i am sitting here in front of the monitor in my dad's classroom absolutely exhausted after a long day of Camp Collegiate (or as my father affectionately calls it: our family farm (uncle dave has some less affectionate, though humorous, names for it...)). i guess my basic job description for this camp would have to be Head Child Herder, and somedays that's not far from accurate. it can be a tough job sometimes but i cannot stress how much i love it. this is our 14th year of running Camp Collegiate (which i find unbeliveable) and i have been a counselor for 8ish of those years. like every great camp should, we have our legendary stories and past campers, our traditions and games, but the best part about it is that over the years we have grown into a family. we have an entire spectrum of kids from second to eighth grades and even a couple of high schoolers who just dont want to leave. these kids come with every conceivable type of personality (and personality disorder) and from very different backgrounds but after just the first few days the quiet ones start to come out of their shells and the ornery ones calm down just enough for us to be able to take them out into public. it always fascinates me every year watching the interactions between these tiny people; to see how the older ones seem to forget the age difference and start to make friendships with the little ones, to see their readiness to help each other and play together really puts adults to shame sometimes. and then there are what we have termed the "project" campers, the ones with a far more social differences and behavioral difficulties than the others. these are the campers that always seem to end up the closest to my heart each year even though by the end of their first day i'm not sorry to see the back of them. it always breaks my heart to see their sweet little souls under the turmoil of anger or shyness or severe ADD and even though its hard not to be annoyed sometimes, i can't help but try to make friends with them and help them understand a little better how this large and sometimes daunting world works and to help the other children understand them a little better too. to see how they light up when you play with them or simply listen to what's going on in their little heads has made me swear to myself that i will never allow myself to be impatient with any child (or adult for that matter) no matter how frustrating they can be at times. these precious children have had such a huge affect on how i deal with people that i will never be sorry that i have spent most of the summers of my life with them. i will only be sorry when the time comes for me to get a "real" job and will no longer be able to play capture the flag or cover my ears on the bus while the kids scream their guesses at the day's "Honkey Song" or to smile at all of the absolutely hilarious things they say. in other words, 'camp' has changed me for the better and i hope that we have other campers out there who can say the same thing. after all, what is camp for but to foster curiousity and creativity, to encourage learning and patience and to impress on every child that you will never be too old to play and that sometimes a friend can be found in the most unlikely of places.