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I heard on the news this morning that some regional Girl Scout councils may be forced to shut down some of its camps for financial reasons.  As a middle-aged mom of two boys, this really has no impact on me whatsoever.

But it makes me think that thousands of girls could miss out on what could for them, be the same transformational experience it was for me.  Some of my best childhood memories center around Jockey Hollow Day Camp in Morristown, N.J., which was (still is, and I hope will continue to be) run by the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.

As a child, I was a Barbie-loving bookworm.  But I loved just about everything about Jockey Hollow, from the 30-minute bus ride to camp, to the smell of the woods we hiked in (the smell of the outhouses, since the camp had no modern restrooms at the time, was another story), to making God’s Eyes with sticks and yarn at arts & crafts.  I learned how to make a campfire, took shelter from the rain in 3-sided wooden structures where we played “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” and poked daddy long legs with sticks.  I had a mess kit that I cooked with on that campfire, a canteen that I drank out of, and I did instructional swim wearing a red bathing cap (because I never could make it past that beginner swim level!) in an ice-cold pool first thing in the morning.

I probably would have been happy playing Chinese jump rope and jacks on my front porch all summer.  But Girl Scout camp nudged me outside of my comfort zone.  And while I’m certainly no great “outdoorswoman,” Jockey Hollow left me with memories (and a few skills) that have crept into my adult life.  My younger son Michael and I usually spend one night each summer sleeping out in the backyard in our tent (which, by the way, was a Costco impulse purchase!).  I can make a great fire in the fire pit we have on our patio.  And girly as I am, I think it’s funny to pick up one of the loads of cicada shells we have around now and put it on my husband’s shoulder.

Thanks, Jockey Hollow.

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What I Learned at Summer Camp

Aside

3 thoughts on “What I Learned at Summer Camp

  1. Anne Bradley says:

    I, too, have these wonderful memories. There were so many tangible things I gained from Girl Scout camp each summer growing up in New Jersey. But I think it was the intangibles–self-confidence, self-reliance, problem-solving skills and learning to work effectively with others, to name just a few–that were the true gifts I was given. Not to mention my love of the outdoors, which continues to express itself today by my live of camping, hiking and fishing in any park in any area of the country that I visit. I would likely never have seen the sunset from Half Dome in Yosemite or the sunrise eruption of Old Faithful or have hiked around Uluru in Australia if it hasn’t been for those early camp experiences. I hope the Girl Scouts are able to find the resources to keep these experiences available to girls.

  2. Anne (one of my best camp buddies!), your comments just make me think that we were all able to get something different out of our time at Girl Scout camp. And that’s what makes me hope that these camps will survive into the future – to nurture a love of the outdoors, teach self-reliance, and simply expose girls to experiences that they might not otherwise have.

  3. Yes – Girl Scout camp definitely nurtured my love of the outdoors! I remember times when I was tired or distracted on the Appalachian Trail, I would pretend I was still in Girl Scouts, walking to the pool, or on a field trip to the Mica Mine. The woods smelled the same, and I love that smell. I had my first s’mores at Girl Scout Camp, long before there were assorted cereals and granola bars and Pop Tarts with s’mores flavors. And that was back in the day when you got one graham cracker and one square of chocolate. And maybe two marshmallows. But not a whole chocolate bar, for sure! I remember the freezing cold pool too, Jill! Brrr!

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