When you finally arrive for the first day of camp, it is so thrilling to see the place you love or will come to love all put together and ready for a session of fun. The docks are all in, the riflery range is set up, the climbing wall is ready for climbers, and the cabins are ready for campers. However, it is not always like this. If you have been a camper during the last session of the summer, you probably have seen counselors start to put away all the equipment that we use during the summer. Have you ever wondered what camp looks like once that whole process is finished? Or what it takes to get camp ready again for kids to come in the summer? Well look no further! Here we will briefly go over the process on what we have to do in order to prepare camp for campers in the summer.
Even before the ice and snow arrives at Foley during the Winter, we are busy preparing for the next summer. We take a long hard look at what went right during the past summer, what the camper input forms are saying, and thing we know we can improve on for the next summer. We start to make plans for new things we want to do and things we want to change before the first campers arrive. This process is nonstop, as we are always looking for ways to improve and keep things fresh each summer. These changes could be anything as small as switching up where we have each cabin sit on the benches, or as big as changing up the daily schedule. Of course, this off season we have been very busy modifying our schedule and programs to fit the new three week sessions. If you were to sit in the office for a day in the middle of February, you would hear us bouncing ideas off one and other in hopes of trying to make camper better the following summer. While the majority of our ideas will probably never be put into action, the creativity that takes place is what leads to creating the Foley experience that you know and love.
I think we can all agree that camp would not go very smoothly if we did not have our amazing counselors each year. These staff members are the ones that put our plan into action and create the wonderful Foley experience. Well the training of these counselors begins well before they even pull down Father Foley Drive to arrive at camp. These counselors all take place in online trainings, meetwith fellow staff members to start building relationships for the summer, discuss their goals for camp, and may even take place in a class to receive some sort of certification that will benefit them at Foley. Once summer finally arrives, counselors begin to come in waves to start their training. Returning counselors and ski boat drivers are some of the first to arrive each year. The boat drivers take part in a training course from outside instructors, and the returning counselors come early to start preparing camp for the kids and may start participating in advanced training that builds upon what they learned previous years. Once the remaining staff arrives at camp, Staff Week officially begins. While it is called Staff Week, it is really more around 10-12 days of high energy, jam packed, informational, training and preparation for camp. Staff week is the time for new counselors to learn everything they could possibly need to know for their jobs and for returning counselors to once again become expert counselors. Staff week is a great mix of work, learning, and fun. The counselors all grow very close during this time, which allows them to be able to build a better camp community once the campers finally arrive. Staff week culminates with a Mock Day, where we run through a typical day of camp and counselors get to practice teaching their activities and participate in a few as a camper. Once staff week is over, counselors are fully prepared to be the counselors that you see each summer.
3. The Physical Preparation
Physically getting camp ready each summer is perhaps the most visible work that can be done, and it takes all hands on deck. In Minnesota we are blessed with four seasons, and while we love the Winter, it can create some challenges getting camp ready. As soon as the snow melts we are outside preparing Foley to make it ready for kids. It is always a little exciting to see what camp looks like after the snow is gone, and it can lead to a variety of projects. Sticks may need to be picked up, shoreline damaged by the ice may need to be repaired, landscaping may need to be done if the snow has damaged the grounds, and of course leaves need to be removed. While it is lots of work, we are all happy to be working outside after being trapped inside the office for at least 4 months. As our Outdoor Education groups arrive, we begin to set up more of the activity areas of camp. The climbing wall, athletics area, and archery and slingshot ranges are all areas that need to be set up before the school groups arrive in early May. As more and more staff arrives at Foley, we really start to prepare camp for the kids. Everything at Foley from the Boats to the Picnic tables are stored in an area where they won’t get damaged during the winter. As our outdoor education progresses and comes to an end, everything is slowly removed from its storage place to go to its summer home. The Gaga Ball court is set up, 9 square returns to the Foley Fun Center, the picnic tables emerge from their sheltered winter homes, and of course the tetherballs are hung up once again. One area that consumes more time than all the rest is the lakefront. The weeks between Outdoor-Ed and Staff Week, aptly named Work Week, is when the lakefront starts to come together. Dock sections are carried down one section at a time and meticulously put together to ensure they are straight and level. The sailboat and safety boat lifts are carried down and placed in the lake, the swing is blown up and anchored by the swim dock, and the diving tower is set up by the marina then towed over to its home in the lake. In order to place the canoe, windsurf board, and pliak racks in the lake we have a high powered hose that digs a hole in the sand allowing us to sink the wooden racks into the lake. A large team of willing counselors is needed to place the ski boat and pontoon lifts at their respective homes. The red truck slowly backs the lifts down the landing and then counselors push their lifts to where they will stay for the summer.
Finally, all the sailboats, canoes, and windsurf boards are carried down the landings, and the ski boats and pontoon are driven over from the public landing to their home at the marina. Meanwhile, work is done to clean all the buildings and other equipment so they are ready for use once campers arrive. Equipment is checked in all the activity areas and any necessary repairs or replacements are made. Slowly but surely everything is back in its place, and camp is ready for kids to come.
While there is a lot that goes into preparing for camp each summer, we are grateful to have years of experience and a great system in place. While it is hard work and leaves counselors sore afterwards, it is one of the things staff fondly looks back at once summer is over. These moments provide great opportunities for staff to bond and create great memories even before camp officially starts. We can’t wait to start getting camp ready once again this Spring!