So, summer is over, and we’re all going back to school, college, work, university. I’ve had an amazing summer, I can’t deny. I’ve created some amazing memories, and I could go on for hours, but that’s not what I want to write about today. Each year, as I go back to school in September, I think not only about the summer that I’ve just had, but about my previous summers too.
As I sit here and think back over the past three, four, five, six summers, there is always one thing that stands out. One place where I created the most beautiful memories. The kind of memories that stick with you forever. They stay with you right until you’re old and wrinkly. They’re my proper childhood memories of friendship, laughter, confidence, and getting away from my parents!
It was in 2009 that my parents first dropped me off at the local station to be collected by a girl who I’d never met before. That first time, I was with three friends, but it was still a big step for my mum. At that point, I’d never even been to Guide camp, and yet she was about to send me off for a week with a load of adults and children from all over the UK. And I’d never met any of them before. But I’ve got to thank her for it, because it was the most amazing week of my life. I came home laughing, smiling, and my parents couldn’t shut me up as I told them about my new friends; my lovely monitor; playing leg goals, JDP, and kick the can; making salt dough animals; and leaning new songs. Most importantly, I could be myself, and there was nobody there to stop me!
And I went back. Three more times in fact. I just couldn’t get enough of ATE Superweeks. The friends I made, the things I learnt, and the experiences I had. I started going without a friend and my ATE experience was increased three fold. I just got so much more out of the experience. My monitors, S, S, K, and G over the four Superweeks I attended were amazing. They made me laugh, they kept me entertained, they ran around with us on the field all day, ate at the same table as us, dressed up in whatever ridiculous outfit we gave them for the evening activities, and read us a bed time story at night.
Those four weeks were quite honestly the best four weeks of my life. This summer, I was too old to go to ATE, and as I’ve seen my friends come home and post pictures, videos, and statuses, I’ve laughed, smiled, and cried because even though this year they weren’t my memories, they reminded me of the memories we shared in the past. The four weeks of my childhood where I was truly a kid, with no pressure of school work or exams. I learnt without realising I was learning. I’m much more confident, able to work in a team, and I sure know how to have fun!
I’ve done other summer camps. I went to PGL. It just wasn’t the same. If you’re considering sending your kid on an summer camp next year, and he’s aged 8-16, choose ATE. Let them have just one week of a real childhood, away from the computer, the TV, the crazy activities. You don’t need all of that, you just need someone to help you have fun. And that’s what’s so special about ATE. The monitors, the directors, the matrons. They’re volunteers. They don’t get paid like the staff do at many other camps. They’re there because they want to be there, and usually, it’s because they want to give the same amazing memories to children that their monitors gave to them.
I hope that next Easter, I’ll be able to give something back to ATE by training to be a monitor myself, because it doesn’t matter how many times I re-write it, I can never make a thank you big enough to cover everything that I feel about the Superweeks I went to, and how much of a difference they made.
If you want to go to ATE, or train as a monitor, go to http://www.superweeks.co.uk
Memories last a lifetime. Living. Laughing. Loving.