Camp Storer sits on 1,250 acres. The landscape is dotted with pine trees and tall grasses. When I arrive, sandhill cranes graze and mist rises from the fields. It’s just before 7 o’clock as I head into one of the girl’s cabins.
“Okay girls, time to get up!”
That’s 19-year-old counselor Samantha Grohowski.
“Around 7 I’ll turn my speaker on, play some music,” she says. “I usually play three songs. The first one is the least annoying and they progressively get more annoying to get them out of bed.”
While the girls finish getting ready, I go outside and find some boys playing a game called gaga ball. Walter Gable is running around inside an octagon-shaped ring trying to avoid getting hit below the knees by a rubber ball.
“I like this game because it’s fun to me and I like getting people out,” he says. “I already won twice.”
Some 300 campers ranging from age 8 to 16 gather around a flag pole to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. They also raise flags from Ireland and Poland to recognize some of the international counselors.
After the pledge, it’s time for breakfast. While the kids wait for other campers to set up the tables inside the cafeteria, the counselors lead them in songs. They start singing, “rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.”
Leann Winslow is an intern at Camp Storer.
“They’re usually a little groggy in the morning because they’re not used to waking up this early in the summer and so it kind of gets them excited to just scream and yell and just sing songs and do goofy things in the morning."
The mornings move quickly at camp. For counselor Harrison Fischer, Tea Time is one of his favorite parts.
“Morning here is just a little bit different,” he says. “Rarely am I so reflective in the morning. At home usually I’m struggling to wake up, but here the kids are ready to go, so you have to be ready to go with them. If you’re not, they’ll leave you behind real quick.”
At Tea Time, campers learn moral lessons from stories. Today they’re reading from Dr. Seuss’s 10 Apples Up On Top.
“If anyone’s listened, what’s the moral of the story? Yeah, you there.”
“Just because you can have a certain amount of things that you’re not better than everyone.”
After Tea Time, campers break up into groups for various skills clinics like paddling, sailing, science, a high ropes course and working with barn animals.
Counselor Samantha Grohowski says camp is her favorite place on the planet, and she says counselors help make mornings special here.
“Normally, when you’re out in the real world, mornings are kind of boring because you’re just tired and you’re just waking up, but counselors somehow have this new boost of energy that just gets everyone hyped up by doing songs and lot of the most fun things in the morning,” she says.
Grohowski says counselors also help kids feel less homesick, which can be a problem at the beginning of the week. But for 11 year-old Evelyn Watts, that feeling went away pretty quickly.
“You think you’ll miss your parents,” she says. “The first day, I was missing my mom, but now I’m having so much fun I don’t really think about her anymore.”
Digital assistants Katie Raymond and Malak Silmi contributed to this report.