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My name is Austin Crawford, and this is my sixth summer here at Camp Champions; I’ve officially reached “Golden Oldie” status. While I have often called camp my second home, it has now become my first home! Having lived here on camp well over a year, I have a new and unique perspective on ol’ CC.

I didn’t know it at the time, but since I started going to different camps at the age of six, I began to develop and refine skills in three key areas: building friendships, cultivating resilience, and discovering an idea of what I want to do with my life. When Erec Sir asked me to write a blog post on why I keep coming back to camp, these three things instantly popped into my head.

Being a North Texas native, I grew up attending and working at one-week Christian camps, both day and overnight. As a kid, I fell in love with summer camp because of the fun activities and the super cool counselors I idolized. I knew I wanted to be just like them one day, so I did! I made the transition from camper to senior camper to CIT to counselor. There was never a question in my mind that I would return to camp the next summer. While these camps will always hold a piece of my heart, it wasn’t until I became a part of the CC family in 2018 that I was able to fully understand the true depth and potential of the summer camp experience.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that particular summer was a pivotal and vulnerable point in my life. I was transferring to USC, my parents’ divorce had just been finalized, and, worst of all, I was given the boot from my old camp after 13 summers. Let’s just say we had grown apart in our views on acceptance (this story could be a whole other blog post on its own). After a depressingly camp-less summer in 2017, which was my first summer without camp since 2003, I was ravenous to get back to a camp. Following a very lucky Google search, I found myself on a Skype call with Boys Camp Director Greg Golf, and before I knew it, I was packing my bags and heading to Marble Falls, TX.

My first few summers here at camp were spent in the Rookie Village and in the Outdoors and SERF departments. After seeing and feeling beautiful examples of Reaching Out by the entire staff, I experienced closer and quicker-forming friendships than ever before. Although I tend to see them through rose-colored glasses, these summers were not without hardships. I was very nervous to deal with camper’s issues that came with overnight camps, namely homesickness and nocturnal bladder/bowel control. It’s safe to say that I encountered my fair share of both of those issues that summer. But, guess what… I survived!

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing a masterclass on resilience. After two glorious summers, the bomb that was 2020 went off. Suddenly we faced a notable decrease in staff, stringent cohorting and testing protocols, and no leaving property for 84 days straight. Without the skills I had learned at camp, I am certain I would have folded under that kind of pressure. But, I had already learned that I could do hard things. With that knowledge, I was able to lead others in areas I was confident in and follow others when I knew they knew best.

Memories of 2020 and 2021 seem like a total fever dream, but I am so beyond proud of what we did those summers. Joining the leadership team and getting back with my Rookies (let alone living here for a whole year and seeing what an off-season looks like) has been the icing on the cake of my holistic camp experience. I don’t know many 20-somethings like me who can say this, but I know what I want to do with my life! Camp Champions has revealed to me that there is no greater joy in my world than helping to build strong kids. While I don’t know if I’ll end up in child psychology, counseling, or even the camp world, I am forever grateful to Camp Champions for giving me the opportunity to both succeed and to fail, and then giving me a community that will continue to love me while I dust myself off and try again.

Steve Sir often uses the analogy of camp being a magic show. I first thought that was a bit too grand of a statement. Sure we would set up and facilitate activities for the kids, but true magic? I didn’t know about that. But, like a true magician, we never revealed our tricks. Now having seen how the magic tricks work, maybe he isn’t so crazy after all! Fun and activities are merely a foundation on which resilience, friendship, and confidence build. And that magic is why I always find myself coming back home to Camp Champions.

I didn’t know it at the time, but when I first drove through the spur, I was driving home. No matter what the future holds, Camp Champions will always be home. Home is where you feel safe to be your imperfect self, and I’m always going to come back home.