Camp Counselor of the Week: Dom Cavanagh

Last week you read all about Charlotte’s summers at camp, and this week we’ve got an interview with Dom, who is returning to camp for the second time this coming summer!

summer camp counselor
Playing dress up is a massive part of camp.

1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?

I went to a camp in Connecticut called Camp Horizons. It was a camp catering for those with special needs. I first went in 2013, I didn’t return for 2014; but I am going back for 2015!

2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?

I decided to work [at camp] because I thought it would be an amazing experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity. Luckily I was asked to come back! For me it was either a holiday with the lads, or a three month holiday getting paid to work in America with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. There was no competition really.

3. What agency did you apply to camp through and would you choose them again/how did you find their service?

I went with Camp America for my first year and was pretty happy with their service and the help I received from them. Other friends have gone with other agencies because they’re cheaper, but I thought it was best to stick with what I know.

4. What is/was your role at camp?

My role is General Counselor. That means I get stuck in with a little bit of everything. That means swimming: I’m there, camp crafts: I’m there, boating: I’m there! You name it I’m doing it! That’s what’s so great about being a GC, you get to dabble in everything. Spending so much time with your campers they become your friends, your family! After all you’re living with them and eating with them whilst they’re there.

summer camp counselor
As is stuffing your face with food!

5. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?

In many ways it did, but in so many others it blew me away. The positivity, the laughs we had, and the fact that everyone is there to ensure there is fun to be had by all!

6. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?

Your country’s flag: the campers’ love it and it makes your cabin area more personalised! Teabags: I don’t drink it personally, but the American’s can’t get enough of it and you’ll find that other Brits coming over with you will give anything for it. Camera/Phone: you need this full stop. What’s the point if you can’t take a photo of those special moments?

7. What is your best/favourite camp memory?

During my time at camp we got a week off called vacation week, as you can imagine it was brilliant! One day we decided to go to Boston for a baseball game: Red Sox v Tampa Bay I think it was. We went in four cars, a convoy I guess you’d call it. On the way there we were playing cheesy music: Steps, S Club 7, that kind of stuff. (The stuff my friends would laugh at!). That memory of having that music blasting, the sun shining on us and being with my friends is one that will never leave me.

summer camp counselor
THE most important symbol at camp.

8. What is/was your favourite camp food?

The food we had at camp was pretty healthy, but I do remember having burrito’s a couple of nights, I’d never had one before but they were pretty good from what I remember.

9. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?

At the start of camp we had an orientation week and on the last night we got split up into different groups; program team, program instructors, lifeguards, VOC staff, and then the counselor; boys and girls. We each had to change the camp song and put our own twist on it. They were all brilliant but it was safe to say there was no beating the boys’ team! Pretty sure there is a video of us all rapping somewhere.

10. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?

I don’t really have a saying, but at camp we had to learn American Sign Language for the campers who were hard of hearing. That was a pretty neat thing to do! The main symbol we had at camp was the ‘I love you’ sign. I can still remember a few things but that will always stick out.

summer camp counselor
The friends you make are for life.

11. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?

Well a few of us were all going our separate ways, but me and a few others headed to where most people go, The Big Apple, NYC! We only stayed there a couple of days but got everything in: 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Times Square and the Empire State Building. We even went to a Broadway musical, I’d recommend that to anybody! (Bring your student discount cards they work over here and you’ll get cheaper tickets).

12. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?

Camp has influenced me massively. I’ve learned to be a lot more considerate of others, their need and abilities and to realise that I am pretty lucky!

13. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counselor?

The best thing is definitely the close bond you form with your campers. By the end of day one they’re your best friends, by the end of summer they’re your family. They spend a lot of time at summer camp; it’s a big thing in America, a big part of childhood. Make the most of it, we all remember our primary school teachers and our high school teachers so let’s make sure our campers remember us!

Summer camp counselor
The drive to Boston!

14. What’s the WORST thing?

The worst thing is the last day of every session. There are always tears saying goodbye to your campers. What makes it okay is that they came with a smile, they’re leaving with an even bigger one because they’re already excited for the next year!

15. What the most important thing that camp has taught you?

The most important thing I’ve learned from camp is that just because some people are limited in what they can do, doesn’t mean that they’re limited as a person. Seeing people who maybe can’t walk riding a horse and smiling is pretty magical! Seeing people who maybe can’t hear having a conversation and laughing with you in Sign Language is something special, believe me!

16. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?

I would say that if you’re already thinking about it, you’re halfway there! University, jobs, life back home can wait. What can’t wait is that massive adventure out in America. You never know what could happen, I think you should grab it whilst you can and don’t let go! The friends and family you gain from doing this outweighs anything that could stop you from going. So go on what are you waiting for? See you out there sometime!

summer camp counselor
Welcoming the campers with drums? Of course! (That’s me on the far left).

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