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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

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