Assembling a Care Package for Your Summer Camper

In the throes of thesis-writing, I was reminded of how much a creative and well-timed care package can lift one's spirits when a good friend from Austin sent me tea, chocolate, unicorn tattoos and a Gumby toy along with humorous instructions as to when and how to use each item. This seemingly hodge-podge collection of simple things worked wonders in terms of cheering me up during the more tedious days of citation-checking.

In a broad attempt to pay it forward, I now make a plea to the general populace: Take time this summer to send a care package. Your target can certainly be any friend or loved one, but if you're stumped for an appropriate recipient, might I suggest the youngster braving sleepaway camp?

Although many kids relish those weeks away from overbearing parental units, just as many (I know; I was one of them) feel at least some anxiety being in a new environment that involves communal bathrooms, cafeteria food and fellow campers with questionable hygiene. For tips on how to assemble the perfect care package, please continue:

What to Include

  • Compact puzzles and games for solo use and ones that involve other players (to promote friend-making).
  • Simple reminders of home such as family photographs, animals, favorite mugs or dishes.
  • Nonperishable food items (but always check on camp rules and regulations as many prohibit outside edibles) such as gum, mints, jelly candies and dried fruit.

When to Send

  • Early in your camper's stay, when s/he is likely to experience "culture shock" most intensely, or
  • In the middle/hump period, when s/he may feel like she hasn't been home in a long time and won't be any time soon.

How to Ship

  • Use a tightly packed box and wrap each item separately. Plastic bags are especially helpful for segregating different food items or personal care products.
  • Address the package with a large print label. Make sure the camper's full name is clear and readable.
  • Mail in a timely fashion, especially if comestibles are involved. Overnight FedEx is probably not necessary, but sending by land tortoise suggests you care more about saving a buck than consoling your camper sooner rather than later.

Finally, for the love of God, don't get miffed if your camper doesn't send you a thank-you note or e-mail tout de suite. She's at camp, remember? Take it as a good sign she's spending time outdoors and not holed up in a computer lab.

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Joanna O'Leary