Growing Up at Summer Camp by Iris Krandel

Sunscreen. Just the smell of it takes me back to my favorite time of the year…summer camp! From boat rides on the lake to hikes through the trails to dance parties in the dining hall, the memories are endless. Spending 13 summers at overnight camp lead me to no understanding of what it meant to celebrate the 4th of July at a BBQ or taking a big family vacation when my sisters and I were all out of school.

All I knew was that the second I got home from camp the countdown began again until that time of year rolled around. Being at camp was like going to a land far far away, and anyone who didn’t experience that just could not understand what they were missing. Lucky for you, I am going to share that with you today.  Not only did I get to try new things at camp, but I learned and grew in ways my parents and I had never imagined.

Iris young camper
Iris with her fellow campers & counselors in her early years of camp.

I was a weird kid. I don’t think there is a better way to put it. I could talk to pretty much anyone or anything that would listen. Anyone who knew me well always wondered what would come out of my mouth next. On top of that I had a questionable sense of style. Needless to say, I pushed the boundaries on what could be worn in public as “real clothes.” I rocked those flannel pajama pants and crocs during all hours of the day. I never felt discouraged from expressing myself, but I definitely did not feel like I ever fit in with my peers.

I spent so much time comparing myself to everyone around me (sometimes I still do). That is until I went to camp. At camp, you could be whoever you wanted to be, you could dress however you wanted to dress, and everyone belonged. The louder your voice the better your team did during color wars, the crazier your style the more people wanted to wear your clothes, and the more you invested in camp the more you got out of it. Camp did not make me feel like I had to fit in, it made me realize that it’s better to stand out.

After spending eight years as a camper, I became a counselor at the magical place that made me the person I am today. It was the most exciting time in my life because I finally had the opportunity to impact campers the same way camp had impacted me. I can so vividly remember seeing the first cars and buses roll into camp, and being so scared that I was about to take the lives of campers into my own hands for the next month. That anxious feeling soon turned into excitement.

The energy of the campers that first day was unreal, and I realized that the kids were just so thrilled to be there that nothing else mattered. I spent the next five summers growing as a staff member and becoming a supervisor for my last two years at camp. That meant teaching new staff members how to leave their mark on camp, and give campers the same experiences that many of the counselors had gotten out of camp.

Iris Counselors
Iris having fun with her fellow camp counselors.

This will be my first summer away from the summer camp I grew up at, but that does not mean I will stop the work I have started. I just have a new opportunity to change the lives of girls this summer at Girls in the Game. I hope that all those girls who are showing up on the first day unsure of who they are and where they are leave camp on the last day feeling confident in themselves. I want them to be confident about their bodies, confident about their minds, and confident that they can do whatever they want if they put everything they have into camp. It is not about how good everyone else is at the sport, how much someone might know about healthy eating, or how many friends everyone else has, it’s about being better than you were the day before and reaching your own goals.