Remember your first summer camp experience? DJ Morgan does. He was 8 years old, it was 1986 and he got signed up to go to YMCA's Camp Classen for a week. The camp, located about 75 miles south of Oklahoma City in Davis, is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Morgan is one of thousands of campers celebrating this milestone by looking back on his summer camp experience.
"It's a very special place," Morgan said of Camp Classen. "It's probably one of the best pieces of land in the state of Oklahoma, so that's a big part of it. All the people you meet as a camper and counselor, you build bonds with in a residential camping environment that's hard to recreate in other ways."
Morgan spent 18 straight summers at Camp Classen, first as a camper then as a counselor and later as the full-time camp director. Although he's now a banker and lives in Oklahoma City, he remains involved with the camp as the chairman of the board. His 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter attend the camp every year and his 3-year-old son is counting down the years until he can attend.
Camp Classen has changed a little since he spent time there. There's now air conditioning in the cabins and several capital projects have been executed in the past 30 years that have the grounds looking better than ever, he said. But the activities and even camp songs have remained the same throughout the years.
"As the songs and traditions have survived the generations," Morgan said, "it's been so nice to see my children get to participate in those things."
There are many great benefits to going to summer camp. The greatest thing Morgan took away from his camp experience, he said, is confidence. As a child, he remembers feeling pressure from family and friends throughout the school year that all faded away when he went to camp.
"It was the first place I could go and be myself without any other influences," he said. "It allows you to step out of your shell. You see people at camp all the time who might have been shy or different at school, but the person they are at camp is a different person, a truer person. And that's something I keep with me."
Camp Classen recently won the Family Favorite award for best sleep-away camp within 100 miles of the Oklahoma City metro. Click here to learn more about registering your kids for the camp!