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When Memorial Day dawned earlier this week, 150-plus kids were excitedly preparing to load charter buses headed for Camp Grace in Roberta, GA for an awesome summer adventure. I’m not sure who was more excited (or more anxious) – the kid who had never spent a night away from home and was going off to camp for the very first time, or the parents who were entrusting their babies to people they didn’t even know…for a whole week! But, they made it through, and as this post is being written those kids  are having the time of their young lives.

 When I think back on camp experiences I’ve been privileged to share with young students, I recall one very shy young girl. It was pitch dark outside, and to add to the darkness, she was blindfolded. Huddled around her were eight or ten screaming kids. To add to the chaos, there were several other groups with blindfolded kids at their center doing the same thing. The goal was for the blindfolded one to listen to their team only and to navigate an obstacle course just by following their instructions. The girl was terrified that she was going to run headlong into a tree or fall into some dark, bottomless pit, but listen she did. She listened very, very hard to a bunch of kids she barely knew. I’m sure she was wondering, “Why in the world would I listen to them? I only just met them! What am I doing here?” But, step by careful step, she reached her intended destination unscathed, to the cheers and elated shouts of her teammates. Suddenly, those screaming strangers were her friends, and she belonged to their group.

 Experiences like these bring about remarkable transformations in the lives of kids. Summer camp teaches kids how to trust others, work with others and build relationships. It also teaches them how to accept guidance and develop decision-making skills. All of these life skills nurture independence and confidence, creating a foundation that will serve a child and one that he will stand on and grow from for the rest of his life. Camp teaches kids that everything is not just about them – it teaches that the team benefits as a whole when individual relationships are strengthened. Contributing to the success of the group is empowering!

 Camp sets a kid up for trying new things, putting himself out there and making decisions to get through various situations. Kids learn resilience as they work to accomplish a task that seems impossible. Living in a cabin, doing chores, climbing ropes and overcoming obstacles are life accomplishments young people can develop that build strength of character, courage, determination and focus on something bigger than themselves. At camp, they learn how to push past the temptation to give up when they face uncomfortable situations, giving the child the opportunity to grow in ways he never would in his comfort zone. This provides growth, strengthens values, builds confidence and gives them a tool kit to draw from in times of adversity.

 Every year, Walton Communities offers summer camp scholarships to the children who live in our apartment communities. The idea is to help parents who may not be able to afford to send their child to  summer camp. Parents can choose the best camp for their child, and scholarships are based on need. If your child isn’t going to summer camp this year, please consider giving him this invaluable life experience next summer…and be sure to plan way ahead, because great camps fill up fast. To find out more information about camp scholarships for next year, contact your community office. And, if you are fortunate enough to live at Walton Reserve, Walton Village, Walton Ridenour or Walton Crossing, your kids can attend Summer Adventure Camp at the Adventure Center for just $10 for the whole summer. That’s a bargain! Help equip your child with things he can only get from experiences like summer camp. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you and do the research. After all, equipping your child for adulthood won’t happen automatically, but your effort will be well worth the energy you invest.

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