Deborah Buckwalter, mother of longtime Chippewa contributor Dr. Tina Bryson, and grandmother to three of our longtime campers, got the opportunity to visit the shores of Cass Lake during staff orientation. She wanted to share her thoughts on the value of camps like Chippewa so without further adieu here’s Deborah’s article on Grandkids and Camp.

I recently returned from visiting Camp Chippewa, the boys’ camp tree of my grandsons attend every summer. I was already impressed because I had been hearing camp stories, receiving letters from camp, and seeing pictures over the years. And most impressive over time was the positive impact these camp experiences had on my grandkids’ lives. I had the opportunity this year to accompany my daughter, Dr. Tina Bryson, co-author of The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline. As has become the custom, she spends several days before camp training the camp counselors about kids’ developing brains and how to connect and care for them in the most effective ways. It was a gift to see and experience the beautiful camp for myself. Mike & Mary Endres and J.P. & Cammy Endres couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, and generous with their time and friendship.

My grandsons travel all the way from the Los Angeles area to the north woods of Minnesota to go to Camp Chippewa. A long way? Yes. But even the next town over can feel a world away when our kids and grandkids are leaving the security of home. The first time this far away camp was under consideration for my now 17-year-old grand-boy, Ben, was the hardest for his parents and grandparents. So many unknowns. Would he be safe? Would he be TOO homesick? Would he be comfortable enough in his bunk and trying new activities for the first time? Would he like the food? What about mosquitos?

It helped that Ben’s dad knew the Camp Chippewa director at the time. So, Ben did go off to camp as all the adults in his family took a deep breath and placed hope in the assurances that he would be OK–and he would probably thrive. And he did thrive. He did get homesick, but he worked through it and felt proud that he did. And now this summer–many moons later, Ben is participating in training to be a camp counselor. His two younger brothers, Luke and J.P., now join Ben each summer. They have developed relationships with counselors, staff, and other boys, and they consider Camp Chippewa a home away from home. The boys leave soon and they couldn’t be more excited!

Camp Chippewa makes a noticeable difference in our grandsons’ lives. It’s a place in the north woods of Minnesota on Cass Lake where they are away from their usual city routine and devices and any semblance of summertime boredom. They come home more centered, more self-assured, knowing they can face fears and do hard things, and have support while doing so. They come home knowing better how to interact with others, be good friends, show respect, and both offer and accept a helping hand when needed. They come back with deep regard for nature in all its beauty, in its unpredictability (that mandates preparedness), and its ability to ground and center them.

Camp Chippewa is an outstanding boys’ camp, and there are many others throughout the United States for both boys and girls. No doubt sleep-away camp is an investment. It’s not inexpensive for kids to go to camp. There are significant costs for places like Camp Chippewa to buy, build, and maintain their rustic, yet beautiful facilities, hire administrators and staff (including counselors, kitchen staff, and others); to purchase boats, ping-pong tables, fishing gear, climbing and camping gear, and other equipment for the many outstanding activities. And also to purchase food to feed hungry young people!

Grandparents, consider giving your grandchildren the gift of camp. It’s an investment that is every bit as important as our grandchildren’s academic education in preparing them to be successful in life. So, if you’re wondering what to give that grandchild for birthdays, the holidays, or other special occasions, give them a week, a month, or a whole summer away at camp! Or if your own grandkids have already outgrown camp, consider investing in the lives of other girls and boys–it’s an investment in raising wholesome citizens of our communities.