This guest post was written by Alli Lowenstein Cahill, who grew up at Pine Forest and returned last summer as the Intermediate Girls Division Leader. During the year, Alli works as a teacher in New Jersey.
I think that camp is one of the biggest gifts in life. When I think of how Pine Forest has shaped me and how it has impacted me, I think about the past, present and future. I am extremely proud to call myself an “old timer.” I have spent thirteen incredible years at Pine Forest. From being a camper in bunk Fern all the way up to Cliff as a waitress, to a counselor and member of the athletic staff, to having the awesome responsibility of caring for the Intermediate girls this past summer, every next year brings more joy.
When I think of past summers I remember the sounds of Purple Haze, campfires with Aunt Blanch, biking to NY, Sing in Hughie Hall, inter-camp competitions, the Friendship Tree, the long walks up to Lauri Field, pizza burgers and candy at canteen, Sparky in the kitchen, loud chants in the dining hall, and so much more. Camp helped shape my character by showing me the real meaning of friendship and community. There is a reason why we cry so much on the last few days. It’s because Pine Forest Camp is and always will be our home away from home. When I was going through the normal growing pains that every child experiences, I remember the way that camp always made me feel, so safe and comfortable. It taught me how to be adventurous and to try new things. It taught me cooperation, sportsmanship, and how to play fair. It taught me compassion and understanding, acceptance and tolerance. It taught me leadership skills. It taught me vulnerability and how to handle it. It taught me the real meaning of laughing out loud. Camp is a truly a gift.
I always dreamed of becoming a teacher and having summer off so one day I could go back to Pine Forest and bring my own children with me. That dream came true this past summer when I became a member of key staff, Intermediate Girls Division Leader. It is definitely one of the most rewarding roles I have ever had at Pine Forest. The Black family is near and dear to my heart and I would not want to work for anyone else. They are so special. The campers, counselors, and staff members are nothing less than magnificent. I actually got to scream “shorts and longs today girls” instead of hiding underneath my covers. Every day brought new adventures with my campers and counselors, and I cherished every minute. I had so much fun planning the night activities for the Inter girls. I love the traditional ones such as The Mostest, Statues, Bunk Feud, and Counselor Hunt, but I also started adding some new ones like World’s Greatest and Cupcake Wars. It was an amazing summer and I look forward to so many more. There is no better honor and privilege more rewarding than being able to impact the life of a child. Camp is truly a gift.
When I think about the future for my daughter Alexandra, I think about how lucky she is to be able to spend her summers at Pine Forest. The campers, counselors, and staff members have opened their arms to her. She thinks that Mickey and Lee are superheroes in a way that little kids see their teachers out of school. It is magical. She will create friendships that will last a lifetime. I did. I long for camp days. Camp is truly a gift.