Connect. Creating Meaningful Friendships at Camp

Learning how to connect with others at a young age is a skill that kids can carry with them through their whole lives. This is easier said than done!  Very few people are able to connect with others without feeling at least a little shy or anxious and that's totally normal! Meaningful connections are at the core of Camp Ocean Pine’s mission and philosophy, we promote pro-social development and make sure that, no matter what, everybody leaves camp with a friend.  Camp Ocean Pines can help your kids learn to make connections that will last a lifetime. 

We are all born with an almost innate need to connect with the people around us. Connections drive almost everything we do in our daily lives.  From interacting with our bosses, to the way we relate to our family and friends, these relationships form who we are. Many times in my life I have been faced with the challenge of making new friends and learning how to connect. No memory is as prominent in my mind than my first day being the "new kid" at my middle school.

The Lone Leopard

As the morning bell rang out a new day, I casually slid my backpack off my left shoulder, looking around to see if anyone had noticed my stealthy move. Everyone knew that only the "noobs" rocked the double strap. It was my first day at Hawthorne elementary school; I was starting mid-way through my third grade year and was fighting the urge to pee my pants due to the mounting nerves. My Mom had just bawled her eyes out in the principal's office, seriously hurting my chances of snagging some best friends that day. As the day continued, on lunch was fast approaching, and this was the ultimate test of my young social life:  where would I sit in the cafeteria?

When the time came I plopped down with a friendly looking group from my new class. Everything was going great, I was the hit of the table, the “the new kid” that everyone got to poke and prod like a goat at a petting zoo. I was loving it. Then the walls began to collapse around me; the time had come to move outside to recess and it was made very clear that the invitation did not extend to the new goat. I watched as my new friends walked out into the sunshine, discussing the upcoming game of “tigers and lions”. It sounded splendid, but alas, it seemed that I was more of a lone Leopard on this blacktop Serengeti. I retreated behind the music building and let the tears flow, not caring if anyone saw.

It was mid-way through my valiant  attempt to water the asphalt with my tears that I saw someone out of the corner of my eye, moving around and casually approaching the lone Leopard in the corner. It was my future best friend, Chris Larson. He sat down with me and offered up a game of Pokemon to make me feel better. Just like that, I had gone from a sad mess to the happiest kid in the world. Here was a kid who was willing to put himself out there to make me feel better. Not because I was the new kid or because I had rocked the single strap all day, but because he saw someone who needed a friend and knew he could help. This is my first memory of a real connection with a friend and almost 16 years later Chris and I are still best buds. I’ve carried this story with me my whole life and feel so blessed to be able to see this on a daily basis at camp.

Peeling the Onion

Camp Ocean Pines is goal driven in everything we do; this means that down to the last detail we strive help kids Connect, Explore, and Grow. I want to share a story with you to show the incredible magic that is kids connecting with one another. Countless times at camp I have had the pleasure of watching friendships blossom out of the most adverse situations. As my mother once so eloquently said “Kids are like onions, you have to get through all the layers before you get down to the good stuff that makes you cry.” Man oh man is this true at summer camp!

There's this thing that happens over the first day of camp; the layers start to peel and as they continue to shed throughout the week you see friendships and acceptance that makes your eyes water (it’s just the onions; I swear I’m not crying).  Camp is the place that you meet your best friends; the pack of boys that you get to run around and get dirty with or the group of girls that support you through going all the way to the top of the giant swing. These are the connections that makes Camp Ocean Pines what it is.

Into the Mixing Pot

I can’t sit here and tell you that I have some magic recipe that makes kids connect and grow but what I have seen is the incredible things that come about when you let kids be themselves in a place that accepts and fuels individuality. Our kids make friendships that span a lot of the gunk that society tells us should be the base of our everyday connections. At camp, you get to meet people on a personal level, with the layers taken off. You know that you're all in this crazy camp thing together and at the end of the week you know that you’ve made it. That when you get home you'll carry those connections with you until next summer when you get to do it all again. And you'll know that there is a place out there where you can shed those pesky layers and let your smelly, silly inner onion shine! Camp Ocean Pines is that place.

Zach Lepard

Staff Director

Camp Ocean Pines