May 15, 2023 | By: Jennifer Stitt in For Love of the Game
My Camp Journey: Reflections From the Camp Owner While Preparing for the Upcoming Summer
Remember those kids who never wanted to leave camp? The ones who lived for summer, counted down the days until June, and were inconsolable as soon as Labour Day rolled around? You may have known those kids growing up, or may have been that kid yourself. Odds are you may even be raising one of those kids today.
I was definitely one of those kids as soon as I discovered baseball camp.
Truth be told, I hated my first forays at summer camp. I tried the generic day camps that most of the kids in my neighbourhood went to, and I hated every single one of them. I was shy, and I just never felt like I fit in. The counsellors didn’t really care, and I could feel it. Then I discovered baseball camp at age 10, and my life changed forever.
Baseball camp was my safe space, and it was my happy place. I’ve always been athletic and always enjoyed running around in the fresh air, so being trapped inside a school or community centre in the summer was never my idea of a good time. I lived for that baseball camp for four years until it sadly closed down, and the second I had the opportunity to work at its successor, a multi-sports camp, and give back, I jumped in with both feet.
As a teenager I started my career in camps, supporting children with special needs at City of Vaughan day camps, and then became a baseball specialist at a multisport camp the summer that I turned 16. Even though I love to play, joke around, and have a good time, I always focused on taking the work very seriously. I remembered from my own experiences early on that camp could be really difficult for some kids.
As a teenager in my first camp staff job, I committed fully to making the camp experience as much fun as possible for EVERY kid, not just the ones who were the baseball stars. Even though I had no problem making friends on the baseball diamond, I had my own anxieties, and I knew what some of those kids were going through. I wanted every parent to make sure that from the second that car door opened, their kids were in the best hands. It’s an honour to be entrusted with someone’s children, and never a duty that I’ve taken lightly, even at the young age of 16.
I grew in those camp roles until, at age 21, I was ready to start and run my own camp. I knew that I wanted to make my camp different from the generic ones that I hated when I was younger, and instead give the kids a safe space where they could make like minded friends without scorn or judgement. I wanted to create a place where they knew that the counsellors and staff cared about them, and cared about their wellbeing. And of course, I wanted to bring back a new, exciting version of that baseball camp that changed my life.
That was always my goal. I wanted kids and their parents alike to know that the second they got out of the car until the second they got home, they were being looked after by a team who sincerely wanted them to learn, explore, be active, and have fun. Summer camp is all about making memories, and I’m grateful to have helped create some of those memories over the last 13 years with Field of Dreams.
The results speak for themselves. Parents regularly tell me that their children were miserable at every other camp they tried until they found FOD. Staff keep coming back over and over, year after year because they tell me how good it feels to give children the same experience they had as campers here.
Most importantly though, the kids themselves pull me aside all the time and tell me how good it feels to be at FOD. They understand how important it is for them to have a respite, and a place where they don’t have to worry about harassment or bullying from classmates. They can just be themselves, and make friends by being exactly who they are. It means more to me than they could ever imagine.
Today I’m a proud mom myself, and even though my little guy is still too small for day camps, I have a whole new appreciation for how hard it must be for parents to drop their kids off in someone else’s care for the day. My life’s goal is to keep creating camp environments throughout the year that parents are grateful to have, and where kids are excited to take part.
They say that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I am lucky enough to have that feeling every single day.