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What a question. I always like to say I’m in charge of the “weird things” at camp. Anything out of the ordinary! I plan all camp evening programs, brother/sister dinners, picture days, athletic matches against other camps, council fires, services, editing newspapers and special dinners, among other things. People have referred to me as the “glitter of camp” more then once; the sparkle, messy, and one that adds a touch of different to the project that is Thunderbird.
2. What is your favorite part about the job?
I just love watching the kids have a good time. Sometimes there are these wildly strange games that just pop into my head, and I just go with it. Watching the kids turn those visions to reality and laugh while doing it makes my day. I also love shopping for the supplies I need and seeing the reaction of the cashier. For example, last week I bought 20 sponges, gummy worms, 16 cans of shaving cream and A LOT of stocking socks. What could I be doing with all that????
3. How did you get your nickname?
Slightly is the name of my favorite lost boy in Peter Pan! I love Peter Pan.
4. What are some of your favorite activities you have run so far this summer?
Scholarship Auction was one of my favorites. The energy in the room is crazy while paddles are flying up and people are screaming and bidding higher and higher for their favorite prizes. It’s awesome. I also quite enjoyed Extreme Animal Soccer, where we played a very large game of soccer with 5 balls, and I got to randomly call different animals that they had to play soccer like (ex: worm, cow, elephant, T-rex, Kangaroo, ect). Also a big shout out to Zumba night…hilarious.
We also played a great rainy day activity game called all camp Go Get It, where in different groups the campers got a category like “Weirdest Hair Style,” and the group would have two minutes to come up with the weirdest hair style, then show it off. Some of the other categories were “Best Underwater Dance”, “Best Celebrity Encounter Story”, “Weirdest Talent”, and “Best Poem About Cheese.”
Here are some of the cheese poems:
“Please may I have some cheese.
Chedda is betta,
Forget the feta.
If you mix chedda and feta it’ll get betta.
I don’t know fella, when I have mozzarella.”
“Cheese is gouda
Cheese is grate!
I like cheese on my macaroni.
Not that velveeta phony.
Some are funky,
Can I have some?
That’s nacho cheese.”
“Mac and cheese love.
My brie, you are sweet and bitter like my heart.
My cheddar, you are strong and steady. I can always count on you to get me through.
My goat cheese, how stinky you are. But how I love you, in my mac and cheese.”
Watching the girls come on their first day and leave on their last is unexplainable. I know it happened to me my first year, but you just grow into exactly who you are. I see it in them every day. Girls at camp are given the opportunity to totally be themselves without judgement, have no shame in anything they do, and truly get to have a great time and realize being yourself is the best way to have true friends. They learn to be independent and strong. They learn that they can do anything if they find the confidence and courage. And most importantly, they learn to love themselves. Being a part of teaching them that in services, council fire, and independent conversations and actions is so so so rewarding.
7. If you could live in a house of cheese, what type of cheese would it be and why?
I’d be homeless! I’m allergic to cheese! I guess I could do goat cheese. Mmmmmm, so delicious on pizza.
8. If you could have any superpower what would it be?
Flying. I’d get everywhere so fast and I could see the bald eagles really well that way. I guess it’d be pretty cool to move things with my mind too.
9. What will you miss most about camp when summer ends?
The people for sure. There’s nothing better then spending quality time with people without cell phones and TV’s distracting them. How many times at home do we take the time to make a fire, throw a Frisbee, or play dodgeball? Coming here is like going back to the past and remembering how to have fun. I will definitely miss this, but luckily camp will always be here for anyone who needs it!
There are a lot of things that camp can give you, but I think one of the most important things it offers is togetherness—a type of togetherness that is unachievable anywhere else. I never realize until I re-enter the so-called “real world” after camp each summer how lucky I am to have a space where, by the end of breakfast, I have already received a dozen hugs, sung a screaming song, and laughed a hundred times.
It’s like having the world’s biggest family, where you wake up and spend all day every day completely surrounded by love. No matter who you are at camp, no matter who you already know or who you haven’t met, you can walk up to any group or any table and feel welcome and at home. There is this instant familiarity with camp people. It’s hard to describe, but it doesn’t really matter if you actually know one another. If you are both at camp, you have a bond, and you can immediately be your total and complete selves.
At camp you become accustomed to this togetherness rather quickly. Only here would a friend being gone for a day and a night feel like a lifetime; only here would her return be received with cheers and hugs as if she has come back from a harrowing, year-long expedition. Only here can a bond between two friends who have known each other for just a few days equal that of a typical pair who have been friends for years.
It is those bonds, those astonishingly instantaneous bonds of friendship, that are what all this togetherness truly brings. I led a trip last week with a group of eight girls, one of whom was new to camp this summer. She was a second session camper on a trip with girls who had not only been together for the past four weeks, but many who had been together for the past four years. I didn’t know that this new camper had known the other girls for only a week until somebody told me. The way they laughed and worked together made it seem as if she’d been with them the whole time.
Thunderbird teaches us confidence and resilience and outdoors skills, but I think the most important thing it does is teach us how to be there for each other. This constant camp togetherness means knowing everything about each other. It means seeing each other at our best, our worst, and everything in between. It means accepting each other throughout all of those moments, which always bring us closer in the end. It means learning at very young ages that there are layers to every person and that everyone deserves a chance to be peeled back and understood. It means learning to move on quickly from upsetting moments because why hold on to frustration when we love each other and it is only lunchtime and there is so much more fun and togetherness to be had.
Camp even teaches you to love those with whom you might not always get along. There might be someone who sometimes makes you angry, but still you have that deep camp connection with her. You have grown with her and struggled with her and learned to solve problems with her. You have learned about her layers and you have grown to understand why she might do the things she does. And even though you know you clash sometimes, you also know that if you ever need her, she will be there.
What is so cool about all this togetherness is that it sticks when camp is over. Sure we all go home and we are not physically together anymore, but those friendships stay strong. That depth and trust endures. As we enter our final week of the summer, we will appreciate every moment of togetherness that we have left. We will remember that the friendships this togetherness has given us are strong enough to last far beyond the summer. Most importantly, we will remember that it won’t be long until we are all together again, feeling like not one moment has passed.
Molly “Pixel” Sprayregen
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When I was fourteen and a camper on the Junior Leader trip, my friends and I used to beg our counselors to stop at any playground we passed. We would shout and shriek with joy when we were given time to swing on swings and slide down slides. We’d take pictures of ourselves on monkey bars and smile through slats in neon tubes that were far too small to fit our teenage bodies.
I don’t know what it was about playing on a playground with my favorite people in the world that made it so much more enticing than it would have ever been for kids our age out in the real world. We were in high school. Never in our home lives would we have seen a playground and begged to spend some time there.
This love for playgrounds, however, is not specific to my own Thunderbird group of friends.
I recently returned from leading a bike trip with a group of twelve and thirteen year old girls. Along the trail were many playgrounds, playgrounds at which the campers never seemed to get bored of playing. I was so content watching these near eighth graders giggle under jungle gyms as they played hide and seek and pump their legs as hard as they could to swing high into the sky.
This is not the first time I have led this trip, and every time I do, the kids get equally excited about how many playgrounds there are. It makes me so happy to see them just being kids, to throw up their arms and not care about acting cool or seeming old. I think Thunderbird campers love playgrounds because when we are here together with all of our friends, at this place that teaches us to be ourselves and act silly and stop caring what other people think, we realize what is truly important. We realize how silly it is to ever be in a rush to grow up.
The thing is though, these kids may have played on playgrounds, but they also cooked me dinner every night. With very little help and almost no reminders from my co-leader or me, they set up camp and took it down each day. They biked up hills that even I struggled on, and instead of complaining they belted Fall Out Boy and Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. They cheered on their friends and pushed through some challenges that I truly believe many adults would have given up on. They may have played on playgrounds, but in all the right ways they acted far beyond their years.
I have written before that Thunderbird teaches you that being responsible and mature doesn’t mean you can’t also be youthful and wild and free. I don’t think I ever more clearly witness this perfect balance than when leading Camp Thunderbird trips.
When you’re out in the wilderness, there are certain things you simply have to conquer, all of which help you grow up. You have to get to the top of that climb if your campsite is on the other side. You have to learn to light a stove and set up tents and filter water and how to protect yourself from storms and heat and self-doubt.
Tripping gave me confidence in all these things, and for years I have watched it give my campers the same. I have watched it transform them from nervous kids who don’t know if they can make it through a trip into confident young adults who love tripping and believe that they can do anything they set their minds to.
I have also watched tripping teach both my campers and me how wonderful the simple and childish things can be. I have watched it remind us that we do not need an app or a pair of headphones or even the structure of in-camp activities to find joy. Tripping encourages us to look at a pile of rocks and see the giant turtle we can build from it, to transform our long underwear and hiking socks into “fancy” outfits for a dinner party. Tripping shows us that, no matter how old we get, sometimes, all we really need is a good set of monkey bars.
Molly “Pixel” Sprayregen
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On Wednesday, the Ranchero Village brought Girls Camp a little bit of magic with an absolutely amazing Harry Potter specialty day. We all had so much fun dressing up like our favorite witches and wizards and spending the day casting spells, flying on broomsticks, and, like all magical creatures do, dancing and singing at the top of our lungs during meals.
The Rancheros woke each cabin in the morning by handing them their letter of acceptance to the TBird School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Camp was sorted into the four Hogwarts houses, and we planned to spend the day competing for the hallowed House Cup, earning points through various activities. To our shock and dismay, however, as we ate our breakfast at long, communal tables in the Lodge-turned-Great Hall, it was revealed that our beloved Michael had been kidnapped and taken to the Chamber of Secrets!
Clues were left throughout camp to help the campers find Michael. The girls spent the morning gathering six separate pieces of a flashlight, and once it was put together, they were able to use that flashlight to enter the cellar and find the clue to Michael’s whereabouts. Thankfully, the campers cracked the code and Michael was rescued from the deep, dark Chamber of Secrets.
In the afternoon, the campers went from station to magical station, doing exciting things like making wands and transforming two of our staff members, Salt and Farva, into wizards by giving them the longest possible shaving cream beards. We played giants, wizards, and elves (a form of extreme rock paper scissors), had a giant relay race, and we also cooled off with some swimming and a slip ‘n slide.
After a rousing game of Quidditch after dinner, the Ravenclaw House was declared the winner of the House Cup, which is now proudly displayed above the fireplace in the Lodge. The Rancheros did such an amazing job planning and running Harry Potter day. We are so proud of their leadership and hard work that made this day such a success!
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Every day at Thunderbird is awesome. I didn’t realize until I was much older how lucky I was to attend a summer camp where I got to go to four different activities per day. Even more, I didn’t realize how special it was that each day, I got to choose to go wherever I wanted. At Thunderbird—while we encourage campers to set goals and return to the same activities so that they can improve and excel—campers do not have to commit to only a few activities for an entire summer. Any time you want, you can try something new.
Every day at Thunderbird is awesome, but then there are those special days, the ones that stand out not only because they are different, but because in any other world, they might be considered disappointing.
Yesterday, it rained so hard that our ball fields at both our boys and girls camps transformed into some rather deep lakes. At Thunderbird, rainy days like that one are not a time to throw in the towel. They are not a time to lie in bed and lament about a ruined day. Instead, they are a time for puddle jumping, for the unforgettable experience of paddling a canoe across a body of water that is normally just a field of grass.
Once the sun began to shine through the clouds, we put on our swimsuits and had so much fun playing in the lakes and puddles that the rain had left behind. Campers were practicing canoe skills and splashing around right in the middle of the soccer field. There was more laughter and shrieks of joy than you’d ever expect to hear on a day where regular activites need to be canceled.
At Thunderbird we learn to make the best out of bad situations, but we also learn that so many situations really aren’t bad at all if you change the way you look at them. A flooded ball field is just an opportunity for a brand new kind of fun, a rare kind that no one who got to play with us in the water yesterday will ever forget.
Throughout my years at Thunderbird, I have had a lot of rainy day fun. Sometimes, during the year, when the rain starts to pour down as I am walking through the city, my first inclination is to grunt and grumble and wish it all away. But then I remember times like yesterday, I remember how many memories the rain has given me, how happy it has made me. I remember not only the times spent puddle jumping and ball field canoeing, but also the times spent huddled beneath a tarp in the woods, a cluster of campers and counselors group hugging and telling stories while waiting for a storm to pass so we can continue our hike or finish cooking our dinner.
Every one of those moments was special because every one of them brought me closer to my campers, friends, and co-leaders. The rain is a magical thing, something that Thunderbird has taught me to never grunt and grumble about. So when I am in the city and the rain begins to fall, I just remember all the things it gave me. As the many grimacing faces shuffle past me, shielding themselves with newspapers, hooded jackets, and umbrellas, I simply open up my arms and smile. It is a far more pleasant way to make it through a rainy day.
I hope with the memories we made yesterday, all of the campers here with us will now be able to do the same.
Molly “Pixel” Sprayregen