Totally Groovy

70s party decorations
camp 1970s costume party

Can you dig it? Yesterday’s banquet really showed us how girl power can be a peace-loving, psychedelic, disco party of good vibes as our 9th graders unveiled their surprise theme: “That 70’s Banquet.” Weeks in the planning, the girls dug deep into the style, music, and slang of the 1970s to decorate the dining hall, dress in amazing costumes, and perform choreographed dance numbers for the whole camp. Every inch of wall space was covered with painted posters depicting iconic 70s references: Charlie’s Angels, Scooby Doo, Queen, Disco Dancing, Elton John, Richard Nixon, ABBA, and Wonder Woman, for example. The walls were a rainbow of tie-dye colors, with balloons, lights and streamers strung through the rafters.

With the girls dressed as different artists, we saw amazing performances by Freddie Mercury, Josie and the Pussycats, Donna and the Dynamos, along with Go-Go dancers, hippies, and roller skaters. The girls served dinner throughout the party: “peaceful popcorn,” “groovy grapes,” “trippy tortellini,” “chill out chicken,” with “watergate water.”

Naturally, the whole evening was also a chance for everyone to dance to 1970s music, with a few contemporary pop hits mixed in. There were moments were I’d guess we had more than 200 campers and counselors all up dancing and getting down. It was a totally groovy night!  Completely far out!

Little Mermaid Camp Musical

This afternoon, we all were thrilled to watch the performance of “The Little Mermaid.” This was a huge endeavor, to produce from scratch a complete musical. About 50 campers participated in some fashion to paint scenery, design costumes, perform a singing or speaking role, join the ensemble or work on the tech crew. The girls rehearsed during their drama activity time over the session, honing their parts, and now putting on an incredible show. They seemed so excited to be performing, having a great time on stage. Lindsay brought the house down when she sang “Part of Your World” with everyone stunned by her singing talent, and Ella, playing Sebastian, likewise impressed the crowd with her version of “Under the Sea.” In just a few short weeks, these girls put on an spectacular show!

Finally, we closed the session with our traditional campfire ceremony, what we call our “Spirit Fire.” This was a beautiful time together, all dressed in our uniforms, huddled shoulder to shoulder around a warm, glowing campfire.  We sang some of the more thoughtful camp songs, heard short speeches about what Rockbrook has meant to us over the session, and simply held tightly to our camp friends by our side.  It was an emotional time for most of us, knowing that we would be saying goodbye in the morning. It’s hard when something this good, something this important to us, has to end for another summer.

This has been a wonderful session… really great girls, kind, generous and enthusiastic. It’s no wonder the friendships formed here are so strong, so genuine, and so meaningful.  It’s no wonder these girls love camp.  Thank you everyone for being a part of this magical community.

camp girls with braids

3rd Session Video Snapshot – 2

Here is the latest highlights video from Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks. Robbie spent last Saturday filming, quietly capturing simple moments of life at camp, and now editing for us another of his wonderful short videos.

Watching these videos really is fascinating, and they deserve multiple viewings. We love how well they convey the sweet interactions between the girls, and the overall happiness that colors our days together here. Take a look. You’ll see what I mean.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

3rd Session Video Snapshot

Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks spent a day at Rockbrook this week filming little moments of camp life and editing them to make a short video for us.

You may recall the wonderful videos of camp he has made the last few summers. They are a fascinating peek into what we’re up to around here, how happy and busy your girls are, and in many ways, how it feels to be at Rockbrook.

Spend 2 minutes to watch the video. You’ll be glad you did.

Enjoy!

Click here for the video. Or see below.

What Makes a Camp Friendship

Maggie and Friends

Ten years ago, on the first night of my CA year, I went to bed with a full heart and so much joy. I remember thinking to myself, “I have twenty more days with these friends.” I hadn’t seen my cabin-mates in a year and I wanted to savor every day we had together. There was something about this group of girls that was different than my friends from home. Although I didn’t know the exact difference, I knew it was meaningful and would last a lifetime.

The topic of camp friendships was sparked in a recent conversation and I still was unable to describe how camp friendships were different from friendships at home. I decided to ask Rockbrook girls of all ages the question, “Why are camp friends so special?” Some answers are similar, others are different, but all encompass the spirit of Rockbrook and the friendships that are formed in the “Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” Here are few of the answers, and while they may not point to some single essence of camp friendship, they are insightful.

camp teen friends

One of the youngest campers I asked observed that camp friends are special because “they are with you so much,” you see them “only once a year,” and because you are “living with them” you are just so “comfortable around them.”

Several Middlers, girls about 11 and 12 years old, echoed that observation that camp friends are “stronger.” Camp friends are “the best friends I’ve ever had,” because you are “away from each other all year. You will “have them forever” because you can “be yourself with them.”

The oldest campers described their camp friends as a “sisterhood I will cherish forever,” a closeness like “family” even though they’re from all over. At camp, they said “it’s easier to connect with people” simply because you are “away from friends from home.”

camp swimming buddies

Several counselors attributed the special character of their camp friendships to unplugging from technology and social media while at camp. Camp life provides “more opportunities to talk face to face,” and no “social pressures to be or act the coolest, have the most friends/followers, and you just get to be yourself.”

I also asked Rockbrook alumnae, now grown women who attended camp as children, about their camp friendships. One put it this way— “Camp friends have a better understanding of who you are which makes them more loyal, easier to talk to, and easier to be around.” And another— “Camp friends are like no others… we meet at a place where we can completely be ourselves. No pressure to look beautiful, be cool, or dress like a super model. A friend at camp is someone who is genuine and real.” At camp, you are “friends because you like/love the real person for who they are and the amazing memories you make and share.”

Camp Friends girls

One alumna described it beautifully:

“Too often, in the ‘real world’ people let first impressions rule the day. Beauty, wealth, fashion, youth, and social standing open doors, while a lack of these can close them. At camp, you are only responsible for how you treat others. Your kindness, positivity and openness draws people to you and friendship results. Friendships based on this solid foundation of authenticity are friendships that last a lifetime.

I have RBC friends that I met as a small child, and those that I met at reunions. Some are decades older. Some are decades younger. They live all over the world. We have been incredibly silly together, laughed our heads off together, and cried together as life has gone through its inevitable struggles. I am never alone. As the song says, ‘Look always to it when you’re in trouble… The spirit of Rockbrook…’  Camp is unconditional acceptance and true friendship sharing wonderful experiences from which you both grow as people. It’s a lifelong gift, and I am indescribably grateful for it.”

—Maggie Cameron

best camp friends

A Magical Quality

Camp friends thumbs up

“Magical” is one of the best ways to describe camp. You hear it a lot, in fact, when campers and counselors try to convey what makes their camp time extraordinary, what’s so special about camp activities, and why their camp friends are so close. “Magical” applies because camp is essentially a different world, one filled with daily surprises, wonderful discoveries, remarkable flashes of natural beauty, amazing people, exhilaration and often the deepest feelings of happiness —all rare qualities of the mundane world left behind. Everything at camp seems to have this extra quality, this power or spirit of sorts, that makes it uniquely Rockbrook. For this reason, a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin at camp will always be better than one eaten somewhere else, camp sunsets more beautiful, wearing a costume more hilarious, and feelings of belonging more genuine.

And like all things magical, camp is hard to explain. It simply stands out in very real, but ineffable ways. During the last Spirit Fire, counselor Bella Swaak spoke about her experience at Rockbrook, doing her best to relate its magical quality.  Here’s an excerpt of what she said:

“Rockbrook has a special magical quality about it. Not only can you be who you want to, but you are able to grow and that magic is what brought me back to camp. Though the magic of Rockbrook is hard to describe— almost as hard as describing why a camp friend is much different than a friend from home. I like to use Sarah’s analogy of a chocolate chip cookie friend. A chocolate chip cookie friend is someone who makes you feel warm and gooey inside. They make you feel special, just like a chocolate chip cookie does. Throughout this summer, you have all become my chocolate chip cookie friends. You make me feel warm and gooey and good inside, you make me laugh until I cry, you push me to step out of my comfort zone, and you accept me for being me. You guys are the ones who I turn to in times of happiness or sadness. I come to y’all and camp as a reminder of all that is good in the world.

Camp Girls Hug

Rockbrook magic is also about relationships and as Wendy said, “relationships are the key to life.” Here is where my friendships have turned into sisterhood. You are the ones who I will think of when I feel like everything is wrong and you are the ones who help me see the bright in everything and my wish for campers is that you all find your own chocolate chip cookie friends, to find the ones who let you be who you want to be and support your wildest dreams, just like mine did.

Looking back at my camper years, I see how much this place has made me grow. Not only am I now able to catch a spricket or two, but the women around me have turned me into a strong independent woman. I had amazing counselors and directors to look up to, even now, as a counselor, I can say the same.

One of my favorite memories from this summer is the day that Theresa and I finished our Mermaid laps. As we walked out of the lake, we stopped by the rock and looked back onto the lake. Girls were swimming and paddling, and the counselors were cheering on everyone and the sun was shining perfectly onto the lake. As we were standing there, admiring the view, I turned to her and told her to take a mental picture, and that’s what I challenge y’all to do. Stop and enjoy the moment. Don’t rush through your years as a camper hoping to be a CA, HUP, or a Counselor. Don’t be counting down the days until banquet. Stop and acknowledge the small things because it’s easy to forget as a camper.

Though a lot of things might change about you since your first year, Rockbrook won’t. It will always be a place where girls come to play, learn, and grow. Rockbrook allows you to be who you want and it is one of the best qualities of the RBC magic.

And now as I make my journey back to the city, I will remember all I have learned from this summer. The Juniors have taught me to sing my heart out, even if the song is as silly as Copacabana, the Middlers taught me every day to not take my self as seriously and wear a silly costume here and there, and the seniors will always remind me that it is okay to be your weird, complete self.

Enjoy your last night with your friends. Tell them if they are your chocolate chip cookie friend and let them know you appreciate them because I am so unbelievably thankful to have all of you in my life. Thanks for being my chocolate chip cookie friends.

Girl Camp buddies

2nd Session Video Snapshot – 3

Here it is!

It’s the latest highlights video from Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks. Earlier this week, Robbie spent a day filming at camp, and with more of his careful editing, has again produced a fascinating glimpse into camp life.  You’ve seen the photos in our daily online gallery; now see (and hear) camp in motion.

At less than 2 minutes, I think you’ll really enjoy watching.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

Phenomenal First-Day Vibe

girls campers

Sometimes writing these blog posts about Rockbrook, I feel like I’m preaching to the choir, like most of the folks reading already believe. They already know there’s something special that happens at camp, that girls love it for all kinds of reasons, and that the social-emotional learning embedded in camp life is priceless for growing children.  But still, for the sake of those unfamiliar, let me preach a minute.

Today, as we opened our second session of camp, it was clear that this group of girls was already on their way to having a great time. There was certainly plenty of excitement and bubbling anticipation for their camp session to finally begin, but there was also a surprisingly immediate comfort, even contentment apparent when the cabin groups found each other. Maybe the amazing weather had something to do with it— sunny, breezy and warm —or perhaps the easy, relaxed pace of the opening day process, but right away everyone seemed to have a set of friends to run off with.  They were off for a quick tetherball game, the scavenger hunt around camp, adding beads to their name tags, and exploring the creek by Curosty. The cabin groupings, which are carefully assigned by Sarah, encourage that too, making sure new and returning campers alike felt included and welcomed by the grouping. Everyone will tell you that camp is mostly about the people, the friendships and positive relationships fostered between everyone here, so it was very gratifying to see how quickly the campers were bonding.

girl camp kids

The first all-camp event provided more opportunities for this. Just before lunch, we gathered under the big walnut tree on the hill (which provides a beautiful, long-distance view of the Blue Ridge Mountains) to meet some of the key people at camp, to learn and sing a few camp songs, and to be welcomed to Rockbrook by Sarah. The girls sat in their Crazy Creek chairs, sometimes laying them flat to share the seat, while the Hi-Ups led songs. One celebrity made his first appearance too, Felix the camp dog. You’re bound to see photos of him in the online gallery now and then, but he’s an abstract caramel/cream colored, one-year-old Australian Labradoodle with a very sweet disposition. He’s always happy to have a quick scratch on the back, even by six or eight hands at the same time!

The swimming demonstrations where the lifeguards assigned swim tags to everyone, the camp tours where the girls found the location of each activity (for example, the Alpine Climbing Tower and the Nature Nook, which are both hidden in the woods on opposite sides of camp), the activity skits where the instructors staged silly “commercials” about their plans for the session, the cabin meetings where the girls learned a few important safety rules for camp, and the evening program of name games and signing up for activities —filled the remainder of our day, all contributing to that phenomenal first-day vibe.

Tomorrow we’ll launch into all the activities, get out of camp for some adventure trips, clap and sing over some fantastic scratch-made meals, and continue banking experiences that define this unique community.  It really is true; “There’s no place like camp.”  We’re all excited to dig in, and show what that means!

teen campers

First Session Video Snapshot – 2

Robbie Francis, our amazing videographer, returned to camp this week to film another of his wonderful highlights videos. In just under two minutes, the video beautifully captures the feel of our days at camp. Each time you watch it, you’ll see something new— a new caring interaction, a genuinely happy and peaceful smile, or the simplest expression of friendship. It’s fascinating!

Take a look, and let us know what you think. …or use that share button! 🙂