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Young woman camper smiling in our art center with face paint

Every year, we get returning campers who come to Odyssey Teen Camp for their second, third, fourth or fifth year at camp. If you came to camp and loved it, returning might seems like a no-brainer. But what if most of your friends you made in the past aren’t going to be there?

This is Kaya’s story – when she decided to come back for her third year at camp, it was almost like coming to camp for the first time all over again. She talks about a special tradition that put her at ease and helped her open up to a whole new set of people, even though she’d been coming to camp for years. Here is her story, in her own words.

“Last summer at Odyssey Teen Camp was one of the best I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I decided to come back for a third summer. Earlier in the year I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to come back. Most of my friends from years before had left after the last session, and I was reluctant to leave home for two weeks if I wouldn’t be seeing them. I had one friend who was staying the whole session, but I didn’t want to monopolize her. As I started thinking about the type of community OTC is, I became a lot more hopeful about the summer. The people at Odyssey– staff and campers alike– are so kind and welcoming. Everyone works so hard to make sure that camp feels like home. As a person who can sometimes be slow to open up, that was extremely helpful and has always made my time at Odyssey so wonderful.

Despite all that, when I got to my pod on the first day of the session I was incredibly nervous. Again, I worried that I wouldn’t make any new friends or would be too shy to form any close relationships during the session. That first night, a bunch of us stayed up in Olympus’s living room in a tradition we created called Midnight Tea. We drank tea (as the name suggests) , exchanged stories, talked about our lives, and got to know each other. By the time I went to bed that night I felt really connected to everyone in Olympus and I knew that the next two weeks wouldn’t be lonely at all.

Midnight Tea continued to happen almost every night, and soon a group of us started pulling our mattresses out to the living room at night to have sleepovers. Through those nights spent talking, laughing, and eating snacks we formed an extremely close friendship that continues today. Having the security of a core group of friends gave me the confidence to branch out and talk to new people, forming even more great relationships. By the time camp ended I had so many people I liked hanging out with and trusted, leaving camp felt like leaving home. The beautiful thing about OTC is that it provides a virtually stress-free environment where everyone is encouraged to have fun, try new things and form new relationships, something that is unfortunately rare outside of camp. As the school year progresses and college application season comes to a close, I really miss the freedom I felt at camp. The freedom to try new things, to be myself, and to interact with people I probably wouldn’t have spoken to (or even met) at home. I think every teenager should be able to experience that kind of freedom, and the best place to do that for me is at Odyssey Teen Camp.”

Kaya, thank you for sharing. This warmed our hearts!

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