The campers who arrive at camp are not the same campers who go home at the end of the summer. After weeks playing, exploring, dancing, connecting, singing, running and trying new things, they leave camp better than they arrive. There is so much change and growth that happens between the first day and the last day. The first day of camp often looks very similar to the last day of camp, but for very different reasons.
The first day of camp is a mixture of excitement and anticipation. For many, it is the first time they spend an extended period of time away from home, and they are nervous about the change. Saying goodbye to their parents can be tough for campers, and there are often tears (from both the campers and the parents!) Everything is new and unfamiliar on the first day of camp, and although campers know they will have fun, they’re also unsure about how they will adjust and how they will fit in.
Throughout the summer, relationships are built, memories are made, and campers fall into a routine that feels comfortable and familiar. They try new things, meet new people, and discover new things about themselves. This slow but steady personal growth can be an emotional rollercoaster for campers but results in critical character building that will impact them throughout the school year.
As the last week of summer rolls around, there is a definite change in the vibe at camp. While campers are adamant about soaking in every last second of summer, they’re also keenly aware of the upcoming transition. On the final day, you can feel a familiar excitement and anticipation in the air. Campers are excited to go home but anxious and emotional about saying goodbye to the place and the people who have been so important to them for the entire summer.
Tears are definitely shed on the last day of camp. Campers cry as they hug their new best friends and promise to keep in touch over the school year, and parents cry tears of joy as they welcome their children home. It’s an emotional day all around, and many campers start their countdown to summer before they even drive off the grounds.
While it’s hard to watch campers say their emotional goodbyes, staff and counselors at Camp Starlight see it as a sign of a job well done: emotional goodbyes mean fun was had, friendships were born, and memories were made.
A summer at camp is a growing experience; an experience that starts and ends with big emotions. Both hellos and goodbyes can be difficult, but the growth that happens in between is what makes the sleepaway camp such a significant childhood milestone.