By Michelle Slattery

I made meatloaf for dinner tonight for my three girls and all three had different opinions. “Too spicy,” said Maddie, the youngest. “I think you should stick with the other recipe,” said Maureen, usually the more agreeable middle one.  While the oldest, Caroline said, “I like it, it’s really good.” This is how it typically goes with most things, but when it comes to Camp Wood, they all agree, they love it and can’t wait to go back!

We first came to Camp Wood for family camp. Ironically, it was because I was in the process of remaking our family after a difficult divorce. I wanted a place to be outside, have fun and reconnect. Since the activities and meals are all taken care of, I was able to relax and be completely present with my girls. That weekend was a turning point for us and somewhere between horseback riding and Gold Rush (we won!) we got our joy back. We felt like a family again—a new, happy one.

So we went back the next summer. But then, the next year, I will admit we cheated on Camp Wood. We were lured by a similar place with a new swimming pool, which was great, but the kids complained the whole time. They missed Camp Wood–the campfires, the repeat after me and do-as-I-do songs, the ABC prayer at dinner and fried chicken night. I think what they were really saying was they missed the spirit and traditions of Camp Wood. So, we went back to Camp Wood the next summer for family camp and everyone was happy again.

After going to several weekend family camps, the girls were ready for a week away on their own. I am a farmer’s daughter but as my dad says, my girls “live on the block,” so I wanted them to have the opportunity to get really dirty, explore the lake and see those amazing stars at night. I also wanted them to get the self-confidence that comes with trying new things and meeting new people–and it worked!!

Eight months later, Caroline considers her friends from camp her best friends and will be a Leader-in-Training with them this summer. Maureen discovered she can go away for a whole week and that she loves the horses and hates mud. Maddie learned how to fish and make potholders.

When I went to pick them up from Traditional Camp, they were all happy to see me but so sad to leave camp and all their new friends. So, family camp at the end of the summer now gave them all something to look forward to. And when we went back, after having a week at summer camp my girls became the camp experts. They were so proud to give me archery tips, introduce me to the fun counselors and teach me to fish. We’re all counting the days until it is time for camp again. In the meantime, we’ll keep making potholders and singing the shark song!  

A big thanks to Michelle for sharing her family’s experience with Family Camps and Traditional Camp. We can’t wait for them to return to camp again!