Nearly 10 million American kids go to sleepaway camp every summer. I have to believe that like me, at least one of their parents have camp in their blood.
If so, there must be a gazillion baby boomers who still dream about waking up to the smells of dewy jasmine and the sounds of the bugle-blasting reville, of Color War and campfires and care packages and cubbies and smooching behind the cabins, hoping the counselor on-duty won’t turn you in. There is NO place on earth like camp. So, why hadn't we re-created that sleepaway camp experience for grown-ups? I was nine when my parents first sent me away to the hills of North Carolina, and for the nine years that followed, I spent September to May X-ing the days off my calendar in anticipation of what I’d always tell my parents was going to be the BEST summer of my life. And every single one was. I learned so many life lessons at camp, alongside giggling girls whose clumsy adolescent hang-ups mirrored mine. A dozen girls, all my age, figured out how to live together in harmony (or not), laughed and cried over drama that never really was, felt safe as we bonded on baseball diamonds through über-competitive tetherball and newcombe games, trying to figure out who we were without our parents nagging us about who they thought we should be. My camp memories have carved out a place in my heart that no other life experiences can touch. Those magical summers in the mountains opened up my eyes to the beauty of nature and the power of friendship, and taught me that lessons sink in deeper when an element of fun weaves through. Being a camper -- and then a counselor -- helped turn me into the “funnest" mom on the block, with an ever-present supply of random stuff to wrap creative minds around art projects and body paint (and a hose) that kept the neighborhood kids busy for hours. My entire pre-Campowerment life, I thought, "Am I the only one too old for camp, still longing for those days we thought we were never getting back? There have to be people out there who, like me, still dream about hanging out with girlfriends and playing all day... Am I the only one who sits in the carpool line fondly remembering late night bunkside flashlight chats, and chanting ridiculous happy birthday songs to kings and queens and princes too? Or 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' around a crackling campfire and creating stupid crap in arts & crafts that our parents pretended to treat like real art? What if I could find a way to package the whole camp experience and resurrect the joys of childhood I had cherished so deeply, throwing in some yoga and zip lines and alcohol with no repercussions?" In 2005 I bit the bullet. I answered my own repetitive questions, and it happened. I launched after a tremendous response to a book I co-wrote with 5 other over-achieving, guilt-ridden, stressed-out women, who, like me, were struggling to balance work and family and aging parents and wilting libidos.
Back in the day, we called it Camp Bombshell, and held these 3-day events in kids' summer camps from Pennsylvania to Arizona to Connecticut, down to Peru and back up to North Florida. Over the course of three years, we basked in the glory alongside more than two thousand women at more than a dozen of these life-changing weekends, which combined the joys of being an overgrown kid with the wisdom and power that comes with age. We did push past our fears to fly off ziplines; we sang and danced; played games; created art projects; we rolled around in jello; and competed in pie-eating contests.
By opening up to strangers, we learned firsthand that almost NO ONE is living the life she thought she signed up for. And just knowing that we were not alone in our struggle to juggle the demands of daily life brought comfort to all of us. NBC’s TODAY Show named Camp Bombshell one of America’s top 3 Girlfriend Getaways, and I was in heaven. But just as we were about to give up our day jobs and grow this idea, both my sisters and one of my fellow authors were diagnosed with breast cancer. So we put the camp idea on hold and I helped them fight their fight. In between, a very clever South Florida playwright got wind of our story and wrote a hilariously relatable musical that chronicled the Miami Bombshell's journey, but once everyone was healthy, the recession of 2008 struck and we had no choice but to go back to our real jobs and feed our families.
Those events brought me to California to take a big job with Warner Brothers and meet some of the best self-help gurus on the planet. Once I began to tap into their wisdom, I realized I could fold their expertise into the camp experience I still held on to. That’s how Campowerment was born. Camp is where my heart is…giving back even a little of what those nine summers gave me is what I want to do when I grow up. I’m doing this for all the women out there so caught up in their own mishigas that they’re not finding a time or place where they feel like they belong. It took me five years away from it to understand life is too short to put your own needs last on your to-do list. Your family can live without you for a few days. In fact, we've gotten dozens of thank-you notes from campers' the husbands and partners letting us know how grateful they were that their loved one came back home with a new energy (as well as some crazy camp stories) to share with them! Do it for yourself; do it for them. Because if we don’t invest in ourselves, who will? Join me at Campowerment, and reignite your flame.
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