On Sundays around here we put aside our regular schedule of activities in favor of larger group gatherings and events. It begins with a welcome opportunity to sleep in a bit because the wake up bell rings at 9am instead of 8. The girls come straight to breakfast wearing their pajamas and find a special treat of doughnuts along with their regular breakfast items like eggs, fresh fruit, yogurts, and cereal.
Sunday morning is also a time when the girls wear their camp uniforms: the white polo shirt, white shorts, and red tie tied loosely with a “friendship knot.” The staff members wear their red uniform polo shirts and white shorts. Once dressed in these uniforms the whole camp lines up on the hill for a flag raising ceremony conducted by the Hi-Up campers. After the Hi-Ups raise the American flag, along with a white, Rockbrook 100-year Anniversary flag, everyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance and sings “America the Beautiful.” It’s a nice moment, shared by the entire camp community, singing that familiar song on the sunny, grassy hill with the blue ridge mountains in the distance.
Next is our Chapel gathering. Ordinarily the girls process silently to a special area of camp in the woods where the whole camp can squeeze onto low benches arranged in tiers. To provide better distancing this summer, we held the gathering on the Rockbrook House lawn, a prominent place in Rockbrook’s history. Our “Chapel” is not a religious ceremony. It’s a program that gets the campers themselves to reflect on a concept or idea central to life at camp. It incorporates songs, readings, campers’ speeches, and usually a children’s book read by Sarah. Past Chapel themes have been honesty, nature, friendship (of course!), respect, and trust. Today’s theme was “Community.” The girls talked about community (“being accepted for who you are” came up.), sang “We’re all in this Together” and Sarah read excerpts from the book You are Special. The Chapel only lasts a few minutes, but the girls seemed to appreciate the chance to slow down and think a little about what camp means to them.
After Chapel we had an assembly on the hill and recognized cabin groups and individuals for their contributions to the camp community. Each cabin of girls works together each day to keep their cabin clean. They rotate through a series of jobs to do so: sweeping, tidying common areas, taking out the trash, etc. They receive an inspection score and each week the cabin with the best overall score is awarded a decorated mop. Winning the “mop award” is exciting for the girls as they’re cheered by the rest of the camp. They also receive a small bead as a token. There’s an individual award, and bead, called a “Bend a Back” that’s also awarded. This recognizes a person being especially helpful, going beyond what’s expected to help another person. Here too, the whole camp cheers when a person’s name is called surprising them with a “Bend a Back” award.
Our afternoon event took a direct turn toward the silly. We pulled out costumes and dressed up for an all-girls dance party, actually three dance events, one for each age group. Our theme was “prom,” but very loosely defined. Sure there were a few fancy dresses that could have been worn to a formal prom at some point, but there were also crazy combinations of tutus, headbands, traffic vests, tiaras, leis, and tie-dyes. Each age group danced separately: the juniors in the dining hall, Middlers in the hillside lodge, and the Seniors in the gym. Each had it’s own sound system to play music, with the counselors choosing age-appropriate songs. Line dances were popular with all of the age groups. All that dancing and jumping around, the girls had a great time laughing and posing for photos. Knowing everyone would be feeling hot and sweaty afterwards, the lake was open for free swim, allowing everyone to cool off.
It was a regular day at camp with clear moments of community bonding, friends being silly and playing together. The girls all experienced enthusiasm and encouragement… Every dance move no matter how polished was applauded. They felt a collective sense of freedom to create… The zany spirit that leads to the goofiest of costumes was in the air. They sang and laughed, having a blast celebrating with each other.