Hey everyone- Kate here!

November isn’t just about not shaving (although it’s a great cause). It’s also a month where we are encouraged to think of the things that we’re thankful for. I’m pretty thankful for life in general – it’s a great life. But, when I think about it, my life revolves around camp! I wake up and fall asleep thinking about camp– camp is in everything I do. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this every summer.

SO, what, exactly, am I thankful for? Let’s break it down:

1. Last year, I heard through the walkie-talkies that my child (at the age of 5) decided that he would try out the giant swing. I immediately grabbed my camera, jumped on a golf cart and sped to our ropes course. I arrived just as he was hoisted up into the trees by our counselors and as the ground became further away his eyes widened. I started crying: I was helpless! He released the catch and began falling and panicked. I, desperate and crying, jumped to try to catch him in a way only a parent understands. As the ropes caught him and he began swinging a smile spread across his face and he yelled “This is fun!!”. If I would have been there from the beginning, he never would have even tried the giant swing- he would have clung to my leg and refused. But, because he had the encouragement of loving counselors and he didn’t need to look to me for approval, he did it and he loved it. I think about how Greenwood Trails has influenced my child (and your children, of course).

2. My child tries new things at Greenwood Trails. This goes beyond activities like the giant swing (although trying activities are just as important). At camp, we have the ‘three color rule’ at mealtimes. This encourages kids to branch out at a meal and guarantees that their bodies get different nutrients on a regular basis. My child hates messy food and the menu that day called for sloppy joes. I walked up to my child’s counselor (in a moment of parent weakness) and said “He’s not going to eat that.” Not 10 minutes later, my child walked up to my table after wolfing down an entire sandwich, declaring that he now loves sloppy joes! Would he ever do that for me? No. He would hate it just because I suggested it.

3. My child is exposed to different cultures. During camp’s off season, we live in a fairly rural part of Ohio. Many of my child’s peers have never experienced anything but Ohio. At Greenwood Trails, our counselors and campers are very diverse. They come from all walks of life and all cultures: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Virginia, England, China, Spain, France, South Africa, Australia, Poland, and Mexico, to name a few. Greenwood Trails intentionally teaches kids how to communicate and how to make friends with everyone. My little Ohio boy learned in a very short amount of time to take care of others, regardless of background. How did his counselors do this? Our counselors play with our campers all the time. Every moment of their training involves understanding group dynamics and team-building games. These games are played at the beginning of each session to get cabin-mates to depend on one another quickly. All cabins also spend every single night before bed connecting. The counselors conduct evening bunk chats to create meaningful and deep relationships between cabin-mates and counselors.

4. The kids are really themselves. It sounds so cliche, I know. What camp doesn’t say that, really? But, I can tell you firsthand that it’s not just something that we say. It really happens! We love watching campers’ hard exteriors created during the school year melt away under our loving counselors’ role modeling and guidance. Here’s a great example-our oldest girls, dancing (is this dancing?) in front of the rest of camp:

Check out our youtube page for numerous other examples of kids being themselves!

5. This past year, we had over an 85% return rate, which is practically unheard of in the camp industry! The staff are passionate about GWT and, more importantly, the kids who attend camp. I am thankful that I get to develop relationships with these young, responsible, and creative individuals. I also have the opportunity to hire and train new staff. I look for specific qualities when I interview them (among other things: do I trust this person with my own child?). I love them and I cry at the end of each summer when I say goodbye to them.

6. The camper families are so great! I really value the relationships that I’ve created with the families. I love getting hugs on opening or visiting days from these great GWT parents- we ask about each other’s past schoolyear and talk about our futures… it’s like one big extended family! I’m so thankful that they trust us with their most valuable possessions year after year.

7. The Langbart family is the coolest family ever. Now, this isn’t because I’m being encouraged AT ALL to say this. It’s really true! I have never seen a more passionate and caring family as the Langbarts. Owen and Daria are where it all starts, but it reaches out to his brothers (and their wives), his mother, and his father. I have never seen such a family so like-minded and focused on providing such amazing experiences for children. The more I work for them, the more I understand their passion and it’s inspiring.

I can’t wait for 2015. I can’t wait to see your kids again and I can’t wait to meet new campers and staff. I also can’t wait to see the ways in which our children will grow at Greenwood Trails. Every summer is a fun present, waiting to be opened and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

What are YOU thankful for?