Brooklyn wasn’t the best place for a young black male to grow up in the early 2000’s, due to the increasing prevalence of gangs and crime. My mom, working for the correctional environment, saw this horrible way of life and wanted something different for me and my brothers so she sent us to camp.
Nowadays, the words “You’re going to camp” excites my spirit and fills my body with enjoyment. But for an 8-year-old kid who wanted to spend the summer with his friends playing video games and going to the park, these words shocked my system. The sheer utterance of those words made me angry and resentful; “Why do I have to go to camp? Why can’t I stay with my friends?” Young me would never have guessed how much my life would change once I got on the bus to Trail Blazers Camp, and I’m ever grateful I did.
Remembering so far back to the first time I went to camp is such a blur for me, I know that those first two or three years were really tough for me. I hated going and coming back to the missed events, to-learn new songs and funny stories everyone else had. I never let myself have fun because the whole time I dreaded what I was missing back home. My mom always wrote and said “You’re not missing much, Brooklyn is boring.” And something always made me think that she was lying. That maybe I was missing things and she just wasn’t telling me, and I was right. I was missing a lot; all the shootings taking place, the robberies, the thieves breaking into my mom’s car, the gang members who set the house next door on fire. All of the nonsense I didn’t need to see or take part of. There was no need to worry and the more she said it, the more I believed.
Camp is so powerful because it opens up the mind at such a young age so you are able to comprehend all walks of life. For me, I became so much more culturally aware and culturally engaged as a camper to staff. Ultimately camp made me more culturally literate. Not just being able to see, but communicate with people from all backgrounds and lifestyles. Camp does a great job of blending every group of people into one setting and saying “Live here. Like, for a while. Together.” I’ve shared living spaces with a Scot, got swim lessons from an Icelander, eaten food made by a Londoner, enjoyed the company of an Australian, played tag with a child who has an incarcerated parent, hugged a boy who didn’t eat at home, taught a child with Down syndrome how to lash a raft, canoed with a junior Olympian, the list goes on and on.
Once you start going to summer camp, it’s pretty hard to stop. Every year I look forward to camp, as a camper and even now as a former manager. It’s so hard, I never stopped. I’ve been going to Trail Blazers Camp for 13 years straight! You heard me, 13 years! Every year it gets more addicting and every year I find myself involving myself more and more than I ever thought I could. I think every kid NEEDS to go to camp. Getting a worthwhile experience where you live, eat and breathe the outdoors is something very hard to come by these days so if someone can get a chance to experience it, they should! Camp is forever!