Camp Kee Tov – Mimi Ostroy Harp

Sydney WeissWhen I first heard that Camp Kee Tov, the camp I have been going to my whole life would be continuing in-person camp this summer, I didn’t feel optimistic or excited at all. I wanted to opt-out and spend the summer doing as many fun activities with my friends as the current state of our world would allow. I thought that would be a much better way to spend my summer, as opposed to working every day in circumstances I didn’t even think were possible. Many of my fellow staff members dropped out because it was either too big of a safety risk or they didn’t want to commit themselves to the safety protocols we had to follow. I was prepared to drop out, but I knew I would never feel right about that considering how much Kee Tov has given me the past eleven years.

About a week before camp started, I found out that my counselor co-worker, who I would be working with for most of the summer, just the two of us, was someone I was not particularly fond of. He was known to not be fully engaged with the campers. He is also a year older than me meaning this was his third summer as a counselor and only my second. Immediately, I knew that I would have to step up. It was on me to make sure our ten campers were staying safe and having fun. Having no choice but to step into a leadership position I didn’t think I was ready for made me do even better than if I was intended to be in that position. I became the role model for my counselor co-worker and for other staff members in my group. The extra effort and energy I had to put in made me a better counselor then I had ever imagined I would be in my second summer on staff. I was worn out and worked harder than I ever have before, but I also felt really good about the work. It brought me so much joy to know that my campers were having fun and their families were extremely grateful just to have somewhere fun for their kids to go. 

One of my favorite campers was not the most easy-going kid. He had trouble being in a group and didn’t like doing any activity unless he thought of it. He would constantly leave the group and sit alone, refusing to talk to anyone or move. I ended up spending a lot of time sitting off to the side with him, attempting to convince him to join us in a game or an art project. He would cry and ask for his mom almost every time. I would sit and talk to him. Despite the fact that he was only five, we had some meaningful conversations about how he felt. These conversations helped me better understand how to keep him engaged and participating. Every morning I would greet him at his car. His mom would tell me how much fun he was having and how happy she was that he got to be part of such an enjoyable experience. Her telling me this made me so happy that I made the choice to stick with camp and work through the summer of 2020. By the end of the summer, his parents asked me to work with him every day in his distance learning because he and I connected so well. It felt so good to know that I was the reason that he had a great summer. 

From working at camp this summer, I learned that I can really do anything if I put my mind to it–and I might actually enjoy it and get a lot out of it as well! Although this past summer was challenging and a huge commitment, it was one of the most meaningful summers of my life. If I hadn’t agreed to work, I know I would have spent the summer sitting at home feeling unproductive and sad about not getting everything I could have out of the summer. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to even have camp, since so many other summer camps were shut down due to COVID. I learned to not take what I have for granted and that just because something seems hard and not the most fun at all times, it can still end up being very rewarding.