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by: Kristen Whiteman, Research Intern

There is a game that my daughter and her friends like to play called “Never have I ever.” The person in the middle of a circle of people tries to get other people out of the circle by listing activities that they think the other people have participated in but the person who is it has not. It is funny to hear what some of these activities include and how creative the players have to be because so many of the kids have had such rich experiences in their lives and have done so much. This game would not have been so entertaining though with some kids that I lately had the opportunity to spend time with, as there were many activities that they have never participated in.

Recently I had the good fortune to spend a weekend at Camp Colley with a group of families who were there for a horseback riding weekend. One of the families I had the privilege to meet had never been to the mountains before. Imagine how fun it was to watch this dad looking at the trees in wonder and taking deep breaths of the mountain air as he exclaimed how beautiful it was. And, the kids couldn’t seem to calm down when it was time to get settled in a tent because they were so excited to sleep in a tent, in sleeping bags; two more things that were new to them. Of course we made s’mores around a campfire that first evening and again these kids experienced a first when they toasted marshmallows over the fire.

Again and again these kids were able to experience activities that they had never encountered before. Some of the highlights include: archery, horseback riding, making a fort, crawdad fishing, spider hunting at night, singing silly songs around the campfire, climbing a fire watch tower (discovering a fear of heights in the process), and a night hike to search for an owl.

They also engaged in activities that they had done many times before but took on new meaning in this environment far from home and the constant distractions that inevitably intrude on daily life. They played with other children, rode mountain bikes, played soccer with each other, spent time with their parents, went for walks, played board games, ate all their meals together and laughed a lot.

This may not sound like an amazing weekend to you. In fact, camping, hiking, biking and especially crawdad fishing may not be appealing to you at all but it was an experience that I’m sure each of these kids will never forget and their parents too. Parents and children alike were encouraging and enjoying each other, whether it was learning how to ride a horse, learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, or just joining in singing a silly song. One family opted out of some of the planned activities and spent the whole afternoon laughing, talking and playing a game together. I found it amazing because these families were given an opportunity to grow closer and they truly seemed to.

While Camp Colley usually caters to groups of youth campers, occasionally these family weekends are available and these families were able to take advantage of this special opportunity. Parents and children were able to spend time together in an outdoor environment but also have some learning moments together as they engaged in activities that were new and challenging. As has been established in earlier blogs, these types of challenges and experiences help kids (and adults too!) to gain confidence and build resilience; some of our basic goals here at Camp Colley.

As part of my own ever growing list of things that I can no longer use in “Never have I ever,” happily I can add Camp Colley to the list, in addition to so many of the activities that I was able to participate in while I was there. While the weekend was a short one and passed so quickly, the memories of it and the experience of being there with these families will always stay with me. I feel that it has changed me and I cannot go back. They have made my life a little richer.