Sleepaway camps are like small nations! There are tons of moving parts, an army of people at the ready, and things have to be firing on all cylinders to ensure smooth sailing and hundreds of happy campers. This Mother’s Day the Summer 365 team would like to appreciate and express much gratitude to the female directors, who have a huge hand in helping make all of this possible. These are the women in front of and behind the scenes who “adopt” hundreds of surrogate children each summer. Little do your campers know that camp directors seize every opportunity to teach their camp kids life lessons that will stick with them for life. From daily activities to roasting s’mores around the campfire, each second at camp is a teachable moment. We interviewed a four all star camp directors who shared their thoughts and feelings about the motherhood they experience during their summers. Meet Britton Bitterman!
What’s the best part of having hundreds of surrogate children?
The best part of having hundreds of surrogate children each summer is the opportunity to see how each child grows throughout the camp season. Camp is many different things to different people. It can be a place where one builds self-confidence and resilience, it’s a place where kids learn how to communicate with each other face-to-face, where they step outside their comfort zone, and reinvent themselves each summer. To watch children grow in that capacity, at their own pace and with their unique priorities, is really a gift.
What’s your proudest moment as a camp director?
My proudest moment as a camp director is watching a child overcome fears at camp and be able to “unpack” their emotional baggage to enjoy their summer experience. For so many kids, camp is an escape from the everyday craziness of normal life. To see kids unwind and become themselves at camp makes me believe in what I do as a camp director.
Share a time when camp has changed one of your “kids”?
I think this happens every summer to most kids! During the progression of camp, you always see kids walk a little taller, put themselves in situations that are new and different, and challenge themselves both physically and emotionally. There’s the new camper who is afraid to leave home and struggles with homesick, only a few days later is splashing and playing with friends at the lake, happy as a clam. There is the camper who switches camps because of a negative experience who flourishes in our warm and welcoming environment. There is the camper who returns year after year who stands up in front of the entire camp as a Color War general. There are just too many examples of a time when camp has “changed” one of my kids. It truly happens every day of every summer.
Any special lessons or stories you share with your “kids” during the summer?
I think the most powerful lesson I teach my campers (and staff) each summer is how camp is a safe place to make mistakes. Camp is a microcosm of reality but it isn’t the real world. We may say things or do things that are compromising to ourselves and others in that environment, however, camp is a safe place to learn those lessons and make ourselves better people. We teach our counselors that making mistakes and asking for help only makes us stronger. We offer a support to our campers and counselors that allows them to navigate through tough situations day in and day out.