Camp Ultimate Peace has ended after months of fundraising, a week with campers, and multiple days spent in transit. I am currently on the flip side of the largest adventure I have ever been on. Sure, I’ve had only 16 years of adventures, but I can’t imagine Camp UP ever leaving the top of my list.
As I’m positive has been the case for every administrator, coach, Leader In Training, and staff member, the days following the end of camp have been emotional. While each day felt packed and long, the week flew by. Every minute of every day I was immersed in loud cheering at mealtime, complex secret handshakes, laughter, meaningful discussions, and the playing of Ultimate. Just within my team of twelve campers I witnessed strangers become roommates, teammates, and friends. As a Leader In Training I helped lead my team discussions, cheers, dancing, and drills. The real attachment I felt for my campers became apparent when the buses left to bring the Arab-Israeli, Jewish-Israeli, and Palestinian campers home.
I feel myself repeating what I have heard countless other coaches and LITs say, but it truly amazed me to see the hugs, tears, and exchanging of contact information that came on the final day. It seemed like every camper was on the lookout for their teammates, coaches, LITs, club leaders, or anyone they had come across throughout the week to sign their shirt/hat. It was a welcomed frenzy, because it is what camp is all about: creating an oasis of peace and friendship.
I initially wanted to share an individual moment or story that would embody what Camp UP felt like, and what it meant to me. Using this story I could pass on my unforgettable experience to those who weren’t there. Thirteen hours of flying back to the states with a six hour layover gave me more than enough time to think about which moment I wanted to share. I got nothing. I had no one moment that surpassed all others. I continuously ran the week through my head, and constantly I smiled to myself as I thought of proudly standing on my chair at dinner and yelling my team’s cheer. Or when my team, as one, performed a choreographed dance to the entire camp. Or when two girls from different communities hugged and said a tearful goodbye to each other. Again, I got no moment that stood alone as the best or the most representative of my week. And then I realized how that in itself is what made Camp UP 2016 so special.
There have been moments in my life where the only way I could describe the smile on my face was pure and genuine happiness. Until this month all of those moments stuck out individually because such genuine moments occur so occasionally. The same cannot be said for my week at Camp UP. It is hard to separate one genuine moment from another, because such moments bled together and occurred with such frequency. This is why Ultimate Peace is special. Without realizing it every member of camp leaves the other aspects of their own lives at the entrance. What they do bring in is their smile and their dance moves.
Out of everything, this is the most important aspect of my life that has changed because of camp. With the magic of the Ultimate Peace program as a catalyst, I returned home with a greater ability to genuinely connect with people regardless of previous misconceptions about them.
I returned home a better person.