Did your daughter come home last summer talking about how Kanga had helped her feel better when she’d been homesick the first night? Or maybe your son couldn’t stop laughing about “that one campfire skit with Twist and Random.” If so, you were probably left wondering “Are those people?” and “Are those their REAL names?!”

Yes, your children are talking about people but no, those are NOT their real names. Our summer staff members should introduce themselves to parents by their real name but to campers, they are known by their camp name—special nicknames used only at summer camp.

Over the past few years, our summer staff members have begun adopting camp names. Though camp names for staff are common at many summer camps, they are relatively new to Camp Wood YMCA. Here are a few reasons staff and campers love camp names.

  • This is no ordinary place, so we don’t use ordinary names. Camp is a magical place and camp names are a whimsical way to reinforce what is different, and special, about camp. Plus, kids think camp names are just plain fun.

  • Camp names protect staff privacy. In an age when nearly every camper would love to “friend” their counselor online (for which they would need their real name), camp names help maintain a professional distance between camper and staff member.  

  • Camp names are a rite of passage for new staff. We have many summer staff members who were former campers and at Camp Wood, campers always go by their real names. But once they’ve earned the privilege of joining our staff, they get to choose their camp name. Many staff members take the decision seriously. Hundreds of campers every summer will know them by their camp name and it should communicate something about the staff member’s personality and interests.

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, quirky camp names send the message that being unique is OK, and even welcome, at camp. Camp is a place where their unique contributions and personalities will be celebrated, not shunned. This is a refreshing message for so many kids who feel pressure to blend in elsewhere.