As my granddaughter was leaving for Camp Ida-Haven for the first time two days ago, I found myself thinking back to the connection I have had with that amazing place over the last 25 years. I never had the joy of being there as a child, but sometimes the best pictures are through children’s eyes.
As fifth graders, both my son and daughter had the privilege of spending three days with their classmates and teachers there. Science Camp was a tradition for all elementary schools in Nampa, and they were fortunate enough to be part of it. As a parent, that was my introduction to Camp. To this day, they remember their experiences well. At that time, it was all about the “holes in the cabin walls and bugs coming in.” I had no idea how important their time there would affect me.
About five years later, I became a fifth grade teacher who looked forward to taking my school’s students to Ida-Haven for the same experience. Little did I know it would lead to 16 years of my own joy as I watched nearly 1500 ten- and eleven-year-olds experience that magical place. (I wasn’t disappointed the new cabins without holes in the walls awaited us, however!) Since I retired, the last four years I have been invited to go as an “alumnus helper.” Many people have asked why it’s so important to me. Why do I give up my free time for three long, non-stop days, short nights, and 100 or more preteens? It’s simple, really.
No matter how many times I’ve gone with all the different classes, the reactions and comments don’t change: “I’ve never been camping.” “This place is so amazing!” “The food is awesome.” “I loved all the activities.” “Douglas and Darla are the best!” And probably the most telling and frequently heard response is, “I don’t want to go home yet.” Knowing I’ve been a small part of their experience makes it worth it for me.
So now I’ve come full circle. The daughter I sent off to camp over 10 years ago is now sending her own daughter for the first time. In two weeks her son will make his second visit. (After his first visit, he told me, “When I’m old enough, I want to be a counselor at Camp Ida-Haven, so I can help kids have fun like I did.”) I can’t wait to hear my granddaughter’s stories, and I know she and her brother will cherish their shared experiences. My hope is that my great-grandchildren will have the same opportunities.