An Overlooked Aspect of Camp
By Sam Hirt
I was not a camper at Tecumseh. I went to a small church camp in southern Indiana for about four summers during my preteen years, but it wasn’t much like this place.
At the church camp I attended, we went as our youth group, stayed in cabins with our youth group, and did activities – for the most part – with our youth group. We met other kids, of course, but really just in large group settings. I had an intimate, growth-inducing camp experience, but really with a few kids who were already my friends back home.
When I first worked for Camp Tecumseh in the summer of 2014 as the videographer, I really just had that previous experience as a barometer of what to expect.
It didn’t take more than check-in of Week 1 that summer to notice a gaping difference between the camp I attended as a kid, and Camp Tecumseh.
The check-in process is one of the most logistical parts of the camp experience. There are forms, and lines, and maps. There are very brief, informational interactions with full-time staff. Then campers are zig zagging their way through River and Lake Villages to their cabins.
Then, some of the most important moments of the whole week happen in rapid succession: Campers meet their counselors, they make themselves at home in their cabins, and they meet their cabin mates.
At the surface, this is still logistical. Kids need a place to sleep when they’re at camp, and we provide that for them in cabins. But of course, these moments at the beginning of the week are so important and go way beyond the logistics of check-in.
Our Director of Development, Stacey Seeger, still remembers the check-in when she met her good friend, Carolyn Ostafinski.
“We were fast friends, making so many memories that week which grew into a friendship that has lasted well over a decade.”
Stacey, who had been attending Camp for years, always came with a friend. But for her Torchbearer year, she wanted to try one week without a cabin mate request. Sixteen years later, it’s paid off with lifelong friendships.
When we started really planning for Summer 2021, we knew there would be many changes as we prepared for a camp season in the midst of a pandemic. The constant dilemma was always: will these changes affect the value of the program?
Every change that was made, we did so with the intent of holding true to all those key moments of camp. Check-in was a great example of that.
We moved from a weaving, in-person line in the Creative Arts Center to a weaving, drive-through process that streamlined the check-in process in a unique way. But the beauty of camp is that through those changes, the magic and importance of the experience remained intact. Kids still had those three major moments when walking into their cabins.
Check-in itself is a great microcosm of the larger camp experience. It takes lots of moving parts to run check-in and camp. Yet Camp is about so much more than the logistical pieces that make a program run. It’s about being inspired by counselors and meeting new friends.
Are you registered for overnight camp in 2022? There is plenty of availability for Equestrian Camp, and limited availability in the traditional overnight camp program. See dates and availability now.
Sam Hirt is Tecumseh’s Director of Marketing and enjoys seeing the check-in process through the lens of a camera with the media team.