The camp experience at Runoia is profound in many ways – spawning independence, building self-esteem, learning new activities, developing skills in sports and so on. One of the rarely touted benefits of sleepaway camp is practicing and enjoying handwritten notes.
I grew up in the 1960s and the thank you note was a required skill. One year on my birthday my grandmother sent me a paper back about Helen Keller and an unsigned check for $5. To deposit the check in my savings account, I had to write her a thank you letter for the book and the check and enclose the check so she would sign it and return it. This all happened at the speed of molasses in January, but, eventually it happened. Thank-you letters were a must in my family. The skill has been passed onto my daughter and she expects her three girls to write thank you notes. I’m always amazed at the care and thought they put into those notes.
Back in the day at camp, campers were required to write on the back of a paper newsletter every week. Counselors made sure those newsletters were written, put in a “SASE” (self-addressed stamped envelope) and sent home. We were pretty sure this happened at the speed of the Pony Express because it was at least 5-6 days before parents received those newsletters in their mail box.
Still, to this day, letters received and sent at camp are a joy. Campers pin their notes from their family and friends on their bedroom wall and parents save many notes, especially the ones with the circled tear “this is my tear as I miss you so much”. And the letter would go on to talk about different scenarios around camp, what she accomplished, personalities of friends, something funny or gross (most likely a clogged toilet that overflowed) that happened at camp.
Unplugging and face to face contact is only part of the side-benefit to camp. Campers soon realize you have to write letters to get letters. We encourage parents to send a note to their daughter before camp even starts so she has mail on her first day at camp. Campers immediately write home. Campers send a flurry of letters to their friends at camp and at home and wait in anticipation for a letter like a slow-motion volley in tennis. Although penmanship doesn’t matter, campers are practicing writing through camp letters. A bonus is the hand drawn sketch of roommates, the camp dogs, a horse or sailboat. Camp seeps into the letters and tells its own story.
The art of letter writing lives on through camp. Be on the lookout for a hand written thank you note and a bevy of camp letters in your MAIL box this summer.