Longtime volunteer and board member, Bos’n Frank Anthony writes about working with the Agawam staff to bring a new layer of camper well-being to fruition with the creation of a new MESH (Mental, Emotional, and Social Health) role on the summer staff team.

Camp Agawam’s emphasis on what we now call emotional well-being dates all the way back to our origins in 1919. At its best, the Agawam experience provides a fully immersive and fun-filled summer away from the stresses of the world, while also nurturing social and interpersonal skill development with a focus on leadership, confidence, and self-awareness. In recent years, as mental health issues have become more complicated, we have all noticed a need for increased age-appropriate support – from schools to camps, and everywhere in between. While Agawam counselors have always been well-trained, empathetic, and thoughtful in caring for the young people in their charge, the issues our campers are wrestling with have grown beyond age-old challenges such as homesickness and navigating the dynamics of a group living environment.

“Sparks” Pam Kern joined the Agawam staff as the first-ever MESH counselor in 2023.

I became acutely aware of this when my “day job” was working in admissions at a therapeutic school serving students struggling with anxiety, depression, identity, conflict resolution, and other issues affecting their personal growth and school experiences. As a member of the Agawam Council, I share a special responsibility to help support campers and counselors alike.

With this in mind, I approached our camp director, Erik Calhoun, to see what our Leadership Team might think about adding a professional therapeutic resource to the summer staff to help support counselors in their work with campers. Not surprisingly, they had already been thinking about this and ran with the idea of designing a MESH (Mental, Emotional, and Social Health) role at camp.

While the effort lost a bit of momentum from the interruption of Covid, the pandemic and the resulting social isolation only accentuated the need for such a position. I was delighted when, in 2023, Agawam hired its first MESH staff member, “Sparks” Kern, and even more delighted to hear she will be returning in 2024 for a second year with the benefit of the staff’s collective learnings from her first summer.

“Sparks” is a licensed therapist with a Masters in Social Work credential, and her focus is on helping staff with some of the complexity of working with campers struggling with anxiety, navigating peer relationships, and other developmental issues. Importantly, any acute issues continue to be referred to outside professionals, including existing therapists from home, all in coordination with the campers’ parents.

The addition of a MESH staff resource is but one example of the many ways Agawam continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the campers and families we serve. I understand other camps are also hoping to add similar positions, which both affirms our decision and fills me with pride knowing Agawam is again leading the way and sharing our learnings with our peer camps.

If you have questions about how your child’s emotional needs can be met while at camp, please feel free to reach out to the Camp Director.

About Bos’n Anthony:

“Bos’n” Frank Anthony was a camper and counselor from 1968 – 1978. He has served on the board and committees of Agawam Council continuously for some 25 years.  He is also a well-known Agawam volunteer regularly serving as program director for the Main Idea.

“Bos’n” Frank Anthony