It had almost risen to the level of a cliché - the interviews I would do with people whose kids had gone off to a sleepaway camp or with the people who run these camps. "It's a life-changing experience," they would tell me. Or "It really changed my daughter." Or "It really brought my son out of his shell." And I'd think to myself, "It was a week. How much could they change in a week?"

Dear Columbus Parents, It had almost risen to the level of a cliché - the interviews I would do with people whose kids had gone off to a sleepaway camp or with the people who run these camps. "It's a life-changing experience," they would tell me. Or "It really changed my daughter." Or "It really brought my son out of his shell." And I'd think to myself, "It was a week. How much could they change in a week?" But then there I was, last month, filling out the application for my son to return to the one-week sleepaway camp he did last year. It had been his first experience with going to one (where his dad wasn't one of the coaches running things). In answer to the question on the application, "If your child attended previously, why would you want him or her to return?" And I replied: "Because it was a game changer. He came out of the experience so much more socially confident and happy with himself." Yes, one week was all it took to change him and me. And in working on the article for this year's summer camp guide about sleepaway camps (that, I've learned, is the preferred industry term), I heard some passionate explanations about why this time away from home can be so valuable for kids. Dave Devey, who has run Falcon Camp up in northeast Ohio since 1984, explained that, in a sleepaway camp environment, kids get to work out a lot of things that school and home often protect them from. "In school, you get assemblies about bullies and you get teaching to the test," Devey told me. "In camp, you have to make choices and decisions on your own. You have to deal with people you might not care for. And what usually happens is a sense of community develops, of relying on others, and figuring it out together." That's what I saw when I got my son back last year from his week away from home (which included a total communications black-out - other than a very amusing postcard we received from him: you know that went into the Mom Keepsake box). He was more confident about himself than ever before and it has carried straight into the school year. Fingers crossed now that he gets to go back. The Mom Keepsake box needs another postcard. Jane Hawes Editor