By Tom Paugh, VI Form
The Bastion of Childhood: Belknap Camp
Attending summer camp on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee has been a consistent source of joy in my life. Just as King Arthur relied on Camelot to protect him from forces of evil, I have had Camp Belknap a bastion that protected my childhood development from the judgments and cruelties of the greater world. At times, camp feels to be surrounded by a force field that prohibits all malice from the outside world from invading camp. Camp has provided me with a supportive environment and the ability to grow up in a safe environment, as I have spent nearly half of my life under the pines. During my time at my Camelot, I have transitioned from camper to a member of the leadership, learning incredibly powerful lessons that transcend daily athletic and creative activities.
I arrived at Belknap for the first time in June of 2011. That year, I was placed in Cadets, the youngest of 5 progressing divisions at camp. Each division has a mission that fits under Belknap’s larger goal of making good boys into fine young men. The Cadet Division’s mission is to give boys a space to develop their sportsmanship, love for the outdoors, and independence. This mission sounds dubious, but I can attest that without camp, I would not be the person that I am today. Daily activities at camp instilled a joy and excitement for self-discovery and play while the unstructured schedule allowed me to begin to make independent choices from a young age. Aside from the individual skills and qualities that I have learned during my summers, Belknap has also been an environment that I have been able to rely on during tumultuous times during the school year. Camp has been a continuity–the same people return each year, the same activities are available, and the leadership has a low turnover rate, allowing me to form relationships with my leaders. Because camp breeds integrity and kindness in its boys, I have made friends who have consistently supported me during tough times. The physical landscape of camp is also timeless: the idyllic green cabins full of campers have remained the same since the 1970’s. Although the camp is evolving to compensate for the changing global landscape, it remains an anchor for me and so many more boys looking to enrich their summers with fun and fellowship.
Now that I am a part of the leadership, I get to contribute to maintaining my constant and ensuring its availability for other boys. Being on the leadership gives me the opportunity to give back to the place that has given innumerable things to me. I can make an impact on the lives of young boys through daily activities and help them grow and mature into young men. The longer I work at camp, the more time I can strengthen the bonds of fellowship with my best friends. My friends from camp will eventually become my constant when I can no longer return to camp in the future. Although I will not always be able to attend camp, I will have permanent friendships that formed because of camp. I currently see my camp friends quite often during the school year, traveling all across the East Coast to keep the bonds of brotherhood strong. These friendships will become my constant in my post-camp years. Camp will then not just be a place, but a spirit that remains within my heart forever.
Over the past 100 years, Belknap has provided a haven for boys seeking to enjoy the outdoors. From its conception, the camp was an institution founded to develop boys into kind, and honest men. Camp itself is a constant. Summer camp has innumerable benefits on young people, giving them an anchor in a now rapidly changing world. King Arthur and I share a constant stronghold of safety in our lives, one that we both call Camelot.
Tom Paugh is a VI Form boarding student from Wayland, MA. He enjoys to have fun and spend time with his friends.