Camp Friends are Forever

Most families send their campers off with the hope that they will return having made “life-long” friends. While gaining new skills, learning sportsmanship and having fun at camp are expected, there is also the strong desire for your kid to make deeper connections amid the closeness of bunk life and the long summer days. But what does this really mean in practice? One Camp Specialist, Laura Crumley, gives us a glimpse into what “camp friends are forever” can look like. When we are asked at Camp Specialists about the benefits of summer camp, stories like Laura’s come to mind.

Laura didn’t start camp until age 13, late in her own mind to be starting, but she quickly made up for it in her enthusiasm for camp. “It was just the perfect fit, from the very beginning,” says Laura. Growing up in Puerto Rico and attending a Catholic school, she was hardly the typical camper at her all-girls, mostly Jewish camp in Maine. But that was what made it so great. She met girls who were from different backgrounds, and they got to meet her. They were a happy bunch of campers. By her Senior year she was Color War Co-Captain, a title she still talks about with pride.

Over the years, the girls kept in touch as their lives evolved and they went from college to work and some started families. But it wasn’t until the spring of 2020 and the pandemic, that they truly reconnected with each other from all around the country. In April 2020, Laura was invited to participate in a Zoom call organized by the girls from her bunk. That first call they were about ten people, and they spent some time taking turns re-introducing themselves and getting each other up to speed on their lives. It was heartening in a rough time to see all of these familiar faces and they decided to call again the following week. A year and a half later, they speak every Tuesday night at 9pm, whoever can make it, and for however long they can talk.

I spoke with Laura on a Wednesday morning, the day after one of her calls, to get a sense of what her experience has been like and discuss why camp friends are so special.

Q: What has it been like to reconnect with your bunk?

A: I don’t think that we thought we’d keep it going this long, but the weekly calls have meant that we are truly back in each other’s lives. We know what everyone is doing and can talk about the daily or weekly events that you’d gloss over if you didn’t talk as frequently. Conversation flows easily, though we have had some heated discussions as well. Given the ages of our kids, we do talk about camp, some are currently attending our alma mater. We are a support system for each other, giving advice and love when needed. We talked one friend through a divorce and were there every step of the way. We also talk about Covid, politics, jobs, etc.

Q: What is it about camp friends that makes them different than other friends?

A: For us, it’s really about the shared history that you just can’t replicate outside of camp. When you live with people it’s just different. We are family. We also know each other’s families from years ago and we remember what you were like and can attest to who you were. It’s such a comfortable place to be in with people. The older you get, the more you need those friends who knew you from way back when. The singular experience that camp presents provides such a strong foundation for friendships.

Q: You send your daughter to the same camp. What are your expectations or hopes for her experience?

A: My hope is that my daughter loves camp as much as I did, so that when she looks back she will know those were some of the best days of her life.