Texas Charm(ed)

You may have heard that I went to Texas last month for this amazing conference called the CAMPference.  It's actually C.A.M.P. in the CAMPference--an acronym for "Camping Association for Mutual Progress."  Basically there are a lot of awesome camps in Texas and they all get together to collaborate with each other--there is a very friendly atmosphere of support among camp owners and directors in that state.  I was really impressed.  I was also really impressed by the custom camp jewelry I saw all over the place!!

Staff at Camp Mystic earn a custom right (with their initials engraved inside) after three years as part of staff.  Mary Liz Eastland, the camp's director of health and safety, showed me her ring.  She said counselors oftentimes come back for even one session their third year in order to earn their ring.

Staff at Camp Mystic earn a custom right (with their initials engraved inside) after three years as part of staff.  Mary Liz Eastland, the camp's director of health and safety, showed me her ring.  She said counselors oftentimes come back for even one session their third year in order to earn their ring.

This was really cool stuff.  I even wanted some of it and I had never been to these people's camps.  Katie Kovar, the full-time aquatics director at Camp Honey Creek, had a lot of bling.  So much so that I was still thinking about it when I got home, so I emailed her to ask what it was all about.  Generously, Katie took the time to photograph (some of) her camp jewelry and explained to me how she earned it all:

Loyalty Arrowheads: "The gold arrowheads are loyalty gifts. Every camper gets an envelope on Closing Day full of all the patches, certificates, etc. she's earned during that term. For your first four summers, there's also a silver arrowhead charm in that envelope. Starting your fifth year and continuing every year after that, you get a gold arrowhead instead. Becoming a loyalty camper is special as continuity is a big part of Honey Creek."

Big Chief Bracelet: "There are two tribes at CHC and each has officers that are elected by the rest of the tribe on the first night of Camp. It's an honor to be any office, but Big Chief is the highest office. The BCs from each tribe receive this bracelet during our opening campfire ceremony. To put it simply: as a 17 year old kid about to start her senior year of high school, it just felt good that 100+ girls wanted me to lead their tribe. It was a position that gave me the courage to take on other leadership roles my senior year and into college."

Staff Gift: "This staff gift was particularly special because it's not something that Schmitty, our director, does every year. That year, the staff bonded and worked more cohesively than they had in years. There were so few problems that summer because everybody was 100% on their game all the time - there was no weak link which, as I'm sure you know, is a rare treat. Schmitty surprised us with the bracelets on the last night of Camp and of course there were tears (of both happiness and exhaustion) and hugs."


I think a lot of times at camp we present our staff and campers with gifts that are essentially junk.  Sorry everyone--but I do not need another drawstring backpack.  I love the idea of giving away fewer items but making the items that we do give away things that are keepsakes--things that people will keep (and wear) forever.  I realize that there is an expense involved with this, so it's not entirely realistic for everyone, but I think it is a great example of how we can express our gratification to our dedicated staff and campers.  There was one vendor at the CAMPference who sold this stuff (Jim Morris Designer, Inc.)--I have no personal experience with him but the camps I talked to did--check out his website to learn more: http://www.jmdesigner.com/