Why We Use Camp Names
It is plain to see that Pine Cove has some pretty wacky traditions. What would camp be without the Spirit Stick, count-ems, Christmas in July, and theme nights? Allow me to answer: boring. But my personal favorite tradition, and one that is quite specific to Pine Cove, is our use of camp names. Having attended Pine Cove youth camps from elementary school to graduation, I have quite the list of counselor names associated with some of my sweetest memories. From “Sacagawendy” to “Tot Tonka” and “Surf and Turf,” these names have stuck in my mind for years. But it wasn’t until I joined staff in 2012 that it occurred to me to ask the question: why camp names?
If you know anything about Pine Cove, you know that nothing is done by accident or without great thought and planning. So, if staffers have gone by crazy, clever nick names since 1967, there must be a highly considered reason. After discussing the topic of camp names with fellow staffers and even diving into our staff manual (called “The Way”), I have come to the conclusion that camp names let campers relate to staffers more easily, help unify the staff, and keep staff from taking themselves too seriously.
Breaking Down Walls
It can be intimidating for a child, or even for adult campers, to meet their counselor for the first time. We want our campers’ first impressions of camp to be enjoyable, fun, and memorable—not a place of nerves and questions of what to call your counselor. When I met my cabins of high school girls on Sunday evenings, they knew to call me “Lego” instead of wondering whether I’d go by “Meredith, “Ms. Gunn” or “Miss.” This may seem simple, but it allows campers to connect more quickly with their counselors. Asking how a staffer got their name is also a great point of conversation an easy way to get to know someone quickly. Our names are packed with embarrassing, hilarious, unique, and entertaining stories. A staffer’s willingness to share their name story shows their enthusiasm about building friendships and getting to know campers.
As Pine Cove puts it: “we expect our staff to be unified, not uniform.” Every staffer has a camp name; that is just the way it goes. That means that each staffer introduces themselves to the rest of staff from stage, with a microphone, while answering any question posed by the crowd. Everyone experiences the greatness that is The Name Game and everyone can relate to the nerves that come along with leaving your name-fate up to a crowd of college kids that you just met. This experience bonds the staff under a mysterious commonality that only Pine Cove can understand. No one is above a camp name.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6
The Fun Factor
Camp names are just fun! As I mentioned before, camp names are loaded with embarrassing and entertaining backstories. These stories show campers that staffers, no matter how much older they may be, were kids too. Catastrophic first dates, strange childhood habits, horrific tripping-in-public incidents, and bizarre favorite-food combos humble even the “coolest” of staffers. Camp names definitely help remind the staff that we all mess up, trip up, and have to remember to laugh at ourselves.
I hope this sheds a bit more light onto the odd tradition of camp names. They may be a little funny to pronounce, strange to remember, and odd to see, but they sure do make camp unique and hopefully fun for all.