I have never been a “camper.”
Sure, I went to summer camp as a kid, but I don’t have deep, fond memories of my experience and never kept in touch with the friends I made and couldn’t tell you one of my counselor’s names if my life depended on it.
I must have gone to the wrong camp…
Last weekend, my husband, my four year-old daughter and I packed up for a weekend of family camping at the newly re-opened YMCA Camp Cullen, just 1 1/2 hours north of Houston, nestled in the tall pines along the shores of Lake Livingston. The camp had been closed since July 2010 when the dining hall burned to the ground. That fire hastened plans to rebuild the historic camp, providing the opportunity for Camp Cullen to also rebuild the infrastructure and amenities through a $24 million fundraising campaign.
More than $19 million has already been raised and YMCA Camp Cullen is officially back open for business. There is a new dining hall and the cabins, built by Weekley Homes, are new too. But the new stuff isn’t why the camp is so great.
I watched my daughter’s joy as she rode a horse for the first time. She climbed an Alpine Tower and swung while dangling in a harness, suspended in mid-air. She didn’t think she could go that high, but Len Masengale, the camp’s director, helped her believe in herself. And she made friends. Not just with the other kids, but with the counselors too.
And she could tell you all of her counselors’ names, from Mr. Justin, who taught her how to shoot a bow and arrow, to Mr. Aaron and Mr. Brad, who always had time to chat and gave her high fives when she accomplished something, to Miss Ashley, who led her horseback ride.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that I work for the Y. It is my job, in part, to market programs, including camp. In fact, our brochure says, “YMCA Camp Cullen provides an opportunity for your child to develop new skills, gain self-confidence and make lasting friendships.”
There is truth in advertising.
My daughter did things at camp that I would not have thought she was capable of doing. But the folks at Camp Cullen believed in her. I am amazed at the ability of the camp staff to connect with children.
We did arts and crafts, canoeing, paintball, hayrides, s’mores and more, all together as a family, all in the span of two days. Imagine what kids get to do there during the summer!
My family will go camping together again. And again. I never thought I’d say this, but I am now a happy camper. And my daughter is too!
Click here to see a 60-second video of my family’s camping trip.