This is what Fleur de Lis, an overnight camp for girls ages 8-17 in southwest NH, is all about.
JOY comes in all shapes and sizes at Fleur de Lis. One pathway is through the many activities that are a part of each week at camp – swimming in the lake, throwing a pot on the wheel, starring in a play, shooting for the bullseye, building a fire, paddling a kayak, and so much more. Evening Programs and Special Events hold surprises and adventures whether it’s playing a huge all camp game, finding all the items on the scavenger hunt, or creating crazy costumes for theme dinners. Joy is also found in our unstructured times, with plenty of opportunities for girls to play, reflect, and just be. Sitting under a shady tree reading a book, writing in a journal, or just enjoying the feel of the cool grass is as common a sight as girls hanging out making up silly games, or chatting and laughing with friends. The power of being unplugged is clear as girls talk face to face without screens and discover that writing and receiving old fashioned letters is so much fun. In our busy, highly scheduled world, this is a real gift.
BELONGING is that amazing feeling of being accepted and appreciated for who you are. For me, it’s an experience of simply feeling right in my world. Campers and Fleur de Lis alumnae often use the term “being my authentic self” –which is so valued by all who experience it. Belonging is also about being part of something bigger than yourself. This is not always a common experience in today’s world. Fleur de Lis campers swim on the same waterfront, walk the same paths, and are part of the same traditions that campers have known and loved for over 90 years. Campers see the names of those who have come before them on the cabin walls and know that when they return, they will see their own names as well. The experience of Fleur de Lis Camp is like a beautiful, richly colored tapestry. When a girl comes here for a summer, she becomes part of that tapestry forever. She knows that she shares in magical experiences that thousands of girls before her have and thousands more will experience in the future.
FRIENDSHIP at camp is special. Girls will often say, “My best friends are my camp friends”. This may seem hard to believe, particularly if they may have only known each other for one summer, but it is truly what happens at camp. A lot of how girls get to know each other in such deep ways is simply by living and playing together 24 hours a day. They find common ground and learn about their differences. They play, have adventures, and laugh so hard that tears run down their faces. Camp friends learn to accept each other as they are and share that journey of self-discovery. They quickly learn to see and celebrate the best in each other. Even when they might see the "not best" in each other, this allows for real-life practice in problem solving, negotiation, and developing empathy for others different from themselves. Camp friends share deep history and have moments together that live in their hearts forever – just ask any camp alum!
How does this magic happen? Is it intentional? YES! Fleur de Lis is designed to provide a safe platform for real growth and self-discovery. Each aspect of camp provides opportunities to take a risk or try something new and that fosters self-confidence and courage. Activities involve setting goals and figuring out the steps to achieve those goals; by doing this, girls develop or strengthen life skills in planning, organization, and time management. Perhaps one of the most valuable experiences for many arises in instances when a girl doesn’t succeed the first or second time; these are the moments when perseverance is developed to deal with disappointment, to learn from mistakes and try again. Growth happens in other ways too. Embracing the duality of missing home AND having a blast at camp is an important step in becoming independent. Learning how to be a confident, contributing member of a community is a life skill. By experiencing such moments in this safe environment guided by caring, supportive counselors and surrounded by close friends, our campers quickly become confident individuals who can proudly say, “Yes, I can do hard things.”
It is no wonder that Fleur de Lis has won top awards from groups including the Boston Parents Paper Best of the Best and Manchester Union Leader’s Readers’ Choice award and has become a much loved second home to campers for over 90 years.
We hope you’ll join us this summer at camp!
MJ Parry, Executive Director