Ocean Park: Camp Family

by Monyka Thompson

Making friends and having a place where I felt like I belonged hasn’t always come easily
for me. The “outside world” isn’t perfect, and I wasn’t always accepted for who I was. But that’s
okay, because I have that one place, that one week out of the whole year that I get to step back
from the chaos and mess that the world may bring. At Ocean Park I am able to be who I really
am, open my eyes to see new things, learn more about my faith, and know that I belong,
because camp is that safe place for me, it’s my home away from home, and my second family.
I’ve gone to camp at Ocean Park since I was in first grade, and over the years I’ve met
some of my closest friends there. Although I’ve enjoyed every year at camp, the moments that I
will always hold onto most are those from Sr. High camp. My mom has been the camp nurse at
Sr. High camp for awhile now and brought me along the summer of my freshman year. That
year I was probably the most worried and nervous that I had ever been since going to camp. I
was worried about was not fitting in, not seeing my friends from previous years at camp, and
whether the staff at the camp would like me or not. By the end of the first day, my worries and
nervousness were gone and I realized that the next three years of camp were going to be the
best weeks of my summer.
Having just graduated high school, this year was my last as a camper and that hit me
hard when it came down to the last few days of camp. I remembered that first day at Sr. High
camp four years ago. At the time I never knew that a bunch of people I had never met before
could make such a big impact on my life, and that after one week could turn into best friends,
mentors, and even the family that I had never expected to be part of.
Being able to go to Sr. High camp for the last four years has been the best part of my
summer. During the school year I would always ask when camp was and how many days until
camp. On the last day of camp this summer, after all the other campers were gone I walked into
the Rec Hall (aka Sand Castle) where we do rallies and small group activities and it hit me that
this was my last time walking into this building as a camper, which made me cry.
Who I am today, and who I was three years ago are two totally different people and I
have camp to thank for that. Camp allowed me to open my eyes to see new things, and taught
me that there is such a place of belonging for me. Having this be my last year as a camper, this
chapter of my story has come to a close. From what I have experienced at camp I know for a
fact that part of my next chapter will include some form of helping to inspire others to be who
they want to be and see that there is a place in this world that isn’t all jumbled up and messy.
For those of you that still have that extra time as a camper I urge you to make those years
great, because camp is the best place to find out who you truly are and who you want to be.
My camp friends will always be my family, no matter how far apart each of us may live, we will
always be connected in some shape or form through God and the community we built at camp.
Whether it’s written letters to each other or even funny messages on social media we are
always connected through the wonderful love of God. This year I told to my camp family that
“this isn’t goodbye, this is simply see you later” because we will cross paths again. One of my
favorite quotes is “DNA doesn’t make a family, love does” which is from the TV show “The
Fosters“. It always reminds me of camp. The best part about being a family is that we don’t
always have to be connected by DNA to be part of something amazing, and as long as we have
love nothing can come between us.