While some campers “age out” of camp, for some people camp is ageless.
Those are the lifelong people who extend their initial connection with F&W -- as a camper, counselor, staff, parent, trustee or something else – and find themselves returning to help create the special sauce.
“There were 25 years from my last year of camp and the first year of a ten-year stint working in the summers so I could be there while my son attended the camps,” said Wyldon Fishman, 71, a former IB, Tamarack Farm and Family Camp participant as well as longtime support staffer in the Main Office.
She and others worked at the Barn Day Camp this summer to help build the magic, which they considered vital after the pandemic. They recognized the campers’ cravings to socialize, play outside, and swing from the jungle gym after months of isolation and upended lives.
These BDC staffers answered the call to help this summer, facing the challenge of adapting their old expectations from the pre-COVID era to the reality of running camp during a pandemic with its need for wearing masks and other accompanying safety measures.
“This summer was a chance to be of purpose. F&W gave me lifelong skills and so I have them in my back pocket and can bring them out anytime I wanted to,” said Wyldon, who was the BDC Work Projects head. “You revisit the things you loved as a kid and now you work behind the scenes.”
Many things were the same for BDC campers – wearing underwear inside out for Topsy Turvey Tuesdays, careening down the Slip ‘N Slide, gardens, animals, music, healthy food and snacks. The pandemic protocols, however, meant parents could not be at the fence at drop off/pick up or hear the camp songs around the rainbow circle. Still they were grateful to have the opportunity to send their kids to the day camp.
“Many kids struggled during the pandemic and were so happy to be at camp, and their parents were so overwhelmingly appreciative. One of the reasons BDC worked is because we had fantastic staff who were former campers and have come up and know the magic of the place,” said Carol Leftwich, 54, a former IB co-director, TF staff, Trustee and F&W parent. “You start looking around and see this next generation of leadership around the rainbow circle.”
Asked why she pitched in during the August session this summer, Carol said, “The biggest draw for me is the people, catching up with what they are doing and reconnecting and meeting new people. I didn’t know who was going to be there, yet I trust in the community that it would be a great group of kids. Yes, we are going to have some bumps, but the mission of creating this great experience for campers is what everyone is here for.”
David Snyder and Deborah Roose, both 72, both attended several days of the Staff Week to become “rewired to the current realities with COVID” and to meet other staff. The duo have decades of experience at F&W including co-directing Tamarack Farm in the 1970s and SAM in the 1980s, being members of the Board of Trustees, as well as having children and grandchildren at the camps.
This summer, David worked at BDC as a part-time maintenance staffer for the final BDC session while their youngest grandson attended camp. “I love being there because being around young folks feeds my mind and spirit. The time there in August allowed me to see how F&W values are being lived out today and that these youngest staff members are committed to providing the campers with fun, challenge, and a sense of belonging.”
Deborah, who also was a member of the anti-racist team in the 2000s and worked at TL, BDC and as general staff in the 1990s, noted that, “Coming back to work at the BDC is a wonderfully renewing gift for me. I find my years at F&W have taught me how to be a good observer, to know when to put behavior and words into perspective and context and to understand situations more holistically. So, I can contribute to a BDC summer by making an observation, offering an activity, noticing and tackling small administrative or maintenance tasks that need to be done, or writing a song.”
Executive Director Frances McLaughlin watched those folks connect with parents and campers, reflecting on the “real passion” they brought to their roles. “As a new Executive Director without decades of experience, I was so grateful to hear their stories and to watch them. The ease with which they did their jobs and shared their past experiences really helped me learn from them. They are so readily enthusiastic and their attitudes were infectious.”