Why Summer Camp?
Some questions and answers from
Steve Purdum, Mishawaka owner and director
As a former Mishawaka camper, I used to take for granted that the benefits of a traditional summer camp were obvious. My experience here helped me in so many ways, from exposing me to activities not available in the corn fields of Illinois, to giving me skills to thrive in a college environment. It may sound trite, but I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t draw on my experiences here as a camper. Many of my closest and dearest friends are ones I met here at Mishawaka.
Short of sending them off to college, sending children to camp is perhaps one of the largest ‘leaps of faith’ a parent can make. This point was driven home to me not so long ago when I held our newborn daughter for the first time. I turned to my wife, Julie, and said, “You mean people send these off to camp?” When the time comes, I know we will want to send our children to a place we feel confident they will be safe and supported, and whose administration and staff share our values.
To that end, I thought it might be helpful to share a little more about the idea of summer camp, as well as Mishawaka’s goals and program. I am always happy to talk with you as you finalize your summer plans, or put you in touch with campers or parent in your area. I am also more than happy to refer you to another program that fits your needs if Camp Mishawaka is not a match.
Recently, a parent who was considering sending her daughter to Mishawaka asked me why parents send their children off to camp. She said she did not need to send her child off to camp, as her schedule was very flexible, and she had a lot of time she could spend with her. I responded that most parents do not need to send their children to camp, they want to.
There are a variety of reasons why parents send their children off to camp, but perhaps the American Camp Association says it best when they list these four:
There is certainly no universal answer to this question. Some children do very well starting camp at nine, while others might do better waiting a year or two. Parents and families need to answer this question on their own. It is not uncommon, however, for the child to be ready for camp before the parent is. This is only natural, and talking with your child, friends and family who have sent their children to camp can be a big help in finding the answer. It is important that both parent and child feel comfortable in the decision to attend and the choice of camp.
Children and teenagers today have so many summer opportunities and obligations that careful consideration is given to how this time is spent. Our sessions are designed so that our staff has the time to get to know each camper. Camp provides the opportunity to learn valuable skills and lessons, form deep friendships and reinforce values. This process takes exposure, absorption, digestion and repetition. It requires some trial and error, with time to fail, but also time to recover and move on to success. While two weeks serves as an excellent introduction to residential camping, we feel strongly that a four-week session provides a deeper, more complete experience.
A session at Mishawaka is not an inexpensive proposition, and it is only natural to wonder what the benefits are for the cost of the experience. Sometimes this is quite easy to measure: learning how to swim, sail, ride a horse or paddle a canoe are all tangible skills that are passed on. Some of the benefits are more subtle: confidence in handling new situations, developing resilience, learning how to get along in a group, ownership of an experience unlike anything from school or home. The benefits are both immediate and long lasting.
ACA (American Camp Association) accreditation is best evidence parents have of a camp’s commitment to a safe and nurturing environment for their children. Accreditation assures parents that the camp practices have been measured against national standards and go a step beyond a state’s basic licensing requirements.
The ACA accreditation program has a 50 year history and is continually evaluated and updated to reflect the current best practices in camping. At least once every three years an outside team of trained camping professionals observe the camp in action to verify compliance with over 300 standards.
I am often asked by parents why they should send their children to a camp so far away from home when there are good programs nearby.
One difference is the broad range of our community, as we draw campers and staff from over 25 states and several different countries. Campers broaden their horizons as they live and play with others from across the country and around the world. Mishawaka offers an experience that many young people do not encounter until their college years or beyond, and one that a local program simply cannot offer.
Of all the ingredients that make up a summer camp– activities, cabins and counselors– we realize that the most important of these is the staff. Our capacity of 80 boys and 80 girls is an ideal size, and staff is able to know each camper on a first-name basis, not just those in their cabin group. Likewise, campers form friendships throughout the whole camp community. The opportunity to develop mentoring relationships is a very special feature of Camp Mishawaka. The quality and dedication of our staff has always been the “Mishawaka Difference.”
There is also a real benefit in the journey to Camp Mishawaka. The beautiful north woods setting offers a wonderful environment in which to learn and play. Mishawaka takes a balanced approached to programming that includes opportunities for fun and instruction. Campers choose from 30 land and water activities, and there is an adventure and challenge for every age and interest.
Since its founding in 1910, the Camp Mishawaka motto has been Safety, Health and Happiness. Several years ago we considered updating this, but soon realized that there was no better way to describe our guiding principles.
Physical and emotional safety is our first priority, and necessary for health and happiness. Our campers’ physical and emotional health comes from outdoor activity, good food and rest.
And finally, happiness comes from a sense of community and shared experience, the satisfaction of a job well done, and the joy of being together in the outdoors.