Camp Kindle

In Blog by Eric BenjaminLeave a Comment

I am at a point that when a door of opportunity materializes,  I walk through it. I didn’t move into a 5th wheel and into my buddy’s backyard for nothing right!?

The opportunity that came up this time was called Camp Kindle. They needed a camp counselor for middle and high school aged campers as one couldn’t make it. Camp Kindle serves kids that are infected or have been affected by HIV and AIDS.

Camp Kindle’s Vision:

Our vision is to offer the young people we serve a chance to build a stronger future, one in which they believe in themselves, and where they have the leadership and character to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.

Camp Kindle’s purpose:

Project Kindle’s primary purpose is to serve those with serious illnesses, special needs and other life challenges by provide cost-free camping programs, year round support and advocacy and to offer innovative peer-based HIV/AIDS education for young people ages 12-24.

I started my professional career as a high school teacher and loved working with kids. That was years ago. Would this be something I wanted to do again, or would it be something I was done with? There is only one way to find out.

With a week’s notice, I take the time off work, that I don’t have, and planned to go to Nebraska to be a camp counselor. I am completely clueless, a little nervous and really excited. All I know is that I was going to be spending a week with young boys – 24 hours a day. I will also have to get out of the comfort zone I have been in for the past 10+ years. I have been sitting behind a desk, working on a computer for some time. I don’t like it there, but that’s where I have been. It has become “comfortable.” This will get me out of that zone for sure.

I pack up and ride to Nebraska with my good friend Kaila. She is the one that asked if I knew anyone, but I am pretty sure that she was hoping I would fill in. We talk the whole way up to Nebraska, about a five hour trip. Kaila has been working with Camp Kindle for five years on their media team. She told me how “amazing” this camp and the staff is. I would experience it myself.

After two days of staff training I feel overwhelmed and clueless but it is OK, right?

I was a camper at day camps as a kid. I am a pretty low-key guy. Counselors have to be bubbly and lead the campers in camp songs that I didn’t know. On top of that, the staff is a tight group, so I am feeling a little self conscious. It is all in my head though. I can do this.

The kids show up with us singing the welcome song and I spend a week with 13 boys, a co-counselor and a staff of great people.

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Yeah, so it gets pretty outrageous at Camp Kindle’s events


Good times at Carnival night


Each graduating camper gets a book that the staff writes in for them. A few of them are read at the graduation ceremony. It is quite touching for the campers and staff. James had me read his book to him and the audience. James is autistic and found a special place in my heart as the week of camp progressed.


End of the week campfire songs


The week is over and I reflect on what happened.

We are definitely changed by the people and experiences we have in life. Being a counselor at Camp Kindle is no different. The week is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. I got to know staff members and my campers really well. Some of the kids have life stories that are very serious, even heart breaking. But the one thing that stands out to me is how this one week out of their year impacts them. It is huge. Many of them change their life’s course, break negative cycles and end up making a positive difference in others’ lives because of Camp Kindle. It is pretty extraordinary. And this camp started with one person’s vision.

Eva started this camp while a young 20-something college student. That gets me thinking. What is my vision? What is your vision? Our thoughts have power to shape our world. Eva believed that she could do something. She took action. Now Camp Kindle is changing lives in a very dramatic and positive way. So many of us have ideas, dreams and visions that we don’t follow through with because we don’t believe we can actually do something. Belief in ourselves and the possibilities within our dreams is powerful. We shape our worlds, our reality with our beliefs – good or bad. But beliefs and ideas need something else. ACTION. Taking action is crucial. What action can you take today, this week, this month or this year to step in the direction of your dreams? Leave a comment below to share and hold yourself accountable.

Feed Your Monkey!