Every year at this time, Minnesota news is full of stories of people (and cars) falling through thin ice. Most are in search of fish, but all share a common trait—what Garrison Keillor once referred to as “young men destined for leadership roles never to be fulfilled.” Each time this happens, we all ask ourselves, “What were they thinking?” Just this past Sunday morning, a little more than 24 hours after the bay in front of Camp iced over, I looked out and saw one of these humans in the middle of the lake. I sat and watched, phone in hand, ready to call 911 if need be.
I suppose the idea of risk/reward guides much of our daily choices. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out why a person would venture out on to two or three inches of frozen water just to catch a few fish. I have fished through the ice (hard water fishing as the locals call it), but as a non-native Minnesotan and someone who did not grow up doing so, I always take a deep breath before venturing out on the frozen lake—and I always go with someone who is experienced.
Anyhow, this got me thinking about the risks involved in coming to (and sending a child to) a traditional residential summer camp like Mishawaka. In a recent poll to 2016 parents, I asked them to share some of the reasons why they send their children to Camp Mishawaka.
The responses included:
-Unplug from Devices
One parent turned the question on its head asking, “Why not Camp?”
Whatever the reasons, and they are many and diverse, part of the benefit is helping kids make good decisions and develop risk assessment. Coming to Camp is a risk, but not necessarily risky. Safeguards, supervision, policy, practices and people are in place at Camp Mishawaka to mitigate that risk, physically and emotionally. The ice is long-gone, but the support for the young men and women who are campers is thick and sturdy.
Anytime we put ourselves out there, expose or allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we take a risk. When the reward is a couple of fish, venturing on to thin ice is nothing short of idiotic. When the reward is any one of the above list, venturing to camp on firm ground is a no-brainer. But as important as the “product” is, the process is equally as important. Campers learn social and interpersonal skills, communication and collaboration, and assessment skills that last a lifetime. It can, and does, keep kids off thin ice, in so many ways. Just ask someone who has been to camp.
In case you are wondering, that fool-hearted ice fisherman did make it off the ice safely last Sunday. I suspect the scene will play out again in the days ahead when I see the first car or truck makes its way on to a frozen Lake Pokegama. Whatever the outcome, I am pretty sure he never had the opportunity to go to summer camp, but we will be there, phone in hand, regardless.
Steve Purdum, Executive Director