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A social experiment and why camp friends are so important


As a teen I had the good fortune to attend an amazing boarding school. It offered its students a real sense of purpose and belonging, and because of the positive growth mindset it fostered my classmates and I easily grew passionate about our academics. For more than 2 decades I’ve described it as “Kenwood and Evergreen, but with a lot of books”.

As a camp director one of my passions is building close-knit communities. To that end, this past Sunday I decided to try an experiment and created a Facebook group for all those who attended the school on or around when I did. And then I invited the first 20 people that I could quickly recall, and asked each of them to reach out to sound the call that anyone and everyone we had matriculated with was welcome. I wondered if anyone would join, and if they would post anything. Seven hours later over 85% of our living classmates had joined. In that same time they posted more than 1000 messages to each other. People were sharing stories, catching up on lost time, and in great numbers, publicly apologizing for whatever their social slights and shortcomings were “back in the day”. Because it was a boarding school most of us are scattered across the country and globe, and many of us had lost touch decades ago. It ended up being like a large-scale group healing.

Suddenly, my quiet Sunday afternoon was a deluge of messages, recollections and intense emotions. Seemingly implicit in all of the exchanges was an innate need to reconnect with the intense and meaningful social connections that had helped define our teen years together.

As I watched this social experiment unfold it occurred to me how precious, and how rare, such communal connections can be in modern life. Who in this day and age feels like they have all of the deep friendships that they could want, or that they interact with their important friends as often as they’d like?

It also made me realize why I use this blog to write so regularly about the friendships that develop here at our brother-sister summer camp in NH. Having friendships that span decades doesn’t just make life more enjoyable: sometimes it is what makes life tolerable. Having deep friendships based on shared experiences like living together, accomplishing long-term goals, and supporting one another through the challenges of life is a key component of a happy life. That our campers find such a supportive and nurturing community at a young age – and that it so often remains a part of life decades after the end of adolescence – must be a major reason why so many of our campers, counselors, alumni and even camp parents are so passionately dedicated to our summer camp in NH. I know it’s true for me, for Scott, and for our entire Camp Leadership Team.

Whenever I get an email with a picture of a group of camp friends spending happy time together I want to say to them good that you are building this foundation now, and know that at some point you are going to be able to rely on these friends for support…and they will be there for you! There really is nothing like your camp friends.