To put into words what Camp Swift means to me seems impossible but I’m going to try… 

Camp Swift is pure magic, and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it. It really is the happiest place on earth – sorry Disneyland. 

When I came to my first session as a counselor right after my sophomore year of high school, I had absolutely no idea what to expect or what I was getting myself into. I had heard of camp from so many people for so many years and knew it would be amazing. I’d watched my brother go off and come back exhausted yet exhilarated, and I was excited that I was finally old enough to be a counselor. Minutes into my first session, I knew I had found a new family and a new place to call home. I’m an awkward adult, but I was an even goofier teenager, and I noticed very quickly that Swift was a place where I could be me and it was not only accepted, it was celebrated. It was okay to paint my entire body orange and run around a cafeteria screaming about how much I love grilled cheese. It was normal to lose my voice from chanting about how hungry I was or how much spirit I had. It was cool to have random jumping and dancing parties in the middle of lunch while banging on tables and trash cans. Everyone is welcome. The weirder the better. 

The staff at camp are incredible. They come from all different types of backgrounds, and they all have one purpose and one main reason for being at camp: to give these kids the best week of their lives. From Gaga to art and hiking to more serious programs like Shaboogie and Flashlight Pass, what campers experience in five days has such a significant impact and they may not even realize it in the moment. The campers come into the session excited, maybe a little nervous or scared, and they leave crying because they do not want to go home. Five days. That is all it takes to change their lives. 

I’ve personally watched kids go from not knowing how to swim to swimming being their favorite activity at camp. I’ve seen kids not able to make it up the rock wall and then an entire room of people start chanting their name to cheer them on as they make it to the top and ring the bell with a huge smile on their faces. I’ve seen kids shaking with fear from the trust fall and then finally take the jump and trust their fellow campers. I’ve seen shy and anxious kids open up and come out of their shells, leaving camp with a whole new set of friends. I’ve seen campers turn into counselors and into support staff and into unit heads and into admin staff. This place really does change lives. It shows these kids they can be someone and they can do something with their lives. They can accomplish anything if they stay focused, determined, and set their minds to it. Many of them go on to become the first in their families to go to college. Camp Swift lets kids just be kids. It gives them a break from everything going on in the outside world to focus on having fun. It gives them a place to dream, to grow, and to challenge themselves. It is a place where we build people up who may have been pushed down a lot in their short lives. We show them that they have a place where they belong. 

This year was my 10th year being involved with camp, and I hope I come back every year in some capacity for the rest of my life because not being there just wouldn’t feel right. Over the years, I have watched people I’ve known since they were in elementary school grow up into amazing young adults and take on leadership roles at camp. I know for a fact they will go on to do impactful, meaningful things with their lives, even more so than they already have. I am so proud of each and every one of them. I am happy to call the Camp Swift community my family. Every year, everyone who has been at camp for 10 years gets a Swift backpack. I remember when I was younger, and I would watch my role models and the people I had looked up to my whole life get these backpacks and every year I thought about how excited I was for when it would finally be my turn. This year was my year, and it was truly an honor to accept a backpack. A backpack may seem like something insignificant to anyone who doesn’t understand the meaning behind it, but to me, it means the world and I will cherish it and wear it with pride. 

Not everyone knows the amount of time, blood, sweat, tears, effort, hard work, commitment, energy, and love that goes into making a session of camp run. The people involved behind the scenes are inspiring and they deserve all the respect and gratitude in the world for what they do. From staying up all night to make sure everything is ready for the next day, to planning fun and exciting programs to get the kids engaged, to schlep runs for supplies, to dealing with difficult situations with campers or counselors, and everything else in between, thank you for all that you do. And this doesn’t only mean for camp, but for all the year round activities and programming also. 

Again, I truly do not think you can put to words what Camp Swift is or what it means to the people involved. Camp cannot be described or explained. It’s something that is felt. And you can only feel it if you experience it. Thank you for changing my life, for helping to make me the person I am today, and for making me a better human all around. Swift Youth Foundation is an organization that always has been and always will be a huge part of who I am, and it holds an enormous piece of my heart. For over 40 years, Swift has been making an impact on the community and I know they will continue to do so for many more years to come. At camp, fun is just the start because it really is so much more, and it is not just a summer camp. With that I say, I love Camp Swift, yes I do, I love Camp Swift, how ’bout you? 

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