Showing Up to Summer Camp

June 27, 2024, Department, by Alyssa Schulte, CPRP

0724 park bench 410

For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine

While writing this story, I kept returning to some of my favorite summer camp counselor memories — such as the camper who used to be afraid of the creek, running up to me with the largest bullfrog I had ever seen. Heartwarming? Absolutely. Inspirational? Nothing groundbreaking. I tried coming up with the funniest camp moment to discuss — that perfectly timed joke from a witty camper or laughs with co-counselors after a long day. Story after story led me to a reminiscent chuckle and the quintessential, “Ah, you had to be there.”

But that sentence stuck with me for a moment — “You had to be there.”

How often does that get lost in our day? As park and recreation professionals, we get to be there. We get to be part of making lifelong memories for children in our camps. We get to be there enriching older adults at the community center. We get to be there maintaining parks for our community to enjoy. We get to be there, bringing joy, relationships, confidence, growth, presence, grit and resilience.

You get to be there.

Just think: how many interactions, conversations, decisions, coincidences, successes, failures and opportunities had to happen perfectly the way they did for you to get to be there? The sheer statistical improbability that culminated in you getting to be right there right now, in the field of making sure others get to be there too.

How often do we forget to be there? How often do we forget to be present in the day-to-day routine moments? How often are we pulled away from the present by all the demands of our busy seasons? Because in the end, it is our summer too. Our memories. Our small victories that might not move mountains but move us. Our opportunity to cultivate connection. Our enthusiasm, joy and passion. Our chance to realize that while we follow the footsteps of others, we also leave them every day if we choose to be there.

So, in the heat of summer, on the long, full days, and the moments when things are tough and tiring, be there. Sit with it. Use the feeling as fuel to remember that you are there, making a difference with your presence — being there, sometimes when no one else is. Be there, growing a community and bringing opportunities to people who may not have gotten to be there without you. Celebrate, even when the days are discouraging and hard, because you showed up. People notice when you show up and make time to be there, even when you have every excuse not to.

Never underestimate the power of being there.

Alyssa Schulte, CPRP is Fitness and Wellness Supervisor for the Centerville-Washington (Ohio) Park District