I’ve written about former campers and where they are now, whether it is up at Shamu stadium as a trainer or working with sea lions or in the Florida Keys on a lobster boat, but this story may be the best yet. A few weeks ago, one of SeaWorld San Antonio’s first campers brought her own family back to camp. Julie was a part of our first day camp group in 1992 and part of the first resident camp in 1994. She then came back as a camp counselor in 1996 & 1997, the years that I was a camper. And now after starting a family, she brought her son Turner to Ocean Quest and joined her daughter, Lucia, in Small Wonders Camp. It’s been great to reconnect with one of my counselors – one of the reasons I wanted to be a counselor. I asked her a few things about now seeing camp from every angle; here’s what she had to say:
What was your favorite experience as a camper?
There were so many it is hard to pick only one. Feeding Kemp Ridley sea turtles, watching a beluga give birth, hugging a killer whale, touching a pygmy sperm whale, swimming with penguins, kissing a beluga, feeding baby penguins, feeding sharks, hearing the trumpet of king penguins, and petting a walrus are amongst the experiences that come to mind. Where on earth would I have ever been able to do these things?
What was your favorite thing about being a counselor?
Watching each group of campers experience every moment for the first time gave me great satisfaction. It felt rewarding to be able to introduce the campers to such a unique life experience and to know that I was a part of one of the most thrilling days of their life. I especially loved receiving letters from the campers after they left telling me what an awesome time they had and how they hoped to come back the next year. It was pretty cool to see them the next year!
What was the best part of bringing your children back to SeaWorld Camp?
It’s one thing to see a camper grow in their appreciation of what the SeaWorld experience has to offer, but it’s very special to share in the making of these memories with my own children. Watching them have fun, learn and become enamored with the natural world through camp brought me back to my own time at SeaWorld and simultaneously allowed me to enjoy them anew through their eyes. Knowing that each day at Sea World is so unique, it was exciting to come back in the mornings and see the kid’s anticipation and wonder what was in store for them that day.
Next year marks the 20th year for summer camp at SeaWorld San Antonio (can you say Camp Reunion!). It all started with Day Camp programs that expanded to one-night Sleepovers and then into week-long Resident Camp programs. We’ve seen more than 98,000 campers experience SeaWorld Camp and I look forward to the days of seeing my old campers bringing their families to camp.