Article

Camp Counselors Are Awesome!

Posted on May 2, 2016 by Catherine Ross

At the request of Ottawa Parenting Times, Catherine Ross, Communications officer for CCA, wrote this article to describe for parents the qualities of a camp counselor. Share this with your staff to motivate them to be the best they can be!

Camper and Counsellor boysAcross the country, thousands of eager, former campers are counting the days until summer camp begins. Some new campers may be more anxious than excited as day one draws near. Once camp begins, the one person who will influence the experience of each camper the most is the camp counselor.

The director is essential; the maintenance staff is useful; the nurse is important (should you need her) and nobody would stick around for long without the cook. But the camp counselor is the one with the closest, most consistent contact with the campers. As one renowned camp director, Elizabeth Raymer, described it, “This group of leaders determines the success or failure of the entire enterprise…The most beautiful site with elegant buildings and a superabundance of up-to-date equipment is useless in the hands of an inept staff.” Her expectations were clear: if you aspire to be a camp counselor, you have to be good. Your campers deserve your very best.

Camp directors diligently read resumes, identify candidates worthy of an interview then check references. With care and thoroughness, they select a group of young people whom they believe to be worthy of emulation by impressionable young campers. Once on site, they continue to train, supervise and evaluate. One camp staff alumna who assisted the director with interviewing prospective camp counselors for the 2015 season marveled at the qualifications, personalities, experiences and volunteer service of the candidates. My own experience concurs with her conclusions – young people who choose to be camp counselors are anything but average.

Canadian Camping Association Counsellors Are AwesomeThe summer my eighteen-year-old son joined our staff as a canoe trip leader, I had a rude awakening. For years, without a second thought, I had sent other people’s young adults into the wilderness to care for our campers. Sending my own son forced me to think more carefully about the huge burden I was placing on these young leaders’ shoulders. I expected them to travel for days on the assigned route, feed, shelter and care for a group of campers relying on the bare necessities, their experience, judgment and skills. They accepted the challenge without hesitation. And they never disappointed me! Despite the rattlesnake sunning on the portage path, a group of drunken fishermen wanting to share their site or a young camper with abdominal pain who required evacuation in the night, they always made the right decision and brought everyone home safe and sound. With one exception , they always arrived on time. Once when the lake was too rough to cross, they patiently remained on shore until the wind died down thus forcing them to arrive home late – but with good reason. Again, they made the right decision.

That summer I started a new tradition. At the end of the season, I wrote to my camp staff parents to share with them my renewed admiration of their offspring based on their achievements that summer.

The campers get the last word. As a Board Member for the Kids in Camp Charity, I recently received a summary of comments from the campers that the charity had financially assisted in 2014. Their remarks confirmed that counselors continue to do an awesome job. Payton tells us, “I learned how to do tricks on a wake board…my counselors were amazing and so chill.” Veronica, a special needs camper reports, “If something is too hard or too much, I can tell my counselors and it doesn’t mean I’m lazy.” Emily confirms, “My counselors were really nice, sweet and kind and very funny.” Tal loved his counselors, “Cameron and Shimon are very cool and they helped us with problems if we got into fights. I am so lucky I came to this camp.”

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Communications Officer at Canadian Camping Association
Catherine's lifelong love of camping began in 1953 when she accompanied her mother, the new camp cook, to Camp Tanamakoon in Algonquin Park. She remained at Tan until 1978 as a camper and in several staff roles. After five years as a teacher, in 1979, Catherine and her husband George purchased Camp Mi-A-Kon-Da for girls in Parry Sound, Ontario which they owned for 20 years. Catherine has served on the Board of the Ontario Camps Association, and is Past President of the Society of Camp Directors. She is currently Communications Officer on the Board of the CCA. She is past editor of Camps Canada, published by the CCA, and the OCAasional News, the newsletter of the OCA. She is the author of four publications. Her articles on camping have appeared in numerous magazines.