We tell everyone that Kingswood fishes ponds, very carefully, to find boys who hail from families attuned to the Kingswood ethic and who use our camp to re-enforce or validate values already entrenched. Any first-time parent would love to receive this note from camp: “ Mom and dad: I still think about you a lot, but I am not homesick any more.” To gain this end, we count on the older boys to stand up at camp meetings to make assertions such as “To make a friend, you’ve got to be a friend,” or “Stay busy doing as many camp activities as you can and your missing home will go away like it did for me when I was your age.” Best of all, these veterans have come to really believe what they say and thus, the advice has a great chance of sticking with the younger set. And, once comfortable in his camp skin, every camper goes on to have a successful camp community experience.
But, not everything flows from top to bottom at Kingswood. We have always given great play to the multi-generational aspect at Kingswood. We notice great interplay and influence-peddling among and between every age group from the grizzled administration to the youngest sandcastle builders. At a Sunday camp meeting when a young camper volunteers, “I think it is more important to play hard and fair than it is to win at all costs,” we seize the opportunity to affirm this statement, at the end of which the boy gets all the credit for a brilliant idea. You better believe that older boys are listening!
Put another way, we want everybody to have his moment to shine in the spotlight. There is something magical about witnessing the validation of values from one “camp generation” to the next. And, by that, we don’t mean merely the 50-somethings to the 10 year-olds. At this camp, generations are defined by the associations from one age group to the next. Watch the 13’s mix with the 10’s, the 16’s with the 13’s, the 21’s with the 16’s, and so on up the scale and you will see amazing interactions. Kingswood togetherness is a palpable feeling, one that is obvious to visitor after visitor. So, when the door of one cabin of 14 year-olds opens just a few feet from that of a group of 9 year-old lads, it is by design, not happenstance. And, when athletic director Mike Wipfler declares that touchdowns scored by juniors in the all-camp touch football tournament are to be valued much more than those by counselors, he, too, is acting on these multi-generational components we hold dear at Kingswood.
We are also enamored of the intensity and high expectation of traditions at camp. CIT’s tend the re-fill counter at Kingswood and 15 year-old Guides sub for them on occasion. But, watch how fast 14 year-olds move into place when both older groups are off on trips. So on down the line. There are so many Kingswood ways of doing things that routine itself becomes ritual, all within our environment of relatively low regimentation. Everyone gets comfortable with routine, especially if the flow of events is smooth, fair and civil. That tradition of expectation – call it ritual if you please –is an overwhelming force at camp and it explains everything from good sportsmanship on the ball fields, to hiking with a swagger despite feeling some physical discomfort, to making friends in the cabins with boys of differing temperaments and interests.
In conclusion, allow us to offer this comment from a first-time parent. “As a parent, one has to accept that Kingswood’s pace is not frenetic and that boys are given time to hang out and do what boys do best, have fun with each other. I think that the pace that these kids maintain during the year with school, sports, music and pressure from everyone and every direction is way more than we ever experienced when we were young a hundred years ago. When do ours ever get to be kids? Your comments about the importance of back yard play rang so true while I was watching the pick up soccer games and the Frisbee golf. It seemed that the only thing stopping the boys was the ensuing darkness. You and your family really ‘get’ what boys are all about. I only wish the rest of our world would catch up with Kingswood and realize what a great gift it is to be a kid.”