as a fellow lake-goer.

1. A bad day at the lake is still better than a good day not at the lake.

It's your place of escape, where you can leave everything else behind and just enjoy the beautiful summer day. No matter what kind of week you had, being able to come and relax without having to worry about anything else is the best therapy there is. After all, there's nothing better than a day of hanging out in the hot sun, telling old funny stories and listening to your favorite music.

2. You know the best beaches and coves to go to.

Whether you want to just hang out and float or go walk around on a beach, you know the best spots. These often have to be based on the people you're with, given that some "party coves" can get a little too crazy for little kids on board. I still have vivid memories from when I was six that scared me when I saw the things drunk girls would do for beads.

3. You have no patience for the guy who can’t back his trailer into the water right.

When there's a long line of trucks waiting to dump their boats in the water, there's always that one clueless guy who can't get it right, and takes 5 attempts and holds up the line. No one likes that guy. One time my dad got so fed up with a guy who was taking too long that he actually got out of the car and asked this guy if he could just do it for him. So he got into the guy's car, threw it in reverse, and got it backed in on the first try. True story.

4. Doing the friendly wave to every boat you pass.

Similar to the "jeep wave," almost everyone waves to other boats passing by. It's just what you do, and is seen as a normal thing by everyone.

5. The cooler is always packed, mostly with beer.

Alcohol seems to be a big part of the lake experience, but other drinks are squeezed into the room remaining in the cooler for the kids, not to mention the wide assortment of chips and other foods in the snack bag.

6. Giving the idiot who goes 30 in a "No Wake

Zone" a piece of your mind.

There's nothing worse than floating in the water, all settled in and minding your business, when some idiot barrels through. Now your anchor is loose, and you're left jostled by the waves when it was nice and perfectly still before. This annoyance is typically answered by someone yelling some choice words to them that are probably accompanied by a middle finger in the air.

7. You have no problem with peeing in the water.

It's the lake, and some social expectations are a little different here, if not lowered quite a bit. When you have to go, you just go, and it's no big deal to anyone because they do it too.

8. You know the frustration of getting your anchor stuck.

The number of anchors you go through as a boat owner is likely a number that can be counted on two hands. Every once in a while, it gets stuck on something on the bottom of the lake, and the only way to fix the problem is to cut the rope, and you have to replace it.

9. Watching in awe at the bigger, better boats that pass by.

If you're the typical lake-goer, you likely might have an average sized boat that you're perfectly happy with. However, that doesn't mean you don't stop and stare at the fast boats that loudly speed by, or at the obnoxiously huge yachts that pass.

10. Knowing any swimsuit that you own with white in it is best left for the pool or the ocean.

You've learned this the hard way, coming back from a day in the water and seeing the flowers on your bathing suit that were once white, are now a nice brownish hue.

11. The momentary fear for your life as you get launched from the tube.

If the driver knows how to give you a good ride, or just wants to specifically throw you off, you know you're done when you're speeding up and heading straight for a big wave. Suddenly you're airborne, knowing you're about to completely wipe out, and you eat pure wake. Then you get back on and do it all again.

12. You're able to go to the restaurants by the water wearing minimal clothing.

One of the many nice things about the life at the lake is that everybody cares about everything a little less. Rolling up to the place wearing only your swimsuit, a cover-up and flip flops, you fit right in. After a long day when you're sunburned, a little buzzed, and hungry, you're served without any hesitation.

13. Having unexpected problems with your boat.

Every once in a while you're hit with technical difficulties, no matter what type of watercraft you have. This is one of the most annoying setbacks when you're looking forward to just having a carefree day on the water, but it's bound to happen. This is just one of the joys that come along with being a boat owner.

14. Having a name for your boat unique to you and your life.

One of the many interesting things that make up the lake culture is the fact that many people name their boats. They can range from basic to funny, but they are unique to each and every owner, and often have interesting and clever meanings behind them.

15. There's no better place you'd rather be in the summer.

Summer is your all-time favorite season, mostly because it's spent at the lake. Whether you're floating in the cool water under the sun, or taking a boat ride as the sun sets, you don't have a care in the world at that moment. The people that don't understand have probably never experienced it, but it's what keeps you coming back every year.


Cover Image Credit: Haley Harvey

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7 Things Only Summer Camp Counselors Understand

Yes, it's possible to adore and hate your campers at the same time.

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I have worked as a daytime summer camp/recreation counselor for the past four summers, and it's the best... and the worst. If you've ever worked at a summer camp, you know what I mean. And there are so many experiences, details, and struggles only we counselors truly understand.

1. THE HEAT. THE UNBEARABLE, UNDYING HEAT.

Our Lord and Savior that is the AC is always either nonexistent or broken, leaving the Sun to beat down upon your and your kids' sweaty, sunburnt faces. While warm temperatures are summer's greatest blessing, at camp, there's no relief. Remember to always pack extra water!

2. Saying you love all of your kids equally, but secretly having favorites.

Yes, yes, yes, you love them all... but quiet Sam with the cute glasses is especially adorable.

3. ... and least favorites.

We have the clingers (the kids who were never taught the concept of personal space), the whiners (the kids who were never taught to walk it off), the sleepers (the lazy and moody kids whose parents forced them to come to camp)... the list goes on and on. Yes, you love them. Do they annoy you? Maybe.

4. Being CRAZY paranoid on field trips.

If a kid goes out of your line of sight or peripheral vision for even a second, you think the WORST. Kidnapped? Killed? Enslaved? These kids cannot disappear on your watch.

5. Having a thing for another counselor.

Even if it doesn't work out, it sure is fun to gaze lovingly across the field at male counselors that are way out of your league. If you're really lucky, you'll end up with a magical but fleeting summer fling.

6. Bonding with your fellow counselors over your love and hatred for kids/camp.

At the end of a long, hard day, there's nothing like complaining to let off some steam. Alternatively, it's also fun to giggle at your shared love for quiet Sam.

7. Realizing you have the best summer job ever.

The lessons and skills you learn at camp will stay with you forever. First aid, conflict resolution, and how to kill boredom are a few. Plus, you're basically being paid to have a fun time with the kids.

Cover Image Credit:

Flickr

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