By Sarah Kelley
It’s the last week of summer camp, which means that the closing summer staff dinner party and love gifts are just around the corner. What is a love gift you ask? Well, it’s one of those things that really needs to be experienced to fully understand, but I will do the best I can.
Probably the best analogy for love gifts is Secret Santa, but that doesn’t cover the scope of it. During staff training, we focus a lot on unity and teamwork. Summer staff really comes together by the end of training to form a family. Inside jokes will be formed, and people will celebrate and vent to each other about the weeks they had. What does this have to do with love gifts you ask? Well, as a part of staff training, each staff member draws the name of another staff member. The goal is to really focus on getting to know that person so, by the end of the summer, you can hand-make them a gift that fits them best.
The Saturday following the end of summer camp is a staff workday. This is the day where we try to put everything back where it came from, let the site recover from summer camp, and get Asbury Hills all ready for fall retreats. By mid-afternoon, chores are done and staff clean up for the closing dinner. This is always a themed event. Recent themes include derby days, Olympics, luaus, and blue & white. This year’s theme will be superheroes. Following the dinner, and with much anticipation, is the love gifts ceremony. One person will go first, present their love gift to their person, then the person who just received the gift will present, and so-on.
Who you have for love gifts is supposed to a secret. There is the usual scoping out best friends and boyfriends/girlfriends for the inside scoop, but it is typically a complete surprise for the staff member receiving the love gift as to who has them. For example, the summer of 2007, one of my closest camp friends had me for love gifts. She made the paper and wrote a book detailing my experiences at camp. She had observed everything – the highs and lows of my weeks, favorite moments and hard struggles. She then wrote them all down and gave it to me as my love gift. I. WAS. SHOCKED.
We have also had had blankets, stools, and bags with various landmarks and maps of camp. We had a soapbox derby car made for one of the staff to race down the hill.
We even had a marriage proposal. (Don’t worry. He made the box, not the ring.) So while it is always sad to see another summer go by and the staff head back to school, there will always be a love gift to help remember the summer by.