We know there are many benefits to a long-term camp experience. Campers develop confidence, independence, strong friendships - the list is long. But how does this affect a camper over the years? After spending the last few days saying “farewell” to our Session I campers, and having numerous Alumnae here - picking up, visiting, and dropping off their campers - we have again seen how camp affects ALCers for life. Not only do the Alumnae who were in camp this weekend represent a wide variety of professions, regions of the country and the world, points of view and passions, they each had their own experiences here at Alford Lake. Some were here only for a few summers as campers or staff, some spent many summers - growing from camper to CT to counselor. From skilled outdoorswomen to talented sailors to stars on the ALC stage, each charted her own journey as an Alford Laker - one that has given her the confidence to be a strong woman - be it as a teacher, a businesswoman, a mother, a journalist, or a physician. They return to Alford Lake with the hope that their daughters will have the opportunity to find their best selves - to have the confidence to be who they want to be. Some are misty eyed as they walk around camp, realizing that while there may be some changes in camp, at its core, ALC is the place they remember.
One Alumna, now a current camp parent, reflected:
Driving down Alford Lake Road on Sunday, I had the same butterflies in my stomach that I had exactly 40 summers ago, when my parents dropped my sister and me off at camp for the first time. Now, my sister and I were returning with our daughters, first-time campers themselves now, who began shrieking as we saw the first signs of ALC ahead of us. Living 2,000 miles apart from each other, we had sung the same songs to them as babies ("Seven Golden Daffodils" and "I Know a Place") and regaled them with same stories about our years beside the lake: logs and campfires and sailing and no-thank-you helpings. As we were driving toward camp, my daughter marveled at how she had been waiting six months for this day, since we first signed them up, and my sister’s daughter responded: "I've been waiting my whole life." My sister and I were at camp, together and apart, for about 15 summers, and when we drove into camp, everything looked amazingly the same, even with all the small differences. First the tennis courts, then the view of the farmhouse, then a turn toward Ranger Row. Most of the faces were new, of course, but familiar in the kindness and enthusiasm with which they greeted us in the pouring rain. And then there were the faces we knew so well, even if we hadn't seen them in person in decades.
Two of my old campers, now mothers themselves, fellow counselors from the 1980s, and Sue, as always, presiding over the controlled chaos of drop-off day. My daughter’s new home is two tents down from where I stayed in the summer of 1978. My niece’s tent is closer to the lake, with a spectacular view through the pines. I started helping my daughter unpack her stuff, but soon realized my presence wasn't needed or wanted, so I snuck away after one last hug. As all the girls went up the hill to lunch, my sister and I took a quick jaunt around camp, to the sailing docks, where we were counselors for so many summers. To the swimming H, which seemed not to have changed at all, with the S.W.A.T.H.O.T lanes and reminders about eardrops. Past the tents, many of which we had lived in as either camper or counselor, and over to the new Paradise bathhouse (which is quite luxurious). We then reluctantly drove away, turning our eyes and hearts toward the farmhouse, where our girls were just starting a journey that had helped make us who we have become. And wished we could do it all again.
For our Session I Campers, who have just returned home, we know that it may take some time - days, weeks, months - to see and understand the depth of the growth that took place in each camper while she was here. The more tangible changes may be evident first - making her bed each morning, helping to clear the table - but the deeper ways she has been affected by her experience may emerge over time. We hope that her sense of self will give her the strength to make good choices when faced with a difficult situation, that her awareness of others will lead her to reaching out to help a friend, and that the confidence and independence gained here at camp will enable to her to always stand strong.
We are fortunate to have seen moments of growth in our campers throughout the summer. We are thankful to have our Full Season Campers continuing this journey with us, knowing that the longer a camper is with us, the more she is able to gain, and we are thrilled that our Session II Campers have arrived to begin their own adventures.
Thank you to all of our ALC parents for choosing Alford Lake Camp to be an extension of your family. We are honored to be an institution that has affected, and continues to affect, the lives of young women each summer. Hooray for ALC’s 112th Summer!