by Bobby Harris, Camp Director
Late May and early June mean intense camp preparation time for us here at Coleman. On May 28 we began our Leadership Week for all 18 members of our Camp Leadership team- Unit Leaders, Specialist Coordinators, Head Counselor and our year-round Director team. A few days later we welcomed our Programmers who plan a wide range of daily bunk, unit, and camp-wide activities for our campers as well as our Activity Leaders who started to set up their areas and get acquainted with the camp surroundings and equipment here. Then on June 4 we welcomed First Time staff members and on June 5 returning Staff Members. When all was said and done, we sang “Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem” (the Coleman traditional camp welcome song) dozens of times and welcomed 170 staff members to camp.
During these weeks we covered a wide range of topics including behavior management, creating a welcoming and accepting atmosphere within a cabin, helping each camper find his/her “inner spark”, understanding campers with special needs, and simulating the actual daily schedule at Camp Coleman by going from activity to activity including Nikayon (cleanup), Menucha (Rest Hour), and Mashehu (literally means “Something” and is the daily Unit Activity Hour). In addition, David and Tina Long, who were featured in the acclaimed movie “Bully,” visited camp and spoke about the bullying that their son endured in school that eventually led him to take his own life. After this session about bullying, I observed that staff understood on a deeper level the unique role they play in assuring a safe summer for each and every camper. On the night prior to the campers arrival I addressed the staff and shared the following:
“I hear all over the place that this generation of young people is self-centered and cannot be relied upon—but this week showed me something different. When I look out at you—the people sitting in this circle and the people with whom I have learned and shared this week—I see a group of devoted, caring people who take their job seriously and want to make a difference with the kids. I look forward to seeing the “magic” that you will create with the 400 plus campers coming tomorrow—I have a great deal of hope in our Jewish future and our American future when I look out at you.”
It has already been a special 2 days since the campers have arrived and I have started to see the magic unfold. I feel like I am living in a special place—a place of warmth and kindness. I watch the campers walk by other campers and staff on their way to the next activity and see them smile, give a “high 5”, and say “hello” to each other. I see a camper fall down and watch as a number of others instantly offer their hands to pick him right back up. This is an incredibly kind place. I am excited to continue to experience more magic as we prepare to welcome our first Shabbat. So, I am going to sign off now, quickly shower and change into my Shabbat Whites. I will be seeing your children soon and wishing them each a Shabbat Shalom as they make their way to dinner, and I also want to extend the same warm wishes to you and your family.