Favorite Camp Memory – Eileen Leaser

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Eileen Leaser- A Arizona Camp Sunrise & Sidekicks volunteer shares a favorite camp memory.

As someone who grew up during the transition period when technology was emerging, I often get discouraged by the amount of time children spend watching television, playing video games, and using cell phones and laptops. I see less imagination, physical activity, and interaction as technology evolves. At camp, teens often want to be on their cell phone when they are in the cabins at night. As a counselor, I always hope that we can find games, tell scary stories, or find some other way to create the magic of camp and encourage social interaction and building friendships.
One of my favorite memories came from the past teen winter retreat. We had a cabin full of young teen girls, and many wanted to be on their phones before bed. However, a new counselor and myself decided to start a card game that we play together outside of camp. This game is called Anomia. In this game, everyone sits in a circle and each person selects a card. Each card has a symbol on it as well as a unique category. Categories include country capitals, authors, food categories, actors, movies, etc. If at any point, there are two people in the circle with the same symbol, one must state something under the category on the other person’s card before the other person states something under the category on their card. Whoever does this first earns the other person’s card. The goal is to have the most cards won at the end of the game. Slowly, I watched each member of the cabin leave her phone and come to play the game. Everyone was excited, shouting answers and laughing. No one picked up a phone for the rest of the evening, and they wanted to play that game, along with various other games, throughout the weekend. Anomia ended up starting many conversations about geography, food, sports, and many other topics that encouraged group participation as well as individual ideas and passions. Some of the kids even started quizzing each other and us on geography and Arizona facts. It was easily one of my favorite weekend retreats. I witnessed no exclusion of others, and I watched kids celebrating each other’s strengths and differences without putting down others different ideas. Watching young people with different backgrounds engage with one another and have different ideas and opinions, and feel able to express these in an accepting environment was easily one of my favorite “this is why I keep coming back to camp” moments.