Monday, October 21, 2013

Centrikid - Best Summers Ever

Since I've been sharing some of my videos and feeling rather nostalgic about camp lately, I decided to share with you a major part of what got me really started on videos... if you can consider my little projects anything close to real that is. Here is the background to my love of making videos, and some videos are posted at the end if you'd like to get a peek into the life of a Centrikid Staffer.

I've always loved being in charge of the video camera at family events growing up, trying to catch all my cousins being stupid and crazy on tape. But as I got older, I started wanting to do more than just film home videos. I started out taking those family clips and editing them into a little montage, but it was nothing special.

In 2010, one of my friends who also likes making videos, went to work a summer camp for Centrikid as a Video Producer. When she got back, she told me all about it and convinced me to apply. So when 2011 came around, I was excited and extremely nervous to work my first summer as a Video Producer for Centrikid Camps, which is owned by LifeWay Christian Resources.

It was the most amazing summers of my life. It was the first time I had been away from home or more than a couple weeks, let alone the whole summer. On top of that, I didn't know ANYONE. I would be going alone and meeting all new people. From the end of May to the beginning of August, I was touring the mid-southern states with a team of 30 Centrikid staffers, each of us doing our part to make a week-long camp for kids incredible and to share a little of the love of Christ with them, over and over. Every week we got a new bunch of kids and started the cycle all over again. As a traveling team, we traveled to a new location almost every week, in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

It was tough. It was hard work. It was long days. As Video Producer and Team Leader I had a lot of responsibilities. To begin with, I think I think I had the longest days of any other staffer. Every morning, our team got up and went to breakfast at 7 am with the kids that came to camp. I'll admit, I always skipped out on breakfast for extra sleep. I can count on one hand the number of times I went to breakfast, and it doesn't get up to 5. You may be thinking that makes me a slacker, but in a moment, you'll see why I was allowed this luxury the other staffers weren't. Let me tell you a little about our daily schedule, and then I'll explain what I did specifically as Video Producer.
After breakfast we had a opening celebration called I Can't Wait where all the staffers went crazy jumping around and cheering and screaming trying to get the kids to wake up and get pumped for the day. Mornings take a lot of energy to get the day started, and it doesn't stop there.
Throughout the day, we take the kids in groups of about 20-30 per staffer to different activities. There is recreation, where we have to act even more excited about running around playing silly games in the dreadful scorching sun on oppressively humid summer days than we actually are to try to get the kids excited and wanting to play. Then we go to Bible Study where yes, we get to sit inside the air conditioning, but we have to make sure we keep it all interesting and engaging to keep the kids who just expended all their energy at Recreation awake. While everything we do at camp is tied back to Jesus and the Bible, Bible Study is one of the most important elements of camp because that is where the kids get the biggest chunk of Gospel and the only real distraction is wanting to lay down on the floor and take a nap.
After Bible Study and lunch, it's Tack Time. Tracks are kind of like classes that kids can sign up for to learn and practice skills they are interested in, like Art, Drama, Basketball, Flag Football, Archery, Tennis, Sign Language, and things like that. Each kid signs up for 2 that they want to do, and they go to both Tracks each day. Tracks can be a little more laid back depending on which track you teach. The outdoor and sport tracks are often harder because you have to be outside in the heat some more and try to keep kids interested instead of complaining about being hot or tired or thirsty. Don't worry though, we provide plenty of water to keep them hydrated. (Did I mention that because we provide them with so much water at Tracks and Rec that they are constantly having to go to the bathroom?? That's a hassle because you can't leave the rest of the 29 kids by themselves, and there isn't always a bathroom nearby.)
Then there is Free Time. Not for staffers, for the kids. A couple hours of not having to go by a schedule.. for the kids. Free Time for staffers translated into "Go Be Intentional with Kids." Staffers go out and muster some more energy to make Free Time awesome for the kids by playing games with them and building relationships in the hope that through those relationships, we will get a chance to share Christ with them and lead them to Salvation.
After Free Time, the day starts winding down a little. It's time for Worship, which ranks right up there with Bible Study. The band leads several hundred kids in worship songs, and let me just tell you that if you have never gotten experiencing 500+ kids, all under 12 years old, singing, worshiping, and praising Jesus, it's one of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed. My first week of camp, on the 4th and last night of camp, after building up to this point all week, and more kids finally 'get it' than at the start of the week, and they are all pouring their little hearts out with child-like faith... I bawled my eyes out watching from the balcony. They had hands lifted, faces turned up toward God, tears on their own faces, and the presence of God in the whole place... absolutely beautiful. Then the camp pastor comes out and hammers home the things the kids learned earlier in the day with their staffers.
By the end of worship, hopefully the staffers have recovered enough energy because it's time for PARTY! Party is full of games where kids are called on stage to participate and try to win points for their teams. Teams are divided up into the 4 grades of kids that come to camp, 3rd through 6th. Some staffers are on stage leading and explaining the games, and the rest are in the audience going crazy and acting like idiots to try to get the kids pumped up and cheering for their teammates.
When Party is over, there is church group time for churches to split up so their own pastors and adults can have time with their kids. Staffers go with each church contributing if they can, then hang out with kids until it's Lights Out. That doesn't mean bedtime for staffers quite yet. Every evening there is a team meeting to discuss the day and what needs to be done for tomorrow, then we go do what needs to be done. Then and only then is it bedtime for staffers, and it's usually never before 11:30 pm.
I forgot to mention that on Day 4, instead of Rec, we play OMC, which stands for Organized Mass Chaos. It's incredible messy and crazy, but fun as all get out. I won't go into the details and rules now, but you can catch a glimpse of it on some of the videos below.

Now I'll give you a few particulars on my job and why it's so different. Because while everyone else did everything I mentioned above, I did all of it too, except for Breakfast and Track Times, and I had to film it all. I was responsible for capturing everything that happened all day long on video. I filmed I Can't Wait. I was expected to film Rec, which is kind of hard to do when you have to lead games for 30 kids. Luckily I had some awesome team members who would help me out. My first year I had a Sound Tech that didn't lead Rec, so he had me covered. And my second year, my Rec Director or Assistant Director would help out when they could, and the same Sound Tech from my first year was with us for the first part of the summer and helped out again too.
Track Times I didn't teach, but I had to get around to every one and film some of their activities. Camp was usually held on college campuses, and come campuses are really spread out... so I did a lot of trekking to and from track times. I didn't film Bible Study because I led my own group of kids in Bible Study, and it would just cause a distraction besides. But I filmed a little bit of worship sometimes, and of course I filmed Party.
So all day long I filmed. And then, at 11:30, when the team meeting was over and everyone else went to be, I went to my computer and started editing the Flashback video of the days events that would be shown the next morning at I Can't Wait. My first year, these videos would take my until about 2:30 in the morning on a good night, and sometimes 3:30 in the morning on a bad night. Then I would have to be up again at 7 for breakfast. So I skipped breakfast and didn't have to be up until 8.
And I haven't told you about Day 4. Days 1, 2 and 3 were my 3 or 4 o'clock nights. On Day 4, I had to make a video called an EOW, or End of Week. Basically, it's another Flashback video, only where the others were Daily Flashbacks, this one is a whole week Flashback. The regular Flashback videos are 3 to 4 minutes long. This EOW video is 9 to 10 minutes long. I never, ever, not once went to bed on an EOW night. I could usually finish the video about 4 am, but then it had to render, which takes 30 to 45 minutes. Then I had to burn the original DVD that had all the videos from the whole week on it that churches can buy. This takes at least an hour. Then I had to duplicate that DVD to fill all the DVD orders. This number was never less than 15 DVDs, and usually closer to 30. I had a duplicator that could do about 5 DVD's at a time, but it was old and liked to malfunction on me, so it pretty much always took longer than it should have. Then after duplicating the DVD's, I had to box them all up in the DVD cases.
But that time it was usually about 7 or 7:30 am, when everyone else was getting up. So I would go and lay down on a row of chairs in the auditorium and take a 30 minute nap until the rest of the team showed up for staff meeting in the morning to start off the day. My second year of camp, I was a lot more proficient and could finish faster, and so I usually got at least a couple hours of sleep on EOW night. But I had an even worse duplicator the 2nd year and it eventually stopped working altogether almost. It would duplicate one at at time. So DVDs would take FOREVER. It was like I couldn't win for losing. If I finished my EOW in good time, the DVDs would be waiting to keep me up all night.

Like I said, it was tough. It was hard work. It was long days. And for me, it was even longer days. On top of all that, we traveled at the end of every week of camp. I stayed up all night on Day 4, then on Day 5 we send the kids home by 10:30-11 am. Then we immediately pack up camp and get on the road for 5 or more hours to our next location. That's when I would catch a few winks, because as soon as we got to the next location, we had to set up camp that night because kids would be coming in the next morning. It was definitely intense.

But I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I love when the kids go crazy for the camera. I love getting to capture memories on film. I loved getting to go back and see all the fun the kids were having as I edited the videos. I didn't mind staying up all night, even though it was hard and exhausting. Because in the morning, when the flashback video played that i had stayed up working on all night, and the kids see their faces on the screen, and they yell and cheer, it makes up for the long hours and sleepless nights. Knowing that I got to conribute to making that kids day at camp special because he got to be on the camera makes it worth it. Because I did my job, kids get to take DVDs home to their parents and show them the videos so their friends and family can see how much fun they had at camp, and maybe next year they will bring a friend or cousin back with them who just might come to know the Lord at camp.
I wouldn't trade my summers at Centrikid for anything. Not only was it a blessing to get to work with, meet, minister to, and build relationships with kids, but I got to meet, work with, and build some of the strongest friendships I have with my Centrikid team members. When you live with and work side by side the same people every single day for an entire summer, you find some of the strongest friendships.

So there is the run down on my Centrikid experience. I worked as a Video Producer both summers that I worked, 2011 and 2012. I didn't get to work this year, 2013, because I had to take a summer class so I can graduate this December, and I miss camp like crazy. But I guess it's for the best because I'm probably getting a little old to work camp anyway ;)

I want to share some videos that I made from camp so that you can see what Centrikid is like. I tried to only pick a few so as not to overwhelm this blog post, but there are more on my youtube channel if you're interested. :)

Meet my team from 2012. This is the Staff Intro Video I made.

This is the Summer Flashback video i put together for my team, 2012. It has some random clips of staff through out the summer, and at the end, you can get a glimpse of OMC. This will give you a good idea of how crazy CK Staffers are :)

Every week the staffers write a cheer for their team to get excited for OMC and then we perform them for the other teams. Each week is a different theme. This week's theme was Rap.

Living together with a bunch of fun-loving people is bound to generate pranks and inside jokes. This is from my 1st year of camp. James brought a stuffed Parrot to camp at his mascot, and so of  course we had to have some fun with. So I made this video to sum up everything that happened to Polly throughout the summer.

I really want to share Flashback with you, but currently they are only on DVDs. I have almost every flashback I made from both summers, which is 4 per week, 12 weeks the first year and 10 weeks the second year. So I will have to pick one and then post it later.

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