Camp iRock about much more than reading

By: By Julie Capaldi - Contributing Columnist

“And your name is Sam? (I made up that name to protect the innocent),” asked the Camp iRock teacher?

“DUH,” said Sam.

“This isn’t a great start,” thought the Camp iRock director.

It didn’t get any better as the day went on. Sam was belligerent, unruly, throwing chairs and generally being disruptive. When it was time to board the bus to return home, Sam was told he couldn’t come back to Camp iRock. Sam dissolved into tears and begged to be allowed to attend.

“How can we have you back? Your behavior could have hurt people,” said the Camp Director. “I am sorry but you can’t come back.”

The crying and begging intensified. Sam begged and begged for a second chance. Eventually, the Camp Director softened and told Sam that he could have one more chance. Truthfully, he didn’t hold out much hope for Sam. He was that bad.

The morning bus arrived on Day 2 and out stepped Sam with a smile. He behaved perfectly that day and each day thereafter. Sam learned a valuable lesson at Camp iRock: consequences and expectations.

I don’t want to make excuses for Sam’s behavior but his life was really confused. He was involved in a custody situation and under a lot of stress for a little guy. Who hasn’t had the urge to just throw their chair once in a while?

Camp iRock does so much more than make children better readers. It makes them better people.

From the minute a child enters Camp iRock, he or she is engaged in activities that are thoughtfully created to build him or her up. The folks at Pickens County YMCA are summer camp experts. From camp songs and chants, to crazy names like “The Tarantulas” and “Ninja Warriors,” our Camp iRock campers are developing their character through fitness activities and games.

The YMCA has incorporated “Every Child a Super Reader” strengths into their camp activities. These seven strengths are belonging, curiosity, friendship, kindness, confidence, courage and hope. Our campers are just the sweetest little people on earth.

The campers have the opportunity to try new things, have new experiences and master new activities. It gives them such a sense of achievement, confidence and perseverance. When I think back to own perfect childhood — and it was pretty darn good — I have to confess that there was a little “quitter” in me.

When it got hard, my instinct was to give up. Fortunately, my mother would have none of that and she made me get back in the game. I was mad at her then, but now I realize that there is absolutely no “quit” in me now. Thanks, Mom.

This year, I took the time to go on a field trip to the World of Energy with the Pickens Elementary gang. I arrived first to get the lay of the land and shortly two yellow buses pulled up. The counselors for each class got off the bus first and their campers fell into line like soldiers in formation.

I have never seen anything like it in my life. These were the most unbelievably well behaved children I had ever seen. Instead of just staying a few minutes, I spent the next few hours marveling at how much fun we were having. I learned a lot about the upcoming eclipse too. I was prouder than a mother hen, when the World of Energy staff commented on the excellent behavior of our campers.

This final week of Camp iRock was “Spirit Week.” One day was pajama day. There is something really profound about seeing a grown man in his PJ’s in the middle of the day … in July … in South Carolina.

By Julie Capaldi

Contributing Columnist

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.