By Katie Stone
Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula
[3 minute read]
Most people have little knowledge of sleep away camp aside from classic movies like “The Parent Trap” and “Meatballs”. The image that comes to mind when most people think about sleep away camp is of canoeing on a lake, tie-dying t-shirts, or making s’mores and telling stories around a campfire. The truth is, all of these things certainly exist at sleep away camp, but there is so much more that is involved in this American summertime tradition.
As a child growing up in the state of New York, my summers always took place at sleep away camp, where I’d spend my days in nature among friends. If you’ve never heard of sleep away camp, it’s a summer-long activity-driven community for children and teens. I have had my fair share of bracelet making and song singing, although my favorite part of camp is undoubtedly interacting with all of the people I’ve met over the years. Because there are about 100 girls at my camp, and 200 boys at the neighboring “brother” camp, it is safe to say I recognize every face I see. I can walk down the stunning lakefront path to the dining hall and see friends ranging in age from 8 to 21. There is a certain bond that forms between people who live together in an isolated, yet self-sufficient mini-world that is sleep away camp, and this made this a very memorable part of my childhood.
One of the strongest and most tight-knit communities I belong to is my sleep away camp. Tucked away in the serene Adirondack mountains, camp is home to a small group of kind, creative, and unique people. The sense of comfort is so strong in this small, lakeside oasis that every person feels like a member of a family. We admire each other’s passions, supporting one another in everything from sports to plays to painted masterpieces; I have never felt more at home in a place besides my own house. Growing up as a camper, I learned fun lessons from my counselors: how to french-braid hair, craft string bracelets, and effectively mouth words to songs that I was too young to memorize. They taught me the games, songs, and customs that bind our camp community together, making sure to promote camp spirit. Now that I am a counselor, I feel that it is my duty to highlight these traditions and pass down the skills I learned to my campers to demonstrate how special this place truly is.
When I arrive at sleep away camp, I always feel the same sense of excitement and joy to be spending my summers in such natural beauty and enjoying incredible friendships. The simple actions of playing basketball, sitting on the lawn playing games together, and taking part in yearly traditions contribute to the overwhelming sense of community that defines my sleep away camp. In an almost cult-like way, the ever-growing and always welcoming sleep away camp family holds shared jokes, lingo, rituals, happiness, and an appreciation for its amazing location. Even as the years go by, reconnecting with camp friends is always seamless; it feels like there has been no time lost between reunions and summers. From camp, I have learned independence, individuality, and the importance of secure, sisterly friendships.
Katie Stone is a recent USC graduate. She received her degree in Communication from the Annenberg School. She is from a small town in New York just outside of New York City and has two younger siblings. She loves activities like hiking, swimming, and yoga, and exploring Los Angeles! During the summer, Katie works as a sleep-away camp counselor; she is a lifeguard and swim instructor for girls ranging in age from 7 to 15. At USC, Katie was involved in Greek Life, Marshall Entertainment Association, and USC Photography club.