The Coastal Star

HAPPY CAMPERS: Three counselors share their memories of attending the same summer camps as children

2018 Summer Camp Guide

The Rev. Christopher Lewis counsels children at the Delray Beach church he attended as a boy. ‘I try to show the children God’s love for them and to learn to be a team,’ Lewis says. Photo provided

By the Rev. Christopher Lewis

Assistant pastor, West Park Baptist Church, Delray Beach 

As a camper at West Park Baptist Church Summer Day Camp in Delray Beach, I really enjoyed the friendliness of the camp staff. They actually played with you and genuinely cared about your well-being. They wanted to see you succeed, not only physically, but spiritually. 

My favorite memory was as a teen. We built our own bucking bull for Western Week and had a day called Stuff Day, where we just did stuff all day and saw many surprises unfold, like a barbecue at a park or going on a scavenger hunt to locate things. I enjoyed those activities as a camper, but, most of all, I enjoyed the chapel time when we heard Bible messages daily.  

I have been a camp counselor for 12 years, with two of those years as the camp director, though I prefer to be a counselor. I have done most of my work with the 5- to 7-year-old age group. That’s my favorite group. I’ve been their counselor for eight of the 12 years. I function as the camp’s assistant pastor but report to the pastor, who has the final say since it’s a church ministry. 

As a counselor, I try to show the children God’s love for them and to learn to be a team. There is too much selfishness out there. My goal every year is to at least impart to the kids that it’s better to learn to work together to accomplish a goal than to try to do it themselves with no help. 

I tailor a lot of my games to helping them work as a team. I also want to help them learn how to understand and think critically. I develop that if I can by helping them look at a situation and see the pros and cons of the choice they want to make. Essentially, I try to develop common sense, for lack of a better word. 

I’ll act silly with them but also be strict with discipline to help them learn to be better kids. 

I play with the kids and even pull out some old tricks just so they feel like they accomplished something, like letting them tag me out in a game or helping them to catch someone faster than they are. 

Cohen, 18, now works as a lifeguard for Waves and teaches children how to surf.  Photos provided

By Gigi Cohen 

Delray Beach

Being able to see where Waves Surf Academy has been and where the company is now is one thing that I truly appreciate. 

When I was around 13 years old, I’m 18 now, I noticed an old friend was learning how to surf at Waves Surf Academy. I reached out to her about that camp, and I was introduced to a whole other interest. I decided to go to Waves Surf Academy as soon as possible. 

Seeing this company grow — from my first lesson with maybe six or seven children to a camp every other Saturday with 20-plus children attending — has been a great thing to witness. I’ve watched this Waves grow from a tiny operation under a lifeguard office to a company with connections to country clubs like Mizner Club and Delray Beach Club. And I was also able to grow with it. 

From learning how to surf and being the one getting help on waves to teaching children how to surf and being the one helping them has given me real perspective and let me see where I was then and where I am now. 

For my newly acquired skills, not only in surfing, but also in work experience, I thank Waves Surf Academy.

Gigi Cohen developed her passion for the water and learned to surf as a young teenager attending Waves Surf Academy.

A’lexus Garnett at cheer-leading camp. Photo provided

By A’lexus Garnett
formerly of Boynton Beach

“It takes a village to raise a child.” This is a quote I strongly believe in.
     I was born and raised in Boynton Beach. Since the age of 4, I’ve participated in numerous programs and activities with the city.

I started out playing T-ball at the Ezell Hester Jr. Community Center where I met many friends, some who I am still in contact with today. I was on the all-star cheerleading team (Boynton Beach All-Stars) where I was able to travel, meet many new people and build great character. 

My coaches and Ms. Mary DeGraffenreidt (senior recreation manager for Boynton Beach) were very uplifting and inspiring people — they were like my second family. If I didn’t have my act together in camp or in school, our coaches would make sure to reprimand us so that we would learn what was most important: our education and our respect toward authority. 

Other than sports, I also attended the after-school program and summer camp at Ezell since age 5 with Mr. Joe Evans, Fontaine Watkins, Frank Ireland and many others. When I was “aged out,” I gave back to my community by volunteering at the same facilities.
     Growing up here gave me a passion for children. I went on to volunteer with a mentoring program aimed toward at-risk kids who may have disorders or are living in single-parent homes.

When I was old enough and able, I applied to work for the same people who helped raise me and get me to where I am today. Like the quote says, without all of these people who touched me within the community I wouldn’t be where I am now. And I feel that it is vital that I work hard to give the younger generation the same opportunities and experiences that I had so that they, too, can grow up, make memories, be successful and then come back to give to their communities.

A’lexus Garnett, 21,  worked as a summer camp counselor for the city of Boynton Beach in 2016 and was a junior counselor volunteer from 2010 to 2015. She’s studying pre-law at Florida A&M University and is president of Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity. She continues to be a mentor and a role model to children. 

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