We asked a number of current and former campers and counselors why they chose Odyssey Teen Camp, and what keeps them coming back. Over the past 16 years, Odyssey Teen Camp has been a positive influence on many different types of people. Here are their stories.
“I was 13-year-old when I showed up for OTC. Middle school had been really hard for me. But things were different at camp. Although it may sound shallow, for the first time in my life I felt popular. I felt like I had a huge group of people who loved to be around me just as much as I loved to be around them. It was fun to see the way that the older kids would act, and say to myself, “I think that’s cool,” or “I think that’s not cool.” I was figuring out who I wanted to be when I was at OTC—what kind of lifestyle I wanted to lead and what kind of lifestyles I wanted to avoid. One of the things I loved the most was that the counselors were so weird and warm and delightful. They were so comfortable with themselves that it inspired me to be comfortable with myself. I was like, “That’s awesome. I want to be weird like you!”
Learning to Love Myself
OTC was the place where I first learned that I had worth. It was the place where I first learned that it was okay to love myself. The place where all the awful things that happened to me melted away, and I met true and real people who shared themselves with me – heart and soul. It was the place that helped me to forget the people who weighed me down, and helped me to embrace those who made me feel accepted.
There will never be enough words to express how OTC saved me. It gave me the chance to grow and love myself in ways I never thought possible. Without the people I met and experiences we shared, I would not be the person I am today.
There are very few places where a self loathing teen girl can go, and come back 2 weeks later with a new outlook on life, and herself.
OTC gave me that, and so much more.
“I felt like I was in a safe place where my opinions and feelings mattered and were honored, respected, and supported” – OTC Camper
Finding a New and Better Me
When I showed up OTC at the age of 15, I was overweight and introverted and I didn’t have any friends. I guess you could say I came from a broken home. My parents divorced when I was 12, and after that, my motivation evaporated. I started doing poorly in school. I had serious issues with my father. And I didn’t do the normal things kids do, like go to the park and play ball. Instead, I’d stand on the sidelines or draw or play video games. I showed up at OTC on the first day and I was really scared. I didn’t have my phone. I didn’t have Internet. I didn’t have Xbox or anything. I wasn’t about to go up to people and start a conversation—that wasn’t my thing. That first day at camp put me in a situation where I was like, “All I know how to do here is throw a Frisbee.” I saw two kids playing Frisbee in a field, and I was like, “Hey, I wanna do that!” So I ran down and started throwing it around with them. One of the guys’ names was Nick, and he’s one of my best friends to this day. I realized I was really good at playing Frisbee. I’d never been the king of something before, and it felt so great. I started getting in shape because I was running around all day, playing Frisbee, and hiking back and forth from my cabin, which was way off in the woods, to the main camp area. And the food was super-healthy. At OTC, I finally found a place where I could have fun and fit in. I found kinship—something I had never experienced at school. When I got home from camp, my parents didn’t even recognize me. I had lost so much weight and I felt so good about myself. I even tried out for my high school volleyball team, and to my surprise, I made varsity. I played some basketball, I played on a Frisbee team, and then later, during my first year in college, I became a New York State Champion rower. And I attribute that, with 100 percent confidence, to the encouragement I received and the confidence I developed at OTC.”
A short compilation of different parents talk about OTC.
“He was withdrawn and quiet and shy never spoke up and was kind of just staying in his room a little too much… I’m so glad I found this camp.”
A Brand New Confidence
“I want to tell you how happy we are about our son’s experience at OTC. He was nervous that teen summer camp at OTC would be similar to a different camp he attended previously, where other campers made him feel very out of place. Instead, his experience at OTC was incredible. After a few days of adjustment, he found he could totally be himself, express himself, and try new things with no fear of being made fun of. We were thrilled when he wrote to tell us that he had read some of his poetry at the talent show. When we picked him up from camp, we were overjoyed to see how many friends he had made and how comfortable he was hugging them good-bye. We hope the confidence he gained in those four weeks will carry him through his first year in high school as he meets new kids and teachers and finds his place.”
The Magic of Acceptance
“I picked up my son yesterday and we had a wonderful opportunity to talk on the drive home. He told me about his experience at OTC and how magical it was. He felt so accepted at camp by the counselors, the nurses, and everyone there! He made amazing friends, too! Friends that care and that he feels he can be real with. They are chatting on Facebook about their experience today.”
“My daughter attended OTC for the first time this year. We have to commend the staff for her remarkable camp experience. Not only did she love it, she cannot stop talking about the positive, healing moments that made it a wonderful experience. She has a new peace within her, which is felt by all her family members.””
Accept the True, Unique Me
“I want to thank you for my daughter’s amazing experience at OTC. Although 8th grade and extracurricular activities are keeping her busy, she’s better able to handle other teens’ perceptions of her unique personality because she’s more accepting of herself. ”
Self Confidence, Self Love
“Thank you to OTC for providing a life-altering experience for my daughter. Although unsure about teen summer camp at OTC at first, she returned with new wisdom and deep friendships. Her sense of confidence and self-love was profound, and it’s still with her! She wants to return next summer, and one day become a counselor.”
make new friends
Adam Simon, camp director