Mealtimes are a defining element of the Tripp Lake Camp way of life. Campers are adept at quickly ducking to avoid the clapping hands and movements that accompany their calls across the room. The floor shakes ever so slightly as the bouncing rhythm of a cheer erupts under our feet. Quiet is simply not the name of the game as the girls are celebrated for passing a swim stroke or singing in unison to applaud a successful overnight trip. Though I love the spirit that echoes (literally) throughout the dining hall, one of my favorite parts of the meal comes towards the end. Yes, dessert usually comes around then, but there’s something even sweeter. Within the first couple days back at TLC, I admired how campers and counselors alike were giving a ‘shout out’ note to one another in recognition of hard effort, teamwork, and kindness throughout an activity or game. In reflecting on the recent upshot in ‘shout outs,’ it has now led me into another ‘Stacy mantra’ about what we hope the girls will take away from their summers spent here.
The values that we hope to instill in our young women at Tripp Lake Camp are not overtly posted on the daily schedule. Lessons of empathy, compassion, kindness, active listening, compromise, and independence are just some of the social-emotional skills naturally intertwined into our everyday interactions here at camp. As administration and staff, we recognize these as teachable moments, positively reinforcing good behavior and redirecting comments in moments of tension. Yet, it is when the girls begin to take the reins for themselves that remind me of the role models and leaders they have the potential to become. It’s the forward thinking of eleven-year-olds who were initially feeling frustrated with a particular bunk mate, but who then paused midway through their conversation with me to consider why their friend might be feeling a bit off. It’s in the care and tenderness with which a fifteen-year-old slips her arm around her best friend as they walk to the office for phone call, simply indicating that her friend doesn’t have to be alone. It’s in the generosity of a seven-year-old bringing it upon herself to go to the ‘Lost and Still Lost’ and corral her friends to help return missing items to all the girls on campus.
You may have noticed our social media feeds overflowing with vivid images of our Tripp Lake campers participating in the Camp Kindness initiative. In partnership with The Kindness Evolution, Tripp Lake was one of eleven summer camps selected to encourage intentional kindness and care through a series of activities and exercises. The founder of this program, Wendy Messing Gilbert, is a TLC alum, and her group arrived in Poland in team color regalia! Watching our campers decorate rocks with encouraging phrases that are now scattered across the camp grounds, noticing the conversations they had with their advisor or counselor about inclusion and respect, and reflecting what makes both camp and themselves special placed an incentive to continue to build on these experiences. I mention our dining hall earlier because whether or not they are aware, the amount of ‘shout outs’ received during mealtimes has grown exponentially since this visit. To have almost too many ‘shout outs’ of support and encouragement for one another…not a bad problem!