As a young camper at day camp I took for granted the amazing opportunities that I was so fortunate to have. I thought all children spent their summer feeling care-free and experiencing new and exciting things in a place like camp. When I was old enough, I went to overnight camp for four weeks at Lake of the Woods, my home away from home. Just like my time at day camp, I lived those four weeks enjoying life in the moment. Over the course of the six summers I really started to understand that every child, no matter who they are or where they come from, should have the same opportunity to go to camp. I saw how valuable camp is for a child’s education and life, and it is something all children should be able to remember and cherish forever.
To me, the true meaning of camp is the place where you can find yourself. You find yourself through activities, the people you meet, the skills you take away, but most importantly, you find yourself through the memories made. The memories a person makes at camp will be carried with them all through life and never be forgotten. And, the friendships formed will last a life time.
When I was 10, my camp directors, Dayna Hardin and Dana Kite, offered an optional activity for the Lake of the Woods campers to take part in during rest hour called the SCOPE Swim-a-thon. I had many thoughts running through my mind, but the two things I focused on was how my parents have always told me to give back to the community and how much I wanted other children to be lucky enough to experience summer camp too.
So, I hopped in the lake. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made because I instantly fell in love with SCOPE’s goal and I knew I needed to spread SCOPE’s message. Each summer, I helped the Swim-a-thon run smoothly by making sure everyone was exactly where they were supposed to be: in the lake swimming for SCOPE! The Swim-a-Thon is a wonderful opportunity for campers of all ages to give back to the community and help share the thing they love most, camp.
In addition to the Swim-a-thon, I have done many things to raise money and awareness about SCOPE and its mission. I have held lemonade stands in my driveway, engaged my whole school in helping me with my Mitzvah Project to collect summer camp items for first-time campers, won a handful of community service awards for my efforts to support SCOPE (I also donated my award money to SCOPE!), led a letter writing project to new campers at the MLK Day of Service in my hometown for four consecutive years, and helped bring the Junior Leadership Committee (JLC) to the Midwest.
Earlier this month, I spent a day at the SCOPE office in New York City. In just a day, I better understood how much time and effort goes into sending children to camp. It was wonderful to help and watch the people who make SCOPE happen. I was in awe at the teamwork and perseverance that the SCOPE team showed, two things a camp person would know what to do with.
I also visited Camp Ramapo for Children, one of SCOPE’s participating camps. At Ramapo, it was rewarding see smiles on the campers’ faces. I’d never seen a SCOPE camper in the camp environment in person, just through pictures and videos, and it was so rewarding to see mine and everyone else’s hard work paying off. I knew that my efforts for SCOPE were helping many people but I didn’t realize how much until I saw the campers in action.
My visit helped me better understand what camp and SCOPE is all about. More importantly, this experience is pushing my efforts to support SCOPE even more than before!
Camp was the best gift that I could have ever received, and I wouldn’t trade a single second for the world. I have always had a love for camp and to give more children the opportunity to experience the magic of it is the part of SCOPE’s message that sticks out to me and that I truly value most.
This coming summer will be my gap summer away from Lake of the Woods before I return the following year as a counselor. This gap is a helpful and wonderful opportunity for me to focus all my attention on sending more deserving kids to camp. I will hopefully be taking on bigger and better strides, and that is something that will go a long way for children who want and need the opportunity to go to camp.
As proud as I am of all my work to promote SCOPE, truly the most important and rewarding thing I have done for SCOPE is to have the opportunity to pass the torch to my brother Stephen and watch him follow in my footsteps by helping more kids become campers.
– Heather Knobel, SCOPE Midwest Junior Leadership Council Chair