Written by: Betsy Clayton, Ocean Park Lifer,
Why summer camp? Why Ocean Park? What makes Ocean Park unique enough to spend 28 summers at the same place? That’s easy…the community created at Ocean Park is like no other community I’ve ever been a part of.
My first year at summer camp at Ocean Park was when I was 9. Back then, that was the 2nd year you could go. Looking back, I have no idea how I got there. I mean, I know my friend Arielle’s dad took me in their van, but I don’t remember ever saying that I wanted to go…or even being asked. But there I was, at Ocean Park.
A little background on me…I’m actually really shy and a big time homebody. I didn’t go to many sleepovers and wasn’t away from home a lot. So going away for a week was WAY out of my comfort zone. But you know what? I have NEVER been homesick while at Ocean Park. I never missed home or my family. I love them, but I didn’t miss them.
My first year at camp, I knew two other girls, but that was really it. I must have had a great time though, because I have continued to go back every summer.
When I reflect back on what makes Ocean Park unique, I know it’s the feeling that I have when I’m there. Yes it’s beautiful and the ocean is vast and beautiful, but I don’t go for that. Truth be told, I prefer my beaches warm and sunny. J As a kid, teen, and young adult, Ocean Park Camp was the place where I felt I was most like myself. A place where I felt that I was accepted just as I was. As an adult, I’ve been able to transfer that into my “real world”, but as a teen, it wasn’t that way. I was shy and self-conscious. I had friends at school, but no real deep connections outside of my church/camp friends. But at Ocean Park, I felt freer to be myself. I created friendships that we’re so special. It didn’t matter if we only saw each other once a year for a week (This was pre email, cell phones, social media, etc.)…those were “my people”. I knew my “camp friends” loved me no matter what. We could be silly or serious or both. And although I don’t see my camp friends as much as I’d like (or ever in some cases…except on social media), I feel like there’s a special bond that isn’t dependent on time or distance.
That’s what makes Ocean Park special. The people. The community that comes together in that beautiful place and creates a space where kids can be themselves. I’ve experienced this for myself and seen it in my campers as well.
Ocean Park Camp is one of my “places”. I believe everyone should have at least one place where they can be themselves and are filled up. You never know, Ocean Park Camp and Retreat Center may be that special place for you.
I mentioned to my mom a few years ago that I don’t ever remember being asked if I wanted to go to camp. She said she couldn’t remember asking me either. She said as a kid, she had always wanted to go to camp (Twinlow was the camp nearest her), but her family could never afford it. She was also so sad when kids came back from camp and talked about how great it was. She thinks that that’s why she just sent me to camp…because she was never able to go herself. I’m SO thankful that she did.