Hello, my name is Emma Graham. I am originally from Glasgow in Scotland (UK) and was a counselor at Camp Sunnyside for five years. I have a younger sibling with special needs. It was my experiences with her that spurred me on to challenge myself further and see what else I could contribute to others.
My camp journey began back in 2011, when I decided I needed a new challenge. Little did I know that this journey would go on to change my life and still has an impact to this day. During counselor orientation that week I knew that this was going to be an amazing summer and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be back for another four summers after that! At the end of our intense but fun training week, we took time to reflect on our personal journey and wrote a letter to our future self. I still have this letter, as the words contained within it along with the experiences, friends and campers that I met, transformed my life for the better.
Summer camp is one of the most influential opportunities I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I have meet some of the most amazing friends from all over the world that despite the distance, I try to keep in contact with. Summer camp is like no other job you will ever have as it never feels like a job. Sure, there are times that it can be difficult and challenging but as a team, community, even a family, we all help and support each other through it all. The sense of achievement and satisfaction you get after an amazing summer season is over is something that you can never fully explain to those who have never had the experience.
At the heart of everything that we do is the campers! Camp Sunnyside’s motto is ‘Camp is for campers’ and that is something that I took great pleasure in doing. Every late night when I was planning the most extravagant games, scavenger hunts or banquets was all for the campers. Watching the campers having the best time of their lives and making memories that will last a lifetime, is what kept me coming back summer after summer.
I learned so much from camp and the campers than I have in any other job. It inspired me so much that I decided to do exactly what I wrote in my letter to myself back in 2011. I decided to return to education seven years after leaving secondary school. I enrolled in a specialized degree that looked at adapting sports and making it more accessible to everyone despite their disability. My independent study to receive honours was even conducted at camp, due to the impact that it has had on me as a person. After receiving first class honours in Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport (BSC), I now find myself trying to find a job that comes even close to that of my experiences at Camp Sunnyside.
It is never too late to discover what camp is all about, and I encourage anyone thinking about what to do this summer to consider working at summer camp or better still respite for year-round experiences. Camp Sunnyside will always hold a special place in my heart and I cannot wait until the next time I can return home!
General Counselor (2011), Day Camp Manager (2013-14), Program Assistant (2015-16)