MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — What is it about summer camp that keeps us coming back?
Is it the friends we make and keep in touch with from all over the country, even though we only see them for fewer than three months out of the year? Is it the miniscule, yet timeless moments we share with these people? Maybe it’s because my 8-year-old sister is here for the first time, or that my two-month hospitalization left me wanting that essential piece of my childhood back one last time.
A few weeks ago, I pulled up to the small black-and-white sign for Emma Kaufmann Camp on Stewartstown Road for the first time in two years. Initially nervous about reuniting with hundreds of people, I easily convinced myself I’d never left.
Maybe it’s the history. EKC is an enormous family tree, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. You’ve either counseled, been counseled by, been in a unit with, or been in some sort of club or activity with every single person here. If you haven’t, your siblings, parents or best friends have. In fact, the other day, when I was walking with a group of 13 kids, I realized I had been either their counselor or coach at one point in time.
There are no degrees of separation here, and it’s what makes this place so incredibly special.
Maybe it’s the tradition. This being my 10th summer in Morgantown, I am a counselor to boys entering seventh and eighth grades, known as the Halutzim unit. As goofy as they are, I never stop wondering if I was just as much of a clown at that age. According to my Halutzim counselor (who ended up being my Halutzim unit head four years later), I was.
Maybe it’s the activities we do. Between the outdoor adventure course, the aquatic center, the lake, the horse stables, the athletics and tons more, it’s every child’s dream to be at a place like this. Anyone in the world could easily fall in love with this place, and I’m lucky enough to say I have.
The look on my little sister’s face as she got off that bus last week is something I’ll never forget. In that moment where she stopped to soak in everything, her reaction was one of a kind. I’ve spent years telling her about this magical place; now, one week later, seeing her create her own story here in the middle of West Virginia is more than I could ever ask for.
Every day we go on a walk and I show her a different part of camp, and every time I see that expression on her face, I see her getting closer and closer to writing this exact same letter.
(Jesse Irwin is a staff writer for the Chronicle.)