I was six years old when I started going to summer camp, and from the very beginning camp has meant so much to me. The one week each year I spent at camp was always the highlight of my summer. As an adult, I’ve spent multiple years working entire summers at camp, and somehow it still ends too soon each year. I was so fortunate to go to summer camp each year growing up, and the minute I was old enough to start working at camp, I did.
Camp gave me lifelong friendships. I still have friends that I went to camp with for just one week nearly 10 years ago. I did activities that I couldn't do anywhere besides camp. My faith in Christ was hugely influenced by the excellent role models I encountered there, and how they challenged me to grow closer to God and in the body of Christ. I learned more about God and everything that encompasses Him, especially His love for each of us.
I have wonderful memories of camp, both as a camper and as a Wesley Woods staff member. In 2017, when Camp in the Community (CITC) became its own Holston Conference Camp, the opportunity arose for me to be a part of it. I could not pass it up. I jumped on it! I was so excited because I knew how fortunate I had been to go to camp as a child. Not every child is able to have that same experience, but with CITC they can. CITC gives kids, who may not otherwise have the opportunity, the chance to enjoy the same great camp experiences I had.
One of my favorite memories from CITC is when I was talking to a camper about our favorite Kool-Aid Jammer flavors. Then, the next day seeing her at lunch with an empty chair next to her with my favorite flavor Kool-Aid waiting for me. It was so thoughtful. It showed me that even if it was a Kool-Aid flavor we were connecting over, I had the opportunity to continue to build a positive relationship.
One day I saw one of our young campers getting upset because her kinetic sandbag had busted, and she had lost a good portion of her sand. Another camper just took a little handful of her sand out of her own bag and put it into the other camper’s bag. It showed me that these two kids, who had never met before that week, had formed a friendship. They were able to show each other empathy and compassion even with something as small as sand. I was so grateful to be a part of something that could facilitate these connections and relationships.
One of my very favorite memories of this past summer started out differently than you might expect. One of our campers was having issues staying with his group all week, and he also seemed to have a lot of anger. So, naturally, I saw this particular camper a lot during the week. I spent a lot of time talking to him in an attempt to connect him with his group and get to know him and his background more. It had been a trying week, and personally, I was feeling defeated by how it was going. I hadn’t been able to make many connections because of how busy the week was, but on our last day at this location, the boy who I had experienced so many difficulties with, suddenly wanted to talk all day. It reminded me of how important CITC is. We have the chance to be positive influences in campers’ lives, and seeing him open up showed me just how much we were impacting their lives.