The Blog of the West Wind

The Blog of the West Wind

Care Packages

Saturday, November 17, 2007/by Chuck Mills/Go Back

Here's what we see: packages of all sizes coming to camp every day with toys and games, novelty items and accessories, tee-shirts and comics. Most days there is a table full of packages in the office. Regardless of our request for families not to send food and candy, many still do, sometimes going to great lengths to hide and smuggle contraband - bags of candy taped inside tee-shirts, stuffed inside teddy bears, etc. For years, we have required that the boys come to the office during their rest hour and open packages with a counselor to review the contents and confiscate food and candy. Their time in the office opening packages in the office is time away from their cabin mates and counselors.

We have been known to call parents who see smuggling candy as humorous to remind them of our rationale: we live in the woods and foodstuff attracts animals to the cabins - we've seen it happen! Fairness becomes an issue when some kids have candy and some do not: who will share with whom and why? Finally, sending candy in disregard for the rules sets up a confusing double standard for kids caught in the middle - though we have always been careful not to hold the boys responsible when we discover the hidden foodstuff, they are more often than not uncomfortably embarrassed by a package containing contraband. We believe, as you do, in clear and consistent messages in our role as caregivers. Though parents are already giving the boys a great gift of four, or eight weeks at Kabeyun, there is still a felt need in some to shower them in their absence with tokens of... I don't know what. Toys and games we find in the trash, or broken and scattered on the cabin floor; books lie unread; comics and toys become objects of contention - Who can use it next? You broke my toy! I said he could use it, not you.

Kabeyun takes great pride in providing the boys with excellent equipment - "toys" like white water kayaks, ropes course elements, tennis courts, bows and arrows, pottery wheels. This is where we all want their attention, not on the distractions of toys and games and other diversions they have access to during the rest of their year. I say "all" because I am including you, the parents. You have made a thoughtful choice in sending him to Kabeyun and know the value of the experience, the care we take in planning and designing a summer experience that gives them opportunities to step out of familiar territory, to learn about themselves in social situations and in challenging activities - they have the opportunity to do things that are different from all they have exposure to during the rest of the year. You like this and respect it; so do they. We work hard to minimize distractions: no access to computers, CD players and all electronics left at home, money left at home, no superfluous food and candy. We have maintained a commitment to limiting our session offerings and not bending to recent trends toward shorter sessions, assuring them of a stable camp community.

Without these distractions the boys are all on the same footing, all with access to the same program and amenities, regardless of their age, or background. They are not concerned with who has candy and who doesn't; you have money, and I don't; he can use my new toy, but you can't. We feed them well, including a fruit bowl available between meals and in the evenings. We equip them well for learning skills in boating, tennis and archery; creating projects in clay, leather and wood. We will refuse delivery for any package that arrives - anything larger than a regular letter or greeting card envelope.

Two exceptions will be made: Medical needs should be sent directly to the camp nurse or the director. We will also make exception for birthdays, still asking that you refrain from sending food or candy. If there is something you feel he absolutely needs, you can call us and arrange for a package to be sent to us in the office.

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