Camp Reflections

Our camp director looks back on Camp Millican 2021

For many of us, summer camp offers strongly-rooted memories of childhood. As children, our emotions range from excitement to dread with the arrival of summer camp. This is a wild, mysterious place where strangers, new experiences, endless sweating, and foreign songs await. As a former camper and counselor, and now as camp director, I have come away with a deep appreciation for what is truly experienced during these long summer days. This hit home especially hard in the wake of a Covid pandemic where human connections have become so much more important.

Camp is about being dirty, screaming loud, rolling through grass, tossing water balloons, and trekking through places kids wouldn’t normally get to go.

Camp can also be a place of firsts: new faces, painful homesickness, or even the simple act of climbing onto a horse. Children are conquering fears while building their confidence and their voices.

For counselors, camp is about moving sweaty children like a herd of yowling cats from one activity to another, ensuring the right numbers are grouped together, while searching for ant piles on the trail and carefully navigating around them. All the while singing Tongo at the top of their lungs and walking backwards.

Counselors eagerly throw themselves into being silly, loud, and excited about games they sometimes haven’t played in years, often sparking great conversations among themselves about their own childhood camp experiences. Some of these memories are shared with young campers and become part of the new camp.

This year, the Camp Duck (aka Mr. Puddles) made his first appearance. Mr. Puddles is a small rubber duck one of our counselors brings to all the camps where she has worked; he floats in puddles and encourages campers to enjoy wet, rainy days, shifting a negative event into a memorable celebration.

Children thrive in wild places they can safely explore, and this drives my decision-making as I structure our camp adventures. I have always been in love with the wild Texas back roads and working the land, and my specialty as a teacher is creating spaces for kids to explore. I have loved teaming up with Camp Millican families, campers, and our wonderful partners that share their time and passions with us. Each week has been a fresh adventure, as the new kids coming together affected how we collectively experienced camp.

For some of our sweet campers, this was their first major outing after the Covid shutdown and an opportunity to truly engage with their peers again while being active and safe. A favorite moment for me was at outdoor painting time when a camper was unsure about finger painting and seemed reserved. She expressed that she wasn’t allowed to do this at home and how messy it would be. With some encouragement she joyfully found that Camp Millican is designed to be messy. It is beautiful to watch these kids find places where all things can happen.

I want to thank my campers and counselors for a magical summer. I’ve been blessed to be a part of this Millican Reserve family and watch as kids grow here, where the wild can still be found.

Until next summer,

Arielle Owens

Camp Director

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