Over the upcoming weeks, we will be hearing from former Camp Rising Sun counselors about what they valued most in their program areas and how donations made these opportunities possible. We hope this blog series will give our alumni and friends a better understanding of how the donations we receive throughout the year directly impact the experience of campers during the summer.
This week, we hear from Sonia Wargacka (‘10, ‘16, ‘17) who worked as our Project Counselor for the past two summers. Originally a camper from Poland, Sonia reflects on the lessons learned through projects not only as a camper but as a counselor as well.
When I was 15 and I went to Camp Rising Sun as a representative of Poland, I never thought that my adventure with do it yourself (DIY) projects would begin there by building a bridge. Don't get me wrong - I always knew CRS was an amazing experience - but when my counselors told me the sky was the limit, I thought they meant it in terms of everything except physical labour and construction. So when some of my fellow campers said, "can we build a bridge that would allow us to explore more of camp's property behind the lake and the canal?" I looked at them in a "where did you take that idea from?" way, just like my parents and teachers would have looked at me at home if I had such an idea. However, Meera, my Project Counselor, along with Cameron, our Facilities Manager, looked at those camp friends of mine and said: "yes, let's do it!"
It was a big thing for a 15-year old me, because nowhere else in the world have I seen a bunch of teenage girls building a proper, walkable bridge. That was in 2010 and today, 7 years later, our bridge still remains on the Clinton property.
This was just one summer and one example of how much can be achieved with our program budgets, which are made possible through donations.
In 2016, I joined the CRS staff team as a Project Counselor. Throughout one summer season, we built new things, upgraded the old ones and maintained a big chunk of camp property. In one summer we completely renovated the Drama Cabin and put in a new floor to turn it into a dance studio; we renovated the dock, changed the look of the art cabin, cleaned up the old sauna, and created another country sign pole. I returned to Camp in 2017 in the same position and even more projects happened: a time capsule, see-saw, outdoor gym, gaga ball pit, indoor gym stage beautification, etc... the projects I can name are too many to list!
I am extremely proud to say that in the era of smartphones and WiFi addiction, a vast majority of CRS campers can now not only manage technology and launch their own initiatives but also be the real physical change their communities often need. There is a lot to say about empowerment when we talk about hammers, table saws, construction, and painting. Enabling all of our campers to make projects happen and be the change they want to see first at Camp, and then in the world, is for me one of the most important elements of Camp Rising Sun. And I still remember faces of parents thanking me for introducing their kids to the world of DIY, when our campers show them around Camp pointing out at things they participated in.
One of the most remarkable things this summer when it comes to our use of budget was a lean-to project (see the video below). There was a clear need of replacing some of the old tents, and with money given to the project budget we decided to give our campers the opportunity to create a long-lasting legacy on camp. Instead of setting up tents now, they can build a small hut for future generations of campers to live in during their time at CRS. Both girls and boys got heavily involved in the planning, preparation and construction process, and I am so happy to see how much they have learned.
Overall, besides having a fantastic time at Camp Rising Sun as a counselor, I also felt very proud to offer my project management skills to campers in 2016 and 2017. I hope these DIY adventures will be something they will remember as one of their best memories of Camp, and the skills gained will be useful for them in the future.
We leave you with this video, which was created as a 2017 project by a group of campers who wished to document and inform the alumni community about their hope for future campers to continue the lean-to project in future seasons.