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In the Heart of the Flame

It’s quite an amazing sight, three hundred and eleven boys, ages ranging from 8-14 sitting in utter silence. The sounds of a large crackling fire, and the sounds of a larger mountain range of woods are clearly audible. Maybe this is a common occurrence, after all there are dozens of summer camps scattered along these mountains, but to me, first as a camper, and now a counselor, this place is special.

campfire

Every Sunday the entirety of camp gathers in this particular spot. Skits are performed and songs are sung, though applause never follows a performance. Perhaps the crowd may sing along, or make a noise that ties into a skit, but clapping is discouraged. I remember thinking this was strange when I was younger, after all when a group of people deliver a stage worthy show, it feels only natural to clap.
But when friends and peers deliver a worthy show, and then walk off to the sounds of crickets, it’s more then just entertaining, it’s powerful.

There are lessons, or themes if you will, tied into every campfire. Last week’s overriding theme was stewardship, it focused on the importance of maintaining the environment in which we live, from the environment here at camp, to the environment that surrounds us in our day to day life. The skits will back up whatever particular theme each campfire involves. The skits are usually, if not always, absolutely hilarious, but behind the jokes the message is clearly communicated. The songs will similarly relate to the theme, for example say the theme is friendship, we might sing the white stripes song “Lets be Friends”.

campfire

The music at camp is sung and played by a small group of camp counselors, who so always happen to be extremely talented. The band usually consists of an ever changing eight- to ten people, who stand in front of the massive semi-circle of benches, and consistently sing with a visible passion; it is clear that ever member of the band shares a love for campfire, and for camp in a general sense. And while some members come and go, some are regulars, and are certainly worth a mentioning; Mike Nuckles is one of these regulars. He’s been here for seven years, and is more or less famous in camp as a tennis counselor, cleaning guru, and simply overall good guy. He’s been here since my first year as a camper seven years ago. Now, it’s a little weird finding myself asking him for advice on being a counselor myself. Before camp began, I asked him what his biggest piece of advice would be. He told me that as a counselor, it can’t be about you, it’s about the kids, it’s about making their experience special, by really having your heart in it. Every time I’m sitting there in that semi-circle watching knuckles sing with the band, I can see, and hear, exactly what he means.

While I’m only going to take the time to mention one other campfire musician, all that perform are equally important. But regardless, I’d also like to mention a man named Nathan Newquest: A single father of two charming young boys, a fourteen year veteran to Falling Creek, and a host to numerous camp positions in the past. As a counselor, it’s become apparent to me that Nathan is simply part of the glue that holds this place together. He’s held an array of vital, hectic positions in his time here, yet despite this he can usually, if not always be found in front of the musicians with a guitar in his hand, and smile on his face. That smile is probably the brightest most contagious smile I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, I don’t think camp would be quite the same without it.

Flames

So far, the specific people I’ve mentioned are veterans at camp, but one of the great things about the ever-changing staff is that new, wonderful personalities are constantly surfacing in our community. One of these recently surfaced, wonderful personalities is that of Sam Downy. He’s an Acting Major attending NYU and has taken on the monumental task of composing campfire skits this year. For the most part, my favorite skits are the classics, the skits saved and repeated every year; This year my inclinations haven’t been as one sided, Sam has written a few truly amazing skits, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some next year. Additionally, he has taken on the role of narrator in many cases, and when the booming low voice of this large young man introduces a story, everyone knows it’s truly worth listening too.

All of these different aspects of campfire, all of the different views of people described above, are from my own perspective. I would not dare to speak for everybody who comes to this place every summer. Every single person sees this magical thing that we call campfire from a different light, and from a different spot in the semi circle. But I’d be willing to speak for everybody in saying that this amazing thing is in some way special, different from their normal busy routine. At its simplest level, campfire is chance for all involved to sit with friends, watch some people do some silly things, and listen to the music of the woods, and the people who live there.

- Kevin Slafsky

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Dear Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad….

The mail has come and there it is! In the middle of the bills and magazines, a letter written just for you! Even during the hectic camp schedule and tons of swimming, rock climbing, eating, and playing, he still took the time to write home!

falling creek letter

Some boys absolutely love to write. They write during rest hour, at night, and even during free time, while others would rather play cards with his cabin mates or jump off the Blob. You can easily write them every day either through snail mail or by email, which is printed each morning and quickly distributed to the boys. However, you can only hear from them through their postcards, posted pictures, or by the camp office. How can you urge your non-writer to write home more??

  1. Send pre-addressed and pre-stamped stationary or postcards.
  2. Print out addresses for home, grandparents, friends, and family on labels for them to place on the postcards or envelopes.
  3. Kindly remind them in your own letters and emails to write back.
falling creek letter

In the office, we constantly sort through incoming and outgoing mail. Many of times we get incorrectly addressed letters. Our office investigators work hard to figure out where the letter is going so it can swiftly make its way through the Post Office and into its awaiting parent’s or grandparent’s hands. Pre-addressed envelopes seem to quickly and efficiently make their way from the boy’s fingers to the Post Office and quickly home.

Oh, and as for never getting any mail. Do not worry! This is usually a great sign that the boys are having a blast!! Remember, no news is good news!

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Technology Free at camp

If your boy is like most in this generation of children, he probably spends a lot of his day engaged in technology. Texting his friends during dinner, playing the hot new game on the car ride to school, and Snapchatting or Instagraming silly photos.

biking

Research shows that children these days spend up to 7.5 hours each day with their eyes stuck to a screen and their fingers tapping away at the keyboard. Cyber bullying is quickly growing on social media as children find a screen to hide behind. These days, your boy(s) may have 1,000 + friends or followers on social media, but are slowly losing the ability to walk up to someone and shake their hand or settle conflict in a responsible and socially acceptable way. Social Media is not necessarily a bad thing though; many of us use social media to keep in touch with friends and family and share exciting events that are taking place in our lives.

At Falling Creek Camp, we disconnect our campers and staff from the distractions of social media, texting, and Instagramming. Campers are asked to leave their cellphones at home or turn them into the Program Office if they flew to camp. Some campers may think this is impossible to go three or four weeks without a phone. However, as they divulge into the many activities and trips that Falling Creek has to offer, they quickly forget about their “need” for technology and begin to interact with others in a meaningful way. Many campers will even pick-up a pen and paper and write home, which is a lost art for this quickly evolving generation.

mud

Being technology-free also allows for campers to grow socially. No more hiding behind a screen or texting a friend, but actually carrying on a conversation with them. Our counselors also find time each evening to engage in one-on-one conversation with each of their boys to make sure they are enjoying camp and what they love or would want to change about camp to ensure that they are really having a great experience.
As a parent, you can find comfort in the fact that while your child is away, they’ll be learning valuable life skills that don’t involve how many words they can text a minute, or how many likes they can get on their Instagram picture. The skills they will learn while they are unplugged will stay with them for a lifetime!

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Tracking Falling Creek's Weather

Have you ever been curious what the weather is like up on the mountain? If the weather has been cooperating while you son is at camp or what the weather has been like before you make the journey to Tuxedo, NC?

falling creek weather station

Sometimes The Weather Channel just does not cut it, since it could be pure sunshine at Falling Creek, but just down the road at Camp Greystone, a thunderstorm is brewing.

Well, you can now track the weather live at FCC! With our on-camp weather station, real-time weather is constantly updated at Weather Underground. You can quickly see current and accurate weather details, or look at the past weather for some guidance on your packing before you come to camp.

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Defeating the Dreaded Homesickness

Homesickness is not uncommon at camp, but overcoming it can be one of the biggest successes a boy experiences while at camp. Now is the time to prepare your boy(s) before they adventure off to camp so they can have a great experience, as well as you not fretting over them at home.

falling creek camp friends

So, what is homesickness anyways?

Homesickness is an impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and family. Not only do campers face homesickness, but even some counselors struggle with it during their first several days at camp. Homesickness usually occurs during the first few days, if at all. Most of the time, campers only become homesick during times of inactivity when they have time to reflect on home and their normal routine, like during rest hour or at night. It is extremely rare for a child to be affected the entire day.

How can parents help prevent homesickness?

  • Sleeping over at friend’s house or experiencing short periods away from home, like a weekend getaway or weekend camp during the year will help build up a child’s since of independence. The first time a child is separated from home will always be the worst.
  • Allow them to be a part of the camp decision process. Let them help with the pre-orders and packing their things. Give them several opportunities to watch camp videos and be engaged with camp on social media or even scroll through the website. The more familiar they become with the experience, the easier the transition becomes and the more excitement you are able to build up for them.
falling creek friends
  • Be positive about their experience at camp. For example, tell them you are going to miss them, but follow up with telling them that they are going to have a great time. If they think you are going to be missing them terribly or even sad for them to go off to camp, they will carry that burden with them throughout camp and it makes it harder for them to transition into the camp routine.
  • Sometimes packing a blanket or stuffed animal from home can help too; something for comfort during the down times in their cabin. However, it is camp and it is a possibility that this item could get lost or dirty, so avoid any truly treasured items.
falling creek friends
  • Camp is a huge growing tool and a huge step towards independence. Overcoming homesickness will give them skills that will be valuable for their entire life, so be encouraging about the whole thing! If they have suffered from homesickness in the past, don’t make them feel like a failure and prevent it from happening again, but instead focus on the positive, tell them it is normal and encourage them to make it through!
  • Send pre-addressed and stamp stationary. Allowing your child to write home or to friends and family will help keep their mind focused on being able to communicate with you during down-time at camp when they are most likely to become homesick. Allow them to spend their time communicating with you instead of just thinking about you.
falling creek friends
  • Remember you can email and write letters to your boy(s) while at camp, but be aware of what you say. If you constantly remind them how much you and everyone else at home misses them, including fluffy the dog, they may feel like they need to be home. It is OK to tell them you miss them, but keep it encouraging and happy and let them know that everyone is doing great (even if you are son-sick and can’t wait for him to be home). On the contrary, do not go into details about the wonderful, amazing time everyone is having without them because the opposite might occur and they may feel like they are missing out on family adventures, even though they are having the time of their lives at camp!
  • Don’t worry. Your natural reaction is to call on the first day just about bedtime to see how your camper is doing. Remember, our counselors are trained to recognize and deal with symptoms of homesickness and they will do everything in their power to give them a wonderful camp experience. Their letters come home through snail mail, so if you receive a homesick letter 5 days into camp, it is likely that they sent it on the first day. Do not panic! Give us a call at Falling Creek and we will immediately follow up on his condition and get back with you to let you know if he is still struggling or if it was just a 1st night thing.
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