What to Know When You Volunteer

Mar 11, 2019 | Programs and Families, Volunteers

Volunteer applicants often have a lot of questions about what to expect, how Camp Rainbow Gold’s programs compare to other summer camps or what it is like to serve families affected by a pediatric cancer diagnosis. To help, we polled several of Camp Rainbow Gold’s volunteers on what they wish they had known the first time they volunteered at camp and tricks they have learned along the way.

What should I bring to camp that I might be forgetting?

  • Bring items to decorate your cabin. A lot of counselors try to coordinate on cabin decorations before leaving for camp, but even if that isn’t possible, just bring some general decorations like streamers, material, signs, posters or anything having to do with the camp theme. Even if you don’t use it, someone else probably will.
  • Pack warm clothes! Even in the middle of summer, it will still get cold at night.
  • Bring an extra blanket, camping pad or sleeping bag. You wouldn’t think it would make a big difference, but that extra inch of padding really saves your back through the course of the week.
  • Don’t forget to wear a watch.
  • A cinch sack or small backpack will allow you to carry items you or your campers might need during the day. It won’t get in the way of activities and will save from disrupting your schedule to return to your cabin for items someone forgot.

What should I research before I get to camp?

  • Read a little about childhood cancers online. You don’t have to know everything but arm yourself with information and get comfortable with the subject, so it doesn’t seem like an overwhelming topic when you get to camp.
  • Learn or print out ideas for little games during slow or quieter times that are appropriate and engaging for your age group. There will often be breaks while you’re waiting for an activity to start, walking to the next event or arrive early for a meal.

What to expect:

  • Dress up, put on a costume, wear a wig, dive into the theme days. Your campers will look to you as role models. Let loose, act silly, participate and have fun!
  • Don’t expect everything to be some spectacular, wonderful moment. Sometimes the small moments, conversations, quiet time or “just hanging out” will be exactly what the campers need.
  • There are some things you will feel deprived of that may make you uncomfortable–sleep, your phone, internet, good food. Accept those facts going in and let it go. Then, be present so you don’t miss a second of the amazing things that are actually happening around you while you’re at camp.
  • Be in the moment. These kids have so much weighing on their shoulders and camp should be a reprieve. Understand you don’t need to have all the answers, just be sympathetic, be supportive and listen.
  • Be you. We all have different personalities or unique traits—extroverts, intellectuals, adventurers, nurturers—and they are all needed at camp. There’s no need to pretend you’re someone you’re not, be authentic.
  • Remember the kids are just kids. There is sometimes a stigma or fear around children who are sick or have dealt with grief. The truth is, they want to be treated like every other kid and for you to be yourself. Camp is a place for that.

Pro tips:

  • Reading to the younger cabins before bedtime helps to settle them down and get them to sleep. Find a book that can be split into 5 parts and read a section each night to keep them engaged and excited for bedtime.
  • Similarly, coloring books and small, quiet crafts are a great way to help the campers of all ages unwind during toes-up or at the end of the day.
  • Every night have a different counselor be in charge of bathroom patrol. Use a glow stick next to that counselor’s bunk to show campers who is in charge that night. This way, at least one counselor will have a full night of sleep each night.
  • Communication is key to success both with the campers and with your co-counselors.
  • Never be afraid to ask others for help. We are all learning and leaning on each other to ensure these kids are having the most amazing week of their lives.
  • It’s all about the kids.

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