Experiencing the Ripken Summer Camp as a New Mentor
As a new member of the Ripken Foundation’s program team, I came in ready to mentor kids and left with 182 new friends. Smiles were contagious as kids from all over the country arrived at our annual Badges for Baseball weeklong overnight summer camp. You might have thought it was Christmas morning if you walked into North Bay on Sunday evening and saw all the new baseball gloves and backpacks being given out to each camper. One child’s enthusiasm in particular stayed with me because he couldn’t believe that the “sick” Rawlings baseball glove was actually for him and for free! His joy moved me, and I began to understand the true mission of the Ripken Foundation. This camper and others like him felt valued and significant through this experience.
From ziplines to cooling off by the pool, North Bay provided some fun AND transformational experiences. One benefit of Ripken Summer Camp is the ability to get involved in a myriad of activities that promote team building and important life skills like respect and communication. Kids from different states not only get to meet each other and engage in fun activities, they are also exposed to some pretty cool presentations that help them interact with law enforcement and military mentors in a positive way. One highlight of the week happened when one of my fellow program team members, Tim, volunteered to take on a bite from a trained German Shepard from the Hartford County Police Department’s Canine Unit. The campers were mesmerized by the demonstration, which hopefully gave them a little insight into the courage of their everyday mentors.
People often say the Ripken Summer Camp experience is something you have to see in person to appreciate. Seeing so many kids outside playing and getting along with not only each other but with law enforcement officers and military mentors was really powerful and uplifting to be around. In just five short days, meaningful lessons were learned and lifelong friendships were formed. I hope that the campers feel as transformed as I do by this experience.
If you want to learn more about what we really do here at the Ripken Foundation, continue to follow my blog every Wednesday, and see what we are up to and how our programs, parks, and events are changing the landscape and lives of millions of at-risk youth for the better across the country. Until next time…