Reeling in the Leaders – Ronan Shields
I’ve been asked by Niall “Niggs” Cunningham to write down a blog if you like of my past and current feelings/experiences with me facing delays of assignments, a Celtic game and just general laziness I’m finally getting round to having a crack and maybe even out-shadowing Nigg’s famous/infamous blog which he called the “kings corner”a few years back. This blog will basically be addressing everything that I feel I learned and just a documented piece about the enjoyment I get out of KYW and have gotten out of Knockadoon ever since I arrived down seven long years ago.
It all started in the summer of 2008, a busy year in the calendar of Ronan Shields between losing my captaincy of St. Dominics u-11 team to leaving Primary School. This summer was a big summer, my last summer before me and my friends from the Friary dispersed around the various secondary schools around the town and what better way to capture the moment then to go on one last hurray to knockadoon summer camp through the youth club. Through the Youth club and Altar servers our gang were fairly tight and this was an opportunity to get away from the stresses of chores around the house and briefly getting away from our parents. Knockadoon provided this opportunity by being a well supervised, relatively cheap camp that we could go to, get a small sense of independence and enjoy our last summer together.
First impressions. My first impressions of the camp are on par with a lot of people. You hear the stories in anticipation of mad activities and I initially struggled to put them to the picture your first met with. I was never one to get home-sick so I was ready to give the camp a chance and I’m glad to this day I did. Ever from the ice-breaking activities the leader organised the first day I got a real sense of fun and happiness one that I can only put down to the enthusiasm of the leaders from the get go. A real community spirit was formed between the leaders and the campers and the Tallaght campers to the Dundalk campers even within the bunkhouse’s. This community spirit stuck with me throughout my time as a member and a leader. I overall enjoyed my first year that I spent in Knockadoon camp and felt I came away from it a bit more out-going after getting myself involved in nearly all the activities. My favourite activity had to be the anticipated leader-camper where in my first year campers captain Samo gave me a 10 minute cameo substitute. Unfortunately that day my touch was worse than current strike force smiley and whoosh combined but it did give me a confidence boost to be involved in a game with some of the older and in my young eyes cooler kids, giving every child an opportunity in activities like this is vital and something KYW leaders do very well.
I returned to the camp in 2011 this time a more mature, enthusiastic human being. I strived to get involved in on-stage activities from taking part in the best-friends game show to winning Mr and Mrs Knockadoon with the still very lovely leader, Claire McKeever. As an older camper my connections grew with the leaders and I found myself feeling even more in-touch with the Knockadoon community. Something I think the leaders of the KYW done in the past and still do is treat older leaders with the respect they deserve although at the same time keeping an equal situation of all campers and still doing our utmost to protect the welfare of everyone on camp. Surprisingly I only spent two summers as a camper after my initial year although I did adore the summers I spent in Knockadoon and they’re something I’ll always look back on with solely fond memories be it from the infamous family Keating duel over a bag of Dorito crisps to scrapping a draw against the leaders in a game of football or winning the camper of the week in 2011.
My First year as a leader was in 2013, my relationship with KYW stayed the same although there was a change in my energy levels due to the work load and responsibility but not a change in my enthusiasm towards the camp I’d like to think. My overall favourite aspect of being a leader is the opportunity were given to make an impact on a child’s life, I for one know I’d be a different person and more than likely fall into a different social circle, not necessarily a bad social circle but a different one. Changing a child’s life might sound a bit extreme to some but providing a child a week to look forward to throughout the year can change their outlook on life as a whole in my book. Not every child needs the KYW or depends on it every year but I think if kids are willing to give it a chance the outcome can only be a positive one and I believe all the current leaders are examples of that. Well obviously apart from the leaders who never experienced being a camper on the kyw (johnny,Sean Kelly). In all seriousness the positive vibes that the leaders seem to always give off does help mould the dull grey bunkhouses you might initially see of knockadoon into a stronghold of fun and activities.
So what does KYW hold for me? Well although I’m going on 20 within the next year due to being made a leader relatively late and working as staff last year I’ve only worn a red jumper once on camp, so I hope to take it year by year and to hopefully continue spreading positive vibes around camp and being nothing but a positive effect on any camper of the KYW! Hope you enjoyed this glorified spiel and I for one am looking forward to adding to this piece and my Knockadoon experience in the summer of 2015.
Ronan Shields x