New Camper Families’ FAQs answered by Alumni Parents

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When new families are figuring out if TVRC is the right fit for their campers, many questions naturally arise. Although the leadership team can answer these questions, we believe that no one is better equipped to answer than our existing parents. This is natural since they have dropped their campers off at camp numerous times and have heard the stories for months after pick-up. Therefore, we presented these questions to several camp parents and their answers eloquently gave us a glimpse into their camper’s personal experience at TVRC.

How would your camper describe their experience at TVRC?

Lela from NC: All 4 of my children have attended TVRC and in their words, (3 girls and I boy) “it is the greatest camp on earth.” The environment the camp creates is unlike any other. The sense of accomplishment from the trips, the support and encouragement from the staff, and the unparalleled fun at campfires and skits makes TVRC a special place.

Katrina from WY: My daughter would say that TVRC is the best thing that ever happened to her. She absolutely adores the program and loves everything about it. It was a life changing program for her I would say. My son attended this last summer for the first time. He had a great time. He loved it a lot and is looking forward to coming back.

Did your camper know any other campers attending TVRC their first year? Did they make new friends at camp?

Elizabeth from TX: My kids did not know anyone coming to camp. When my son started camp as an 11 year old, there was some trepidation because he was young. But I could see immediately on drop off day how amazing the staff were to pick up the ques that he was a bit unsure of himself. They brought him immediately to play frisbee with another boy the same age and literally in 15 minutes this boy was laughing with staff and new young campers. This made me feel comfortable because they knew how to treat the situation with a child who knew no one. Also, I will say when your camper brings someone along to camp who they know, they have constraints on growing in a certain way. I actually found it incredibly healthy for them not to have friends and there is a freeing aspect to that child to gravitate to whom they want for friends.

Lela from NC: None of my kids knew any other campers except their sibling or cousin. My oldest did not know a soul. She made a whole group of friends which she still keeps in touch with today. She was 11 and is now almost 18. The bonds made at camp are for life and the moments shared in the wilderness are extra special. Meeting kids from all over the country at TVRC is a gift. The camp makes all the campers feel welcome and does a great job creating a cohesive and inclusive cabin unit. Also the adventure groups are together for certain activities and campouts which creates another bond. The adventure group initiations are I think one of the most treasured TVRC traditions. The sense of pride my girls show when talking about their “Rough Ride” or “Top Hand Ceremony” are contagious.

Ranch Camp sounds rustic. Did your camper struggle adjusting to a more remote and rustic environment?

Elizabeth from TX: Absolutely, positively not! So much of the camp is outdoors. It is rustic in the sense that you are embraced in nature. But the cabins are clean and there are many ways to keep personal belongings organized. The bathrooms are fantastic. It is rustic in the sense that you don’t have every amenity available to you, but you don’t need every amenity available to you either. Bespoke rustic, beautifully rustic, clean rustic.

Was your camper homesick? Do you have any advice on how to make this better?

Katrina from WY: Neither of my campers were truly homesick, but when my daughter went to camp for a month the first time, she was a little homesick the first week. My husband and I decided we would not go to the weekly rodeos. We live in Jackson so it would be easy for us to make the trip to camp. However, we didn’t go and it was hard because we wanted to see her and say hi. But after that first week she was fine. When I spoke to her at the end of camp, she said she was grateful we didn’t come to camp because she thought that would have made it harder. I also knew if there was a problem with homesickness, the camp would call us and we would know about it.

In what ways did your child grow from their experience at TVRC? What change did you notice after the first year?

Katrina from WY: My daughter has changed a great deal. Her first summer was when she was 11. She was smart and wonderful and had lots of friends. However, she hadn’t come into her own and hadn’t found friends who she really connected with. Honestly, the friends she met at camp are still her “best friends”. She came out of camp with a greater sense of self and realizing she didn’t need to fit into whatever she was trying to fit into at home. She is much more confident and has learned wonderful skills. She has grown a lot and has turned into a better person after attending camp. I really couldn’t say enough about it. I think she survived Middle School because she went to TVRC.

Lela from NC: I think the sense of accomplishment and confidence are the biggest changes I saw after my girls attended camp. A love and respect for the outdoors is also something they now all share. A sense of belonging to a special place and special group of people makes them feel loved and accepted for who they are. The ability to share, work in a group and understand others even if there are differences are other qualities my children gained while at camp. The benefits of camp are incredible and I feel fortunate to have the ability to send my children to TVRC.

How did you know your camper was ready for camp?

Kitty from UT: With each child it was different. With our oldest and only boy, we knew he was ready because he was independent and excited for an adventure. With our oldest daughter, it was easy-she wanted to do whatever her brother had done just earlier! She was on the younger side of her year/grade but she was ready for her Yearling year. And with our youngest daughter, she started at the same age as her sister, but the season was cut short and she started over as a Yearling the next season. As a result, she is on the slightly older side of her adventure year. Before going to Camp, our kids had traveled for their sport independently and had experiences with shorter overnight camps (between 3-7 days). We also have a tremendous amount of confidence that TVRC is age-appropriate at every level. We knew our kids, starting at Yearling year, would be guided in a way that would make camp fun and exciting.

What was it like to drop your 11 year old camper off at camp for the first time? Do you have any tips to make this better?

Elizabeth from TX: It is jarring in some ways to drop your camper off for the first time in a new place. And it isn’t for a week, it is for a month which is a lot of time. But at the same time I had a really good feeling about the staff. So many people admire the high quality staff and the extensive training programs TVRC provides. I can speak to this since I have two older campers who are now staff members and have gone through the training program. They were among people who really cared and knew what to do. My advice is to “Let it Go!” It is fantastic and a wonderful gift.

What one piece of advice would you offer to a new camp family with a son/daughter that they are planning to send to camp for the first time?

Kitty from UT: It is the biggest gift you can offer your children! Upon reflection, our kids will say that the time to unplug (be off phones, social media, out of the pressure of school) is so enjoyable in part because everyone is present and engaged in the community without distraction. As parents, there is nothing better than picking up your child at the end of a season and seeing them walk up to you in jeans, boots, a western shirt, and dusty with a huge smile on their face that captures a sense of accomplishment and pride for a summer experience that is solely their own. As parents, you do feel connected! You can see photos daily, read a blog update, send email letters (one way) and Camp can scan the camper’s letters so that you are not waiting a week to receive a reply. It is important to know that your camper will experience a world that is unique to them: they will hike areas of Wyoming that we have not been to, ride trails we will not know, and have friends who we might not see except for a few hours at pick up. However, that opportunity to be part of a summer community is enriching and fulfilling to them. My kids’ camp community extends beyond the 4 weeks of a season and they stay in touch all year.

Is a month too long to send my camper to camp?

Elizabeth from TX: I want to stress that the month period is extremely important and it should stay a four week program because there is an acclamation point to where these campers need to live this rustic and different life and learn to camp and learn to hike. There are exhausting days, but there is so much joy in their accomplishments. You need that time for a growth period. I don’t think you could accomplish a fraction of what you could in a 2 week program because there is so much that is built from one week to the next. These campers are incredibly strong people when they come through this program after a month.

What else would you have wanted to know about the TVRC experience prior to sending your camper to camp?

Kitty from UT: The first thing is the Life Long friends you meet at camp! Second, camp has a unique language (adventure groups, ceremonies, cabin names, guzzles, etc) and you might need your child to translate sometimes! Lastly, our kids experience amazing freedom in a season, but it is evident that the adults in the community are trained, coached, and prepped to be great guides, counselors, and teachers (now that we have a staff member we are learning the extent of the prep, safety training and work that goes into a summer).

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