Welcome to Camp I4K


Back at a desk. Back at work. Back at school. Back in class. No matter where you are, you’re probably not on Spring Break right now, but wishing you were. That said, it’s already Wednesday and sooner or later, once we get lost in the shuffle that is the post-Spring Break sprint to the finish, Spring Break will just seem like a distant memory. We’ll look at pictures and think to ourselves, “Wow, did that actually happen?”

I always liken these brief, intense periods in our lives to camp. The idea of camp is that there is a definite distinction between the “inside world” and the “outside world.” “Inside” can refer to any number of places: a vacation abroad, a school trip, or an actual summer camp. “Outside” is simply anywhere that is not “inside.” That is, “outside” simply refers to the “real world” we left for camp. We forget all about our jobs, our responsibilities, our schoolwork, and just learn to just enjoy life at camp.

Camp is interesting because in these insular societies everything seems a bit more intense. In my life I’ve been at speech camps, band camps, yearbook camps. I’ve taken trips to the Philippines, China, and to countless other destinations. But it looks like my biggest camp experience will be this summer. Illini 4000 consists of 72 days with 20 people that are constantly exhausted. It really sounds more like a season of Survivor than camp.

At camp, everything seems a bit more intense. Everything on these trips happens so fast and much more dramatically than in the real world. If you’ve ever seen the show “Bug Juice,” you know that camp drama was more explosive and that camp romance was the most important thing in the world. And then, before you know it, camp’s over. Everyone goes their separate ways. Everyone says that you’ll all be best friends forever, but slowly, you lose contact with people and soon it’s like camp never happened at all.

But even if there are these moments that seem fleeting and temporary, the beauty of camp is what you take away from it. After speech camp, I came home with an award-winning speech, and I met the person would eventually become my freshman year college roommate. At band camp, we learned drill that we worked all season to perform, and made countless inside jokes that only a handful of dehydrated/nerdy high schoolers could make. And after this spring break, I’m exhausted, a bit more tan, and have enough pictures and memories to #TBT for the next few years.

Camp is important because we find out who we are when we don’t have to worry about anything else. We meet new people, make new friends, and together we get out of our comfort zone and grow.

Illini 4000 is a unique camp experience. It allows us to leave camp with new (and super fit) friends, fresh tanlines, and an amazingly unique opportunity to make a huge impact on the fight against cancer. And yeah, a year or two from now or maybe someday when I’m telling my kids about the ride, I’ll think to myself, “Did I really do this? Did I really bike across the country?” But I’m optimistic that I’ll make friends for a lifetime and that the impact we make will be felt for a long time in the future.

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