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Wondering if your kids should go to camp? Keystone Camp’s owner provides a definitive “yes.”

When my parents told me I would be going to camp for the first time, I experienced an incredibly foreign combination of nerves and excitement, which I think was the 8-year-old equivalent of an adrenaline rush. I kept going to camp until I reached the age limit, so the majority of my life’s summers have been spent in the mountains of North Carolina. Even now, I experience that adrenaline rush thinking about other campers venturing into the woods for the first time. The role camp played in my own development is undeniable, and when I talk to other girls who grew up going to camp, I always learn that they feel the same way.

Page Lemel, owner of Keystone Camp, agrees:

Attending summer camp is one of the most formative experiences a child can have.  It is an opportunity to make independent decisions; to learn that being away from home is okay; that adults other than your parents are truly invested in your well-being.  You can experience new challenges in an accepting, safe, and encouraging environment.  You get to be who you want to be instead of who others think you are.  It is an amazing opportunity to discover your strengths and to define yourself.

Keystone Camp is a small – there are only around 100 campers per session – all girls’ camp located in Brevard, North Carolina. Page’s great-great-aunt founded Keystone, making Page a fourth-generation owner. Keystone focuses on creating a space where young girls can have this experience and grow from it. The camp’s mission is to “nurture the whole girl.”

“We want to see a child develop life-long skills and values from her camp experience,” Page elaborated. “This foundation can then carry a Keystone girl throughout the rest of her life.”

Julia Bates, a 23-year old Keystone girl, is proof of the incredible pull camps has once it has been experienced; Like me, Julia first attended camp when she was 8. She has spent time at Keystone every summer since then. Does her experience support Keystone’s mission? Yes.

Julia told me, “I think I’m a better person for having gone to camp. There are a number of life lessons that I gained early on, and I can honestly say that most of my lifelong friends are camp friends. Camp is about gaining independence and experiencing life outside of home.”

For kids who are first venturing outside of the comfort zone of home, camp can be scary – even terrifying.

“Camp does exist in the woods with starry skies, night noises, bugs and rain. There may even be an occasional snake,” Page said. “We try to teach the girls that there is nothing to be afraid of and to relish the opportunity to experience all that nature has to offer.”

Keystone has created two sessions to help ease girls into this: a six-day overnight session and a mother-daughter weekend. The latter is designed to give both moms and campers a taste of the Keystone experience and answer questions they might have. The six-day session is geared to let younger girls dip their toes a bit further into camp waters; they spend time as a cabin group and experience the different camp activities.

Because these sessions are only for Kindergarten through 3rd grade girls, older first-time campers must attend Keystone’s longer sessions. Page points out that the small camp size helps make this transition smooth. Counselors know which girls are first-timers and work hard to help the girls pick up the camp essentials, like learning the ropes of the dining hall and sharing space in the cabin.

If you are hesitant as a parent to send your child to camp, be reassured by Page:

Parents need to realize the value of having their children be successful away from home while they are still young… While at camp, a girl gets to make decisions for herself without input from anyone.  She learns to be a contributing member of a group; she learns that the success of the group depends on her participation.  A girl leaves camp with a sense of achievement and a new understanding of herself that provides her with skills to manage the life ahead of her.  There is nothing like several years at summer camp to truly grow a child.

Page writes the Keystone blog, and it is a great way to get a feeling for the camp. If you’re interested in sending your daughter to camp for the first time this summer, or need a recommendation for a boys’ camp, contact Keystone.