When Shelby asked me to write a blog entry about the tools that I acquired during my years as a camp counselor, I knew what I was going to say before even opening up my laptop. You see, for so many of us current and former counselors, being a Rainbow Day Camp counselor is much, much more than a job. It’s one of those life-changing experiences that opens your eyes to a future with new possibilities. The ten summers that I worked as a Rainbow Day Camp counselor taught me more about myself and the world around me than any schooling or job training program could have accomplished. And in the process, I cemented lifelong friendships with people who I probably never would have met if I’d followed the beaten path.
Like many other Rainbow Day Camp counselors, I began in my late teens with a very unclear future. The only thing that I was sure about was where I was going to attend college, who my roommate was, and that my major was business. In the summer of 1997, the JCC merged camps with Rainbow Day Camp. I was hired as part of a large influx of first-year counselors, and we certainly looked and acted the part. I marveled at the confidence that the few veteran staff members showed when they did their shenanigans on the bus or at assemblies. But Lenny showed great patience with us, and by the time second session rolled around, he began spreading the leadership around. He also paid very close attention to the moments when counselors stepped outside of their shells and tried something new; leading a game, making up schticks, and–for me in particular–telling a story. If it bombed with the campers? Oh well; you live and you learn. But, if it worked, Lenny noticed immediately, and he didn’t hesitate to create more opportunities to nurture it. By my final year as a counselor, Lenny had me telling stories under the pavilion to dozens of campers during lunch every day. It may have only been glorified crowd control, but at least they kept coming back for more:)
Fast forward to 2017. I have been an elementary school teacher for thirteen years now. I love my job, my students, and the fact that I get to go to work every day and create. And my love of storytelling? Well, that has grown by leaps and bounds. I am now a self-published author with more books on the way. So, has being a Rainbow Day Camp counselor changed my life? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Where would I be if I didn’t have the space and the creative environment to find my true talent; my true self?
There are those who ask: Why is Rainbow so special? What sets it apart from other summer camps? All camps have children, wide eyed and ready to be swept up by a young adult as a role model. All camps have fun programming, games and charades, and water activities. And every camp provides opportunities for counselors to goof around and have amazing summers with amazing people. Here’s the answer: Rainbow Day Camp was born from the vision of a man who knows how to play like no other. And this vision didn’t have a climbing wall, gigantic swimming pool, or a residential facility to house large groups during the winter–at least it didn’t at first:) Nope, the only capital investment that Lenny and Sandy Kass needed was their own creativity and the willingness to share it with young people.
And that is how I see Rainbow Day Camp. From the beginning of time, children have always have one true desire: TO PLAY. At Rainbow Day Camp, we give it to them in a supportive and inclusive environment. And the counselors who work there have the chance to dance between the lines of childhood and adulthood for awhile, at least until they’ve found their own path forward.
So to all of those 18-19-20 somethings out there: If you’re not quite sure what to do this summer, but you know you like working with kids, reach out to Lenny and Shelby at Rainbow Day Camp. I promise that it will be a summer that you’ll never forget!