They call it "camp magic." Everyone feels it and everyone sees it materialize in different ways. It's impossible to articulate, but it's special...a feeling like no other.
My name is Hailey Katz and I have been going to YMCA's Camp Whittle for 16 years. While I'm not obligated or required to visit camp each summer, there is an irrepressible desire within me to keep going back year after year.
My camp story begins as a toddler, when I spent my first summers by my dad's side as he directed camp for the Westside Family YMCA. When I was finally old enough to venture out on my own, I started sleeping in a cabin with other kids and immediately fell in love with being a camper. I did it all - swimming, singing and hiking.
When I turned 18, I began volunteering as a camp counselor. I didn't do it out of a sense of obligation, guilt or hope of reward. I took a week out of my summer break because it was something I "needed" to do. I wanted to give other kids the incredible experience that camp has given me.
Perhaps that's the essence of camp magic.
For me, it is sitting in the back row at camp's Songfest, knowing and appreciating that the 20-30-year-old men putting on a show have taken time out of their busy lives to entertain 300 small children. Seeing this selfless act and the huge smiles it brings to so many faces is how I witness camp magic. Something repeatedly draws these men back to a place where they detach from their everyday lives to help kids realize their potential and give them an opportunity to thrive.
This is the work of camp magic. You understand it when you are in its presence.
Camp magic is personified in my scholarship camper who returned from camp thanking me for the best week of her life. A week earlier, she was sitting alone clutching her backpack and dreading the unknown, nervously awaiting her first trip to camp. Though we come from different backgrounds, this camper and I both fell in love with all that camp has to offer. While we grew up so differently, we now share a common bond.
What else can that be, but camp magic?