This is my first summer working at Green River Preserve. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived was that many of the other counselors had been GRP campers before. Any where else, that might have been intimidating, but their energy was nothing but enthusiastically welcoming. They were excited to share everything they love about the camp with new people. The people working here are some of the kindness, most generous, and most genuine people I have ever met. And every single one of them truly believes in the GRP mission.
First things first. GRP is fun. Sometimes we forget how important fun is, for kids and adults alike. It is necessary for a fulfilling life. But when things get difficult, fun is the often the first thing to go. This has been the situation for the past year and a half. An abundancy of difficulty and a scarcity of joy. The Green River Preserve is full of remedies. It’s not easy to be bored when you’re on a zip line or a canoe, looking for salamanders, or hitting the dream shot in archery. There are too many wonderful things at camp to ever list them all. Every day, you find something new or learn something else, and the wonder, the joy, and the fun, all grow.
Fun is just one priority here. But what makes GRP really special is bonds that are formed here. I’ve never made friends quicker than I have in the past few weeks. The camp excels at encouraging connections. The games that our campers play make them quick friends. The things they learn and awe-inspiring experiences they have, create deeper bonds that will last a lifetime. And it’s not just the friends that campers make, but the connection they form with nature. The respect they learn for the environment around them, from the tiniest ant on the ground to the biggest bear in the forest. From the smallest clover to the tallest pine tree.
The staff at GRP are facing new challenges this summer. Some of the kids coming to camp this year have lived nearly a fourth of their life in a global pandemic. One session in, and the effects of this isolation can already be seen in these kids. They are not used to group songs. They pull up their masks on instinct when they leave their cabins. They have missed out on a year and a half of important social interaction. But kids are resilient. The past two days, our campers have started to tear down the walls they built during quarantine. Now the kids are singing and dancing along, even to the new songs they have not heard before. Thanks to the GRP’s health protocols, they don’t have to be scared to go outside without a mask, or to hug their new friends. The pandemic put a burden on children that they should never have had to carry. At GRP, that burden is eased.
Story by Molly Watson with Photos by Brandon S. Marshall & Samantha Keebler