Connection to Camp
3 Years • Cody Counselor
Position: Camp Mom, Head of Tutoring
There are literally dozens of reasons why I come back to Camp Cody every year, but if I had to narrow it down to just a few I’d say that first and foremost, I feel like Cody is my home-away-from-home. The people who work here have a passion for what they do and a dedication to being part of the team that is difficult to find in most work environments. Add to that a workday that is never the same two days running, an environment where everyone is encouraged to always give one-hundred percent, and the fact that it all takes place in a setting with some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet and it should be easy to understand the appeal Cody has for me. But the most important reason I come back every year is because working at Cody challenges me to grow in ways I never could have predicted before I started working here, and I love that I am always learning new things about myself. My role here is continues to evolve as I learn more and can contribute in more varied ways to the overall operation of the camp. I started out as a Camp Mom, and now also organize our tutoring program. Most recently, I’ve branched out into doing home visits for campers who live in the New York City/Northern New Jersey area. Finally, I feel like Camp Cody is always trying to find new ways to let me use my skills to contribute to the camp, so I have developed a real sense of being a part of a great team.
The way I describe Camp Cody to people back home – especially my colleagues in school – is that it is a lot like teaching was when I started my career nearly 30 years ago. What I mean by that is that Cody is a place where kids are challenged to try new things in an environment that is safe, supportive and encouraging. It doesn’t matter if they are not the “best” at something, because growth and learning take place regardless of how well a camper does with a given activity. We help kids learn new things about themselves while fostering a sense of independence and confidence that just can’t be learned through a YouTube video, and there are no state tests or arbitrary standards that supposedly measure one’s success. We measure success by the smiles on the faces of the campers and their counselors. And that, to me, is what being a kid is supposed to be about.
One of the major duties of a Camp Mom is to help homesick campers take their minds off of home and re-focus on trying to have fun at camp. So while there are a lot of things that make me smile when I think of Cody, the most satisfying moments of all – for me – are when I see kids who have been experiencing homesickness start to turn the corner. There is something wonderful about seeing the child realize that he or she is actually having a good time, and for most kids who have experienced homesickness, they come away stronger and more resilient than they were only two weeks before. There aren’t many opportunities where one can be directly involved in helping a child through a difficult time and know that the outcome will most likely be positive, but camp provides that opportunity several times each summer and it’s a great feeling knowing that you made a difference in a kid’s life, even in such a small way.
Camp Moms do a little bit of anything and everything – just like “regular moms” – so it’s not unusual to find one of us doing something a bit out of the ordinary. But one of my favorite days at Camp Cody happened last summer, and it gave me one of my best Cody memories. Our baseball coach had been invited to go to Fenway for a Red Sox/Yankees game. Unfortunately for him, he’d just come back from his day off and wouldn’t have another until the following week. When I found out he had this great opportunity, I told our Athletic Director that I had coached a Little League baseball team back home for several years and would love to cover the counselor’s afternoon classes for him if it would be OK to do so. Not only was it OK, but it is the kind of thing people do for one another here. I had a great time playing baseball with the kids, they thought it was neat that the Camp Mom could actually play a bit, and the counselor got to see a great game. It was a win-win-win-win (yup, the Sox won!) situation. Not only was it a fun day, but the kids also got to see that sometimes small gestures can make a big difference in someone’s life.
I thought at my age there wouldn’t be too many more “big” life lessons I could learn, but what I know after working here for the past several years is that there is always a new challenge on the horizon. The key is to be open to the experience, recognize that everything – good and bad – is temporary, and all things can be opportunities for growth. I suppose I knew a lot of that already, but in a much different – and perhaps narrower – context.