I have been working as a counselor at White Memorial Camp for two years now. It would have been three if last summer did not get canceled due to Covid-19. Before becoming a counselor, I was a camper at Camp White for about eight years. I’ve seen first hand how much close contact there is at camp my whole life, and this year, I had to watch that change.
When I got to camp as a kid, I was ready to go from the start. The moment I got checked in and unpacked, I was hanging out with my cabin mates. It was odd this year seeing the check in so different. We had to set up a drive-thru with everyone wearing masks. It was a slower process, as we had to test every camper that was coming that week. If the camper’s test came back negative, another staff member would drive them to their cabin on the golf cart, rather than them walking to the cabin or their parents driving them to the cabin. Because of this, Parents could not help them unpack, they did not get to know who their child’s counselor was, and I can’t imagine how tough that was on some families. If I was a new camper this year, I would have been a little hesitant. I also would not have been able to make my bed, thankfully I learned or else the campers this year would have had very poorly made beds. While most of the campers were very excited, this all still led to a very weird mood for the start of camp.
After check-in, our goal was to make camp as normal as we could. We still played games, we still went swimming, we still did high ropes, but unless we were in our pods, we had to wear masks. Our pods were our cabins, so my campers and I were a pod together, and the counselors and theirs. While it was great to still be able to be maskless around some people, having to mask up around others was probably a weird change for returning campers. We couldn’t swim with the other campers since you can’t wear masks in the pool (at least not comfortably, or safely probably), and if we wanted to play campwide capture the flag or alpha wolf, we had to put masks on. This is no diss on masks, as they do keep us safe and healthy, but it is very hard to run and be active in one. This became extremely apparent to me during a game of capture the flag one week. As we were explaining rules I told the campers they would have to wear masks at all times, and no amount of complaining could change that (though they still continued to complain to me). I asked the other counselors to run the game so I could make sure people were still wearing their masks. I had hoped it would be an easy job, but I think we all know it wasn’t. I spent the whole time calling out to pretty much the entire camp at one point or another to get their mask back on. As the games continued, I noticed how much more tired they all looked than usual, how much they were sweating, so we had to end a round early. I always thought capture the flag was one of the most fun things to do during camp, but because of the masks, campers were more focused on being uncomfortable rather than the game. It made me sad because I want them to have as much fun as I did as a camper, but safety always has to come first.
While all this sounds like a bummer, and it was to an extent, I should mention it was still an amazing year. Campers still screamed down the zipline, laughed at the campfire and talent show, gaga was still as intense a game as ever, and there were smiles all around, we just could not always see them. Despite having to scale back the adventure that is camp, I still felt like this year was much more impactful for me as a counselor than the previous summer. So while Covid really made camp a lot harder to pull off, I think the fact that the staff I am surrounded by were able to put a summer together that was still an absolute blast shows that our camp cannot be stopped by a year off, and as long as campers keep coming, Camp White is going to be the best summer experience you can have.
Jordan Munns, Camp Counselor