Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 17, 2013

Hello muddah? Not everyone loved sleepaway camp

(Continued)

Some unhappy campers hated bunk life. "It was dirty," recalled Gerry Cotten, 25, a website developer in Toronto. "I was always into computers, and some sort of computer camp probably would have been fun, but sleeping in an ancient old wooden cabin, with disgusting washrooms a five-minute walk away, wasn't really appealing."

The great outdoors didn't hold much charm either: "Taking a dip in the lake each morning instead of having a shower wasn't really for me. They called it the Polar Dip."

According to the American Camp Association, nearly 9 million kids under the age of 18 attend one of the country's 7,000 overnight camps each summer, with stays ranging from a week to two months. Research on the association's website suggests that going to camp can build confidence, self-esteem, social skills, independence and a sense of adventure.

But for some campers, the experience was more like the funny 1963 hit song performed by Allan Sherman: "Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh, here I am at Camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining. And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining."

Kim Cooper, 46, hated the structured activities. "They said 'You need to go make lanyards now,'" she recalled. "Why do I need a lanyard?" She preferred "hiking solo in the woods looking for interesting wildlife." But other campers thought that was weird, and Cooper soon found herself "surrounded by a group of scary big kids who were shoving me around and calling me Moses" — because of a stick she carried on her treks.

"I had no alternative but to bite one of them," she said. Not surprisingly, she was soon sent home. But Cooper didn't grow up to be a hermit in the woods. In fact, she makes a living dealing with groups of strangers, running the Esotouric bus tour company in Los Angeles with her husband.

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