Gabe Cohn

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Every camp session for the past four years, I have opted to become a member of the CILT Program.

Each year has proven more fulfilling than the last and this year, with my added responsibilities, has been the culmination of what has continually been my favorite aspect of camp.

The “icebreaker” this year was the CILT overnight, where the plan was to kayak across Stampede Reservoir to a campsite, where we would do team building activities and ultimately would sleep for the night.

The trip started off smoothly, as Sunny put it “once you’ve packed and are on the road, it’s all downhill from there.”

Perhaps we should have taken it as a warning that within a few minutes of that statement, a squirrel – which we have since nicknamed Dewey Flatts – fell victim to the man made terror that is a Toyota Sienna.

Once we reached the reservoir, our truck, Big Red (which has honorably served Shaffer’s High Sierra Camp for as long as I and I’m sure anyone else can remember), died on us. Instead of standing around scratching our heads, my fellow CILT members and I got straight to work.

After a valiant effort trying to start the truck, we had to finally admit to ourselves that it wouldn’t start. We began discussing what we would do next, trying to come up with ways to transport all the people and supplies with only one car. This was hilariously similar to everyone’s favorite grade school math problems about how to transport a man and his baby and dog across a river in one canoe.

We ultimately decided to ignore that we were three hours behind schedule and everyone prepared to embark on a voyage across the reservoir in kayaks. With our spirits high we began the journey, me making a valiant effort to sing an a Capella rendition of the entire “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, at least until I couldn’t spare that much breath anymore.

Reaching our destination in about half the projected time, we arrived tired and wet but in high spirits. We quickly warmed up to our camp site – literaly because our first order of business was to turn the pile of wood we brought into a roaring campfire. Once we had dried off, we began reading over some worksheets we had brought along about how to be an effective leader.

I could feel in the air a slight drop in excitement levels as it was the first true “work” that any of us had done all week. As we took turns reading out examples, we began to learn how to make the work fun and, in the end, I think we all enjoyed it.  Though we all had part of our minds on something else, the much-hyped “tin foil dinners.” 

These bags of deliciousness were filled to the brim with sausage, vegetables and, of course, butter and then slowly heated over the fire until, as Sunny put it, “you hear them sizzle”. We put a cap on the night with stories around the campfire, then bed at the responsible hour of 12 o’clock.

I was awoken at about 6 and, with my mind still starting itself up, set off on a paddleboard across the steamy lake. When we got a ways off shore, we all stopped and silently waited for the sun to come up. Once we saw the sun creep over the mountains we laid silently on our paddleboards for a while, watching the sun and, at the same time, the woods.

I would learn later that I was not the only one who thought of the deathstar when they saw the silver moon, but nobody said a thing to preserve the moment. After a delicious meal of Captain Crunch and condensed milk, we set off on the road back to camp, and I had another excellent experience to add to my camp memories.

Taking my past experiences as well as what we’d discussed so far in CILT, I began leading archery classes. One might think that running an activity in which kids have potentially deadly weapons would be a stressful task, but it has always been calm with me. I am firm and serious with the rules and commands, but after that it’s all fun and candy, literally. Two arrows in the yellow center gets you a gummy worm when I’m running the class.

Apart from giving me an excuse to bring candy to class, this practice adds more fun and higher stakes to archery, and it has been known to get kids to take a liking to you.

The second aspect of being a CILT is of course being assigned to a bunk. This year was a bit of a challenge for me, as I was assigned to an older bunk. Suddenly, I wasn’t fighting to keep them together or telling them to put away their dishes. In fact, CILTing an older bunk felt very natural; all I had to do was be myself and they would respond to it excellently.

I fact, I learned from them, figuring out, with their help, how to bridge shuffle cards, a skill I’d always wanted. The kids were a blast to be with, and I got as much out of them as they did me.

The ultimate test for a CILT group comes midway through the second week, with the Evening Program. After the success of “Beatles Airband” last year, I felt ready to do my first evening activity as the most senior member of CILT. Running Evening Program was always a bit stressful, though fun, and I knew that it would be even harder not having an older CILT to look up to.

The idea of having counselors dressed up as the opposite gender by campers was given to us by Flanker, a counselor, but we expanded upon it greatly, adding a fashion show and pre-made costume crates into the mix. Campers responded very well, and though the fashion show became a bit risque at times, everyone felt comfortable and had a great time, and we succeeded in what we know was our ultimate CILT challenge.

In the end, being a part of CILT was as beneficial to me as ever. Being the senior CILT, along with my friend Gabe, gave me more responsibility than ever, and my leadership skills were tested even more than in past years. CILT is half about getting leadership skills and half about giving back to the camp.

This year was the perfect mix of that, exactly as it should be. I got back as much as I gave, which is exactly how camp always is.