Family Camp at the Hulbert Outdoor Center is a special place for me. Summer Family Camp in 2005 was my introduction to the Aloha Foundation, and the memories I made there are still fresh in my mind as I am halfway through my fifteenth year with the camps. As my parents recall fondly, the moment we arrived at family camp each year, I would dive and disappear into the magic of it immediately, as the white and green buildings came into view. My excitement hasn’t dissipated at all over my eight Winter Family Camps, and it has become special for me to see the same energy developing in our new, and younger participants.

This is the Kalen family at the most recent family camp.

I return to foster this environment for others as a counselor, spend time with my own family in my favorite place, and participate in both the new and longstanding traditions of this amazing community.

The days at family camp are very much “choose your challenge level” type adventures. There are always groups of people going out into the snowy playground that is our campus during the winter months, others getting into fun inside activities like Hot-Sauce Making or Poker, and then the most consistent group — those that are relaxing happily by the crackling fire with a hot mug and a good book. The magic of family camp is having the ability to choose what energy you want at any particular period of the day. Part of the joy of working and participating is being able to be a part of those high-energy activities, and then come in to the Main House, grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and warm back up by the fire while having a more relaxed, adult conversation with participants or fellow staff members. That blend of noisy and calm is a rare privilege and one that I certainly cherish come Winter Family Camp each year.

As with many other programs that Hulbert runs, Winter Family Camp holds many traditions both large and small which make it special. The puzzle tables that inevitably bring both frustration and pride, or the breaking and distribution of the famous gingerbread house. The wild Storm the Castle activity which transitions into cooperative snowman building (staff can only take so many snowballs to the face), or the consistent late night board game/crossword crew. However, more than these wonderful year-to-year traditions, it is the intentional and caring community which makes this week stand out to me. Activities will change, and weather will vary, but the sense of belonging and ability to unwind is strong and immediate for both new and returning families. I can’t imagine starting out my year any other way!

Norman is a Hulbert instructor and Lanakila counselor.

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