Ode to ol’ Camp Foster: campers explain why there is no place like home

anniesoener

Camp FosterAfter trekking on less-than-scenic highways for what seems like a lifetime, a bumpy gravel road appears and suddenly the three- and-a-half hour drive doesn’t seem so long anymore. After passing the infamous yellow Camp Foster sign in the middle of Iowa, the log cabins start to appear.

Campers of all ages hobble to the check-in line armed with sleeping bags and suitcases. A universal feeling of both anxiety and excitement hangs in the air. When arriving at the cabin inhabited by two counselors and a mixture of friends and strangers, campers realize that this is their new home for a week. The counselors confiscate cell phones right off the bat. The thought of being totally detached from the outside world for a week seems impossible at first. What am I going to do if I can’t text my friends? How will people know I’m having fun if I don’t tweet about it? What offensive thing did Donald Trump say this time that blew up the news?

As the week goes on, these thoughts become secondary. The little device that seemed impossible to live without a few days ago is suddenly forgotten. Home means living in a simple log cabin without air condi- tioning. Lord knows the last time campers and counselors alike show- ered. It’s not uncommon to eat 40 chicken nuggets at lunch and feel no shame, because that’s how camp is. Everything that is socially unaccept- able in the “real” world is welcomed with open arms at ol’ Camp Foster.

Senior Tessa McLaughlin, who attended seven summers, compared Camp Foster to Field Day. It is beyond explanation unless experienced firsthand. In fact, Camp Foster draws various parallels with Marian, McLaughlin said. The main connection is the universally accepting community.

“Camp is a week every year I go into knowing I can be the real me, not the person I think people want me to be. For that reason I will always hold camp close to my heart,” junior Sydney Monahan said.

The friendships made at Camp Fos- ter do not disappear when the week
is over. Senior Elle Putnam said she feels lucky to have met her best friend at camp, which is an opportunity she would not have been given had it not been for Foster.

“What makes Camp Foster so spe- cial is the sense of community everyone experiences from having gone to camp. Everyone is in their truest, most pure form when at camp. You get to see a side of people that is not always visible
outside of that campground in Okoboji,” Putnam said.

Freshman Ava Bettger still keeps in touch with her camp friends in Iowa and Kansas. Bettger added that her experience at Marian reminded her of being at camp.

“Last year I went to Mini Surprise Night. When it was time for dinner, we all went into the Marian cafeteria and stood on the benches of the table and started to sing songs. We sing songs at EVERY meal at the top of our lungs at camp. We always sing the L.O.V.E. song from ‘The Parent Trap’ too, and that moment at Mini Surprise Night made me happy because I felt like a little part of camp was with me,” Bettger said.

To paint a picture for those who haven’t experienced the magic of camp, it is pretty much like the movies. The lake is murky and green, but carefree campers are unphased as they paddle along on kayaks and canoes. Any Camp Foster alum knows that when “Sandstorm” comes on at a dance party, grab the nearest wall. Screaming and chanting nearly every sentence is standard at camp, which may look like a cult activity to outsiders. That’s what outsiders say of Marian Field Day, too!

Bettger said that camp inspires her to test her limits. Pulling pranks with her cabin mates is just one example. Bettger recalls sneaking into the Dining Hall and replacing the tables with canoes from the waterfront.

A popular question campers are used to hearing is, “Aren’t you a little too old for camp?”

“If someone told me I was too old for camp, I would probably just tell them that if they could act like a child again for a week, I bet they would take up that offer,” Monahan said.

That’s what camp does. It builds character. The harsh reality of the real world is imminent, but the little piece of the simpleness that is camp stays with everyone who has been to Foster.

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