First time counselor at Camp Harmony Arden Williams ’14 was ready to take on the ropes course with a camper when the 9-year-old girl asked to pair with a girl from her bunk that she hadn’t gotten to know very well instead. That experience was one of the highlights of camp for Williams.
For the past 23 years, Camp Harmony has served as a summer camp for children living in shelters from the greater Los Angeles Area. Williams was one of 34 Harvard-Westlake students who volunteered as counselors at Harmony this summer.
“You never really know what kind of camper you’re going to get, and what their story is going to be… but you treat every camper with as much love and as much respect as you would anybody else,” three-time Harmony counselor Mariel Brunman ’13 said.
Current programming director at Camp Harmony, Nick Melvoin ’04, knows exactly what camp can do for both the kids and the counselors. He has worked at Harmony since his sophomore year at Harvard-Westlake.
“[Camp Harmony] is my favorite place to be,” he said. “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces is just an incredible feeling.”
Brunman said that many of the kids have restraining orders against their own parents – they hide from the camera, afraid that their parents may find them.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Brunman said.
The counselors said they all faced challenging situations, but the reward seemed to be much greater than those challenges.
“Through the week, I went through highs and lows with my kids, but they frequently tell you that Camp Harmony is the best week of their lives and that they wish they lived there,” counselor Andrew Ravan ’15 said.
Brunman said that with so many Harvard-Westlake students at camp, they end up interacting with each other in new and unexpected ways.
“It’s kind of a uniting force when you see someone that you have biology, or chemistry with, and all of a sudden you’re both covered in face paint.” said Brunman.
Counselor Cayla Blachman ’15 said that saying goodbye was the hardest part of camp.
“I knew I had made an impact on my campers, and they had definitely changed me. As my counselors and I embraced our campers, tears streamed down all of our faces,” Ravan said.