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Just One Moment

Just like a typical day at camp, one day at virtual camp is filled with a thousand and one moments that collectively define an absolutely magical experience.

In the @home version, it’s the excitement of opening the morning message from our directors, seeing the antics of our volunteers in their daily instructional videos, and best of all, the nearly-real-life interaction with our campers on nightly Zoom events hosted by their counselors and directors.

And just like a typical day at camp, there tends to be one moment each day that stands out in my mind, staying with me long after the Zoom call ends. One of those moments was the opening LIT event for the boys in PA.

The LITs, or Leaders in Training, are our oldest campers. They participate in a 2-year program that starts after their sophomore year of high school and gradually applies increasing degrees of life lessons, character development, grief processing, and leadership goals.

Listening to the LITs and counselors reconnect on their Zoom hangout Tuesday night, what struck me most was how much they all care. How much the campers care about their role as leaders at camp. How seriously they take that responsibility and how thoughtfully they recognize their ability to positively impact the experience of other people around them. How much the counselors care about their kids. How proud they are of their growth, and how effectively they communicate what leadership looks like through their eyes.

When asked what the LIT program means to him, this comment from Jared, a 5th-year camper, opened the door for others to share as well.

“Camp gave me a chance to understand what it is to live life without feeling so much stress and anxiety all at one time. When I came to camp, I was in a dark place and very depressed. After coming out of camp, I was happy and motivated and inspired by how the community came together so well for each other when we need each other in dark times. Especially now.” 

Each camper shared his version of what it means to be an LIT. Each counselor then shared his sentiments.

Matt Liebhaber, a 4th-year counselor, explained his thoughts on leadership.

“There are different ways to be a leader. That’s what the LIT program means to me –  figuring out what kind of leader you are. It’s always better to be interestED than being interestING. Being a leader doesn’t always mean being vocal or being the loudest in the room. So much of being a leader is listening. I come back every year thinking I’m going to teach you guys something or I’m going to teach a bunch of young kids how to cope with grief. And I leave that week of Experience Camps realizing that I’ve learned more from you guys than you might have learned from me.”

Matt’s words, and the others that followed, will likely shape these young men’s lives. Their bonds, felt across zip codes, airwaves and time zones, will be what they remember the next time they feel alone in the world.

And in true ExCamps fashion, another day will bring another moment to hold onto. Next time, it will be the hilarity of a watermelon eating contest, the delight of a perfect 10 in the CalEx Runway show, or the absurdity of watching a counselor wiggle an Oreo from her forehead to her mouth without using hands. It’s the sum of all the parts that make it so good.