“Girls’ Camp ‘Pranks’” Ensign, June 1992, 65
Girls’ camp should be a time of hiking, certification, swimming, campfire programs, late-night stories, meals around the fire, and silly songs. Added up, these usually equal fun. So why, Anita Kingdon wondered, was one girl crying?
Sister Kingdon enjoyed the opportunity to help at camp, but the sorrow of this young girl was disturbing. The girl was sad because of a prank played on her, and she was not the only one angered or disconcerted by what had been done to her in the name of “fun.” Some of the adult leaders were also upset by pranks that had been carried too far—pranks that were contrary to the guidelines encouraging friendliness and appropriate behavior at girls’ camp.
Why was it okay to make people miserable at camp with sleeping bag surprises and scary noises, when this mischief would not be condoned in a normal setting? Sister Kingdon pondered the dilemma but did not know how to address the situation. Apparently other leaders were also uncertain. Some said, “Pranks are just a part of camp.” But should pranks be part of a camp that is trying to teach gospel principles?
When Sister Kingdon was called as the Grand Rapids Michigan Stake camp director soon afterward, she had the opportunity to do something about this nagging problem. But she wondered how to handle it, since the girls could rebel if they thought their “fun” had been banned. So she sought advice from the one Source who could provide a workable solution. After much prayer and pondering, the answer came: Eliminate pranks and substitute something in their place.
As a result, the “positive prank program” was born. In stake precamp meetings, leaders were advised that there were to be no embarrassing or malicious pranks at camp. Instead, the girls were to be encouraged to try “positive pranks.” Instead of filling a tent-mate’s sleeping bag with shaving cream, why not put a candy bar on her bed? How would a girl feel if she found a note of appreciation pinned to her tent or bunk?
Adult leaders agreed to try the idea. At first, some of the girls were upset with the new rule, but as the week progressed, the change became evident. An atmosphere of love and caring filled the camp that year. One ward covertly placed miniature candy bars on every bed in camp so no one would feel forgotten. The girls were so busy doing “positive pranks” that they forgot about the negative ones. At the end of the week, the leaders heard many girls say it was the best camp they had ever attended.
The first year was not perfect, but each year improved, says Sister Kingdon, who has since moved to Montana. Negative pranks vanished as the spirit of love and friendship increased, Sister Kingdon recalls. Older girls taught younger girls the “positive prank” tradition, demonstrating that love in action is what really makes camp fun.