My name is Javon and I am a proud Experience Camps volunteer. I started working at Camp Manitou in 2012. I enjoyed camp a lot, and being a counselor was second nature to me, probably because I got to do a lot of the things I loved to do as a kid. I also grew up with a lot of nieces and nephews who were only a few years younger than me. Because I was a little older than them I had to uphold the image of being cool while also being a role model, just like a camp counselor.
After hearing about Experience Camps during my time at Camp Manitou, I decided I wanted to become a volunteer. In 2014, I drove to California from Las Vegas to volunteer at the California program (CalEx). After only a few days as a CalEx volunteer, my perception of being a good counselor shifted from, ‘you have to have a lot of fun’ to ‘you must create meaningful experiences, and have a lot of fun while doing it.’ Volunteering went from something I wanted to do, to something I had to do. The campers were my why.
Unfortunately, as I fully immersed myself in adulting, I wasn’t able to return to ExCamps until 2017 when I volunteered at PennEx. And, I haven’t missed a year since. The short version of why I come back to camp is ‘to create meaningful experiences all while having a lot of fun’.
Over the course of the past three years, a really awesome clinician has consistently helped me realize that there may be other reasons why I come back every year. Just like all the kids that come to ExCamps, as well as most of the volunteers, I lost a loved one at a young age. My dad died when I was 16. I wasn’t able to say that out loud in a group of people until I was 24, when I was sitting in front of a group of campers at Experience Camps. That moment was a meaningful experience that camp created for me.
That’s when I realized how important Experience Camps is.
(Sidenote: I do not like sharing so this moment was huge for me.)
Yet again my reason for coming back changed. I had gained a new perspective on my loss, and further realized what it means to show up for kids who are grieving
I am forever grateful for Experience Camps.
Applications for 2020 volunteers are now open. Click here to apply.