Campfire Notes

4 Reasons For 2 Weeks

4 Reasons For 2 Weeks

By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke
Three boys sail at a summer camp on Huntington Lake in California, Gold Arrow Camp

“Do you have a one week session?” is one of the questions we often get asked by parents who are new to our program.  The question is usually preceded or followed by the comment,  “Two weeks is too long for my child.”

I thought it would be helpful to outline for new parents why Gold Arrow Camp has a two-week session length as our primary camp offering.   Although we also offer one-week specialty camp at the end of the summer, Gold Arrow Camp’s core program is a two-week session, and that is the length of time the majority of our campers attend camp.   We also have campers who are “Monthers,” who attend four weeks of camp by combining two, two-week sessions.
There are many benefits to camp, regardless of length of stay, as per this American Camp Association study.  So, I urge you to find a camp that fits your family’s needs and schedule, even if Gold Arrow is not the best fit for you.

Our program, up until the 1970s, was a month-long program.  Many traditional, East Coast camps still offer only one seven or eight-week session. To people in the West, this sounds crazy, as most programs on our side of the country are one-week in length. However, families who have been part of Gold Arrow and other traditional camp programs understand the benefits of a longer camp stay.

Many traditional camps in California have started offering one-week programs because that’s what many parents think they want for their child.  Fortunately, our camp families have kept our two-week sessions consistently full, so we will continue to offer what we consider the best length for our program.

Why does Gold Arrow Camp have two-week sessions?

Here are four reasons:

Community and Friendship Building

Breadth and Depth of Activities

Social Skill Development

Independence and Confidence Building

 

1. Community and Friendship Building

“My son has no fears about making friends at his new school because of the experiences he has at GAC. His self-confidence and outgoing nature are so nurtured at GAC that he feels prepared for anything!” – GAC Parent

While a lot of fun happens during even just one day of camp, spending more time connecting and building bonds with counselors, cabin mates, and other campers is one of the benefits of a two-week stay.

The first week of the session, there is an adjustment period for the first few days, when campers are getting settled and getting to know one another, the schedule, and the activities.  By the middle of the first week, campers feel settled and comfortable at camp, and relationships have the opportunity to start getting deeper.  Friendships, while they can definitely be formed in one week, have a better chance to grow stronger and deeper with more connection time.A counselor and a campers at Gold Arrow Camp in California, a summer camp, pose for a photo

“My children lead busy lives during the school year with various teams and enrichment programs.  Going to Gold Arrow Camp allows them to unwind and gain a new perspective on friendship, goals and life.  From my perspective, GAC is summer the way it is supposed to be for kids.  Thank you!!” – GAC Parent

 Because all of the campers in the cabin group are at camp for the same length of time (two weeks), there are no departures and arrivals in the middle of the session to disrupt the group’s cohesiveness and the bonds that have developed.  Everyone arrives together and departs together, with the exception of our Monther campers, who stay on for another session after their first two-weeks end.

2. Breadth and Depth of Activities

“My son came to Gold Arrow for the first time not knowing any of his cabin-mates. By the end of his two week session, he had made great friends and wanted me to ensure he could be in the same cabin with them next summer. He had a wonderful time at all the activities, but the stories he tells most are the ones involving fun with his new friends.” – GAC Parent

We take advantage of our location on Huntington Lake, in the heart of the Sierra National Forest, by teaching campers a large variety of water and land-based recreational activities.  Many of our activities require extensive time and instruction. Sailing, as an example, is an activity that begins with a 2 ½ hour group lesson, and can be followed up by many additional lessons as campers opt for more sailing during Free Time.  Without adequate time, it would be impossible for campers to even get to all of the activities we offer, let alone build skills in them.   We want our campers to get exposure to all of what is offered at camp, and have the opportunity to pursue activities they are passionate about.

During their two weeks at Gold Arrow, campers have the opportunity to learn to sail, ride a horse, shoot a rifle, get up on water skis, and participate in a myriad of other activities.   Many of these sports require time and practice to master.  For first-time campers, two weeks is just enough time to expose them to all of the different activities and start practicing and improving skills.  Returning campers continue to build upon and develop new skills, even after five or six years at our program.  The depth of instruction offered, the opportunity to improve recreational skills, and the ability to earn different patches and certifications all distinguish Gold Arrow Camp’s program.

We have two outpost programs, away from our main camp, that take up a portion of the two-week session.  We have a water sports outpost camp on an island on Shaver Lake where campers enjoy one or two nights camping on the beach.  At Shaver Island, campers spend their days on the lake improving their skills in waterskiing, wakeboarding, and kneeboarding.  While these sports are also done at our main camp on Huntington Lake, their stay at Shaver allows our two-week campers time to really improve their skills with a lot of “behind the boat” time.  Our other outpost program is backpacking.  All campers go on a one-night overnight backpacking trip and get to experience outdoor cooking, sleeping under the stars, and living in nature. There are some activities that we wait to do until the second week of camp, when campers are feeling connected and more comfortable taking risks.

Honestly, even two weeks seems short to us.  We barely get campers to all of our activities, and it’s time for them to go home!

3. Social Skills Development

A group of boys pose with their counselors at Gold Arrow Camp in California

“Wonderful camp where my kids grew up and will have fond childhood memories. They both went from being scared and unsure their first summer, to loving camp at age 14 and wishing they could come back! I love the electronics-free policy – it is much needed, especially in this day and age, where kids and teens can enjoy the outdoors, making friends and having fun in the beautiful mountains!” – GAC Parent

Kids benefit from experiences living and working in groups regardless of the length of time.  However, I believe that allowing a group to really bond and connect also allows kids to grow their communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution skills more than when they are in a shorter-term program.

4. Independence and Confidence Building

“My son had no idea what he was going to as he had never been to an out of town camp before let alone away from me for 2 whole weeks. When he returned, yes he was tired but he had the time of his life! He wrote me half way through his stay at GAC and told me “this place is magical and awesome!” I am hoping to be able to send him next year as well. What a great experience for my 8 yr old son!!!” -GAC Parent

For many kids, their stay at camp is the first time that they have ever been away from their parents at all.  Some have attended sleep-overs, weekend scout camps, or week-long school programs, but for many campers, their first stay at Gold Arrow is the longest they’ve been away from their parents.  We know this, and our counselors are trained to help first-time campers get adjusted to being away and learn to cope with feelings of missing their parents.

Campers feel a great sense of pride in themselves after “being on their own,” and having fun, without mom or dad nearby.   While two weeks seem slow to parents, especially during their first camp experience, the days fly by at Camp.

“Our daughter always comes back from Gold Arrow the truest version of herself.” – GAC Parent

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2019 Coach’s Award

2019 Coach’s Award

In 2009, Gold Arrow Camp lost a dear friend. Ken “Coach” Baker (March 10, 1951 – April 5, 2009) worked at GAC as Camp Assistant Director and Director from 1981-1992 and had a huge, positive impact on many of us who are still here at camp today. Ken was instrumental in helping Sunshine purchase Gold Arrow from Jeanie Vezie in 1989, and mentored Sunshine, Monkey, Woody, Chelster, Tigger, Junior, Trapper, and many other GAC staff during their early years working at camp.

Ken “Coach” Baker, Jeanie Vezie and Sunshine in 1989

Ken had an amazing way of making even mundane tasks like picking up trash and painting buildings feel monumentally important. He had a way of clapping his hands together and giving a pep talk that got everyone fired up to do their jobs well. Ken had a near-constant smile on his face and took every challenge that came his way in stride. We all knew we could go to him with any problem and he would help us figure out how to fix it.

To honor Ken, in 2009 we established “Coach’s Award.” This award has been given each year since to a leader at camp, nominated by his/her peers, who motivates others through positive leadership and encouraging words and exemplifies Ken “Coach” Baker’s dedication to GAC’s vision.

To select each year’s recipient, we ask the entire staff to complete a nomination form, where they put the name of one person whom they think deserves this honor. They include comments about the person they nominate. We have such a high caliber of staff, many of whom are extremely positive and exemplify what Coach stood for, and we are grateful for the legacy he left us and that so many people at GAC are incredibly positive and motivating to others.

Coach’s Award, displayed in the Camp Store, has the names of all recipients.

This summer, we had 39 staff members who stood out so much to their peers that they were nominated for this prestigious award. Each of those 39 people made an impact with their positive energy every day at camp.

2019’s recipient, Simba, stood out in those many nominations for his positive leadership and love of camp. His name has been added to Coach’s Award, which hangs in our camp store.

There were many amazing comments about Simba, including:

To me, Simba is someone who always maintains a positive attitude and carries himself as a positive role model for campers at GAC.  In my eyes as a first-year counselor, Simba is someone to model themselves off.

Simba has such a genuine love of GAC, and he truly loves his boys as much as he loves the place.  I love watching him interact with his cabins and the other campers he talks to.  If we’re picking people based on positive leadership, it is hard to pick someone better than Simba. Well done, Simba!

Wow man, you are so good with the kids and staff.  You are a friend that I can talk to about anything.

Simba, a camp counselor, dances with a crowd at a summer camp in California, Gold Arrow Camp

Whenever I see him he has a smile on his face.  He makes everyone feel so much better and warms people with his presence.  You can tell that he puts a lot of effort into every relationship he has, with staff or a camper.  He’s all about making sure his boys are having the best possible GAC experience.  

Throughout this summer I have been wildly impressed with how well Simba holds himself, how he acts in the face of a challenge, and how welcoming he is in every situation.  I feel like I’ve learned so much about the world and how to value life through talks and watching him live each moment to the fullest. Thank you for being so incredible, I’ll never forget what you’ve taught me.

You have made me a better, more confident person.  I have modeled who I want to be as a counselor after you.  You have an amazing head, sense of humor, and have never told me a lie.  I feel you taught me how to be a part of Valhalla. I love you. 

Simba is always encouraging other counselors to stay positive and energetic.  He’s a great role model for the boys of 32 and has always found a way to make everything his cabin does enjoyable and a lasting memory.

Simba has been such a positive impact on camp and on his campers.  He is super outgoing and fun for others to be around.

Simba truly embodies what it means to motivate others.  He carries himself in a way that shows campers that they can be themselves.  He encourages confidence, teamwork, and leadership to everyone that he meets!

For being such a positive role model and inspiration to the boys of Valhalla.  Everyone in camp looks up to him and personally I aspire to one day make an impact on people in the same way that he does. 

One of the greatest people I’ve ever met!  He always has a smile on his face. Whenever I see him he gives me a high five.  Overall great guy.  Simba, a summer camp counselor at Gold Arrow Camp poses on the disc golf course in California

He truly is a pleasure to be around. He is such a warm spirit and truly embraces the values of camp in himself, and in his campers.  He lifts my mood and challenges me to be a better staff member, friend, and person myself. I believe that he is one of the most deserving nominees for this award.  

His never-ending enthusiasm motivates not only his campers but all the staff around him. He is the most incredible frisbee golf counselor which goes to show that he can make any activity the best activity. Simba inspires me to give more to my campers and live every day to its fullest.

An incredible leader and counselor.  Simba is so supportive and creative when working with his cabin. He inspires me to be a better counselor and I am grateful for his friendship and positivity.  A true leader.

Simba is always welcoming to all people at camp regardless of who they are or what they do.  He is always high energy with his kids and makes sure everyone feels included. He makes sure to engage everyone and makes camp a better place.

Always in good spirits, shows tremendous leadership, spreads the excitement, everyone’s hype man- constantly finding something to laugh about.  Overall, he’s a good role model for everyone!

Simba was a leader in camp this year! He made a positive difference to those around him, and camp is a better place now because of his influence. 

A boy inside a man’s body. Whenever you see him he’s smiling and joining in with the kids. I couldn’t believe when he said he was only 22. A great GAC role model, and an inspiration for me. 

I am so impressed with his ability to lead his campers so well. He is humble, genuine, kind, fun to be around, and hilarious. So many people at camp look up to him because of the way he carries himself and the magic he makes at GAC. I am so thankful he is here and that campers and counselors alike are able to learn from Simba!

CONGRATULATIONS SIMBA!

Simba, a summer camp counselor at Gold Arrow Camp, relaxes on a kayak.

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