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Summer camp in the city: Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Finding the meaning of camp with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

by Katie Morris

This summer, Slalom has the opportunity to partner with staff at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital to bring the experience of summer camp to patients and their families through their Camp Urban Explorers program. As the team lead for Slalom, I couldn’t be happier to revisit a familiar role for me: camp counselor.

I had the privilege of being reintroduced to the world of summer camp as a counselor during college. As a kid, I attended a two-week sleepaway camp one summer, but the camp experience didn't quite sink into my bones until I spent nine weeks as a camp counselor. I was hooked.

Most students choose summer internships to prepare them for the “real world.” But as an engineering major, I chose to work at a summer camp to take a break from the stress of my challenging major. Little did I know that camp would teach me more skills that I use in my professional and personal life than any internship ever could have.

Lifelong lessons

At camp, I learned many practical skills: building a campfire, tying a bowline knot, and even how to lose your voice after a day of cheering for your team during color wars. I felt the serenity of canoeing across a quiet lake and the comfort of “Taps” sending me off to sleep on a cool night, cozy in my sleeping bag.

I learned the intense pride that comes from working with a camper over the course of days, weeks, or sometimes across summers to learn how to do a back dive in perfect form so that they could earn their Senior honor. There are few things more satisfying than to watch someone keep trying and trying and trying after they’ve failed—and not give up until they achieve it.

I learned that dependability, friendliness, consideration of others, and grit—the heart of many summer camps—are more critical to being a good leader than any project plan, Powerpoint slide, or corporate structure. Cheerfulness, creativity, and appreciation of beauty give us the ability to see the good in the world—and the power to impact it for the better.

I learned that everyone has something they do well. Finding that thing may be harder in some people than others, but it’s there—if you take the time and look hard enough. Learning what someone does well changes the way you view them. You’ll start seeing them for their strength and goodness, not their deficiencies and faults. What an amazing lesson.

Creativity, culture, and character

It’s rewarding to see our Slalom team working together with the Lurie Children’s team to create opportunities for campers to exercise their creativity through sessions on art, STEAM, and the animal kingdom. They will explore the past, present, and future through sessions on dinosaurs and learn about different cultures as we go “around the world” together. Most of all, they experience how qualities like friendliness, consideration of others, and dependability can build friendships and skills that will transcend the walls of the hospital.

My camp experiences shaped me into the person and the leader I am today. I’ve lived my life by my camp’s motto: Be the best of whatever you are. I hope that through the Camp Urban Explorer sessions each camper has the opportunity to grow in new ways, learn new skills, make new friends, and be the best of whoever they are.

Has camp made a positive impact in your life? We'd love to hear how camp has shaped you! Share your camp stories with us on Instagram and tag @slalomchicago #CampUrbanExplorers. You can learn more about the Camp Urban Explorers program on the Lurie Children’s Blog.