Posted by Larry Johnson on July 11
Howdy parents and welcome to the last blog of 3rd session, 2019. Can you believe how quickly this session has flown by? We didn’t let the end of the session or the little bit of drizzle we had up here today dampen our spirits one bit as we had our Grand Championship Horse Show first thing this morning. All of our camper contestants were decked out in their finest equestrian gear and they looked superb showing their riding skills. All the campers attended the show and cheered on their favorite camper. Of course when it was all over with the Grand Champion and the reserve Champions got their dunks in the water trough.
Also this afternoon we had our Showtime at Skyline where all the campers in dance, cheerleading and gymnastics got to sho off in front of everyone in the gym. This ladies not only put one heck of a show but they had a great time doing it! You could tell they were having fun showing everyone what they had worked on and what a job they did.
Caving and rappelling class took their last out of camp trip and made several trips down and up the cliffs of Lookout Mountain. One of the best rewards I could ever get was the campers telling me, over and over again, as they made the climb up over the edge, “I can’t believe I did it, I didn’t think I could do that!”. If I heard it once, I heard it every time they made it to the top. It was great to see the smile on their faces as they realized what they had accomplished and what they are capable of. Definitely worth the trip, even it it was a little cloudy, little rainy and a lot of hard work. If your camper is in this class, be very proud of what they accomplished. They showed a lot of grit!
Now tonight we had our end of the session banquet where the reality of camp time coming to and end hits home and hits home hard. This is where we announce the winners of the Spirit cup, Point cup and the Horse show cup. The noise form the cheering is deafening when they make these announcements as the girls celebrate in full force when they capture one of the cups they’ve been working for all session.
After that its time for the Honor Camper awards. These campers are chosen by their counselors as the ones that have exhibited everything camp is about. Not the ones that were the best in each activity. Its a huge honor to be chosen as an honor camper and they receive a special “Honor Camper” paddle that will be with them and remind them of their time at camp for a long time to come. (more on that later).
Then it happens. The awards are over. The banquet is finished. The reality of camp coming to an end hits everyone of the campers and counselors right in the gut. Its time to say good bye to the friends we’ve made or gotten closer to. The campers that have sweated through all the activities together, the campers they may not have even known but stopped to help encourage them to get out of their comfort zone and try something new on the ropes course or circus. This is when everything comes to a head and the tears start to flow. Its time to say good-bye to everyone that cheered their voices out together as their club was trying to accomplish a common goal. There isn’t a dry eye in the dining hall as they realize they may never see some of their new best camp friends again or at least for another year. Its a moving moment and it will get ya if you stick around to watch too much of it. I generally try to slide out before that happens.
Once everyone gets themselves together its off to River Vespers. This is a special moment where the counselor choir will canoe past the campers in the dark using only the light from their torches to guide them down the river. The club leaders will together light a final camp fire to signal the end of the camp competitions. Each cabin will come to the podium to let everyone know what their cabin wishes are for the upcoming year. And then, its time for the age outs speech.
This is a speech that is better than anything you’ll hear coming out of a professional speaker or especially a politician thats supposed to be good at making speeches. This is when the campers who, due to their age, are at their final campfire of their camping career. They each come to the podium and let everyone know what their time at camp has meant to them and how it impacted their life. When you hear these young ladies talk, it just grabs you by the throat and won’t let you go. You realize that the zip line or horseback are not the reason they enjoy camp. These are just tools that enable them to reach outside their comfort zone either doing the activity themselves or reaching out to another camper to help them achieve their goal. Its the dealing with each other day by day, face to face and actually having a real conversation and seeing the impact of their words as soon as their spoken that is important to them. Some of these age out’s actually write their speech months ahead of time and practice them long before they even arrive at camp.
Remember that paddle I was talking about with the honor campers? One of the most moving age out speeches I’ve ever hear was from a camper that was telling the campers how important camp was to her. She then went on to tell a story from home in Tuscaloosa back in 2011. The storms were coming and headed towards her house. Her dad told her to run grab what was important to her and get to the basement as fast as she could. She then proceeded to tell everyone she ran upstairs to her bedroom and grabbed her honor camper paddle and then fled to the basement for safety.
I’ve seen it over and over these past two weeks just in the caving and rappelling class and I am so proud of what these girls have accomplished and learned they can actually do. I hope you guys playing along at home were able to see the same determination I’ve been talking about in all the pictures you’ve been getting on your phone or on the computer. But trust me, those pictures, as great as some of them may be don’t do the moment justice to truly reflect what your campers have achieved.
Like I said, it’s not the activities themselves, they’re just tools to let your camper realize they can do whatever they want to do if they work hard enough and have a great support group to help them along the way. Remember our theme for this summer, “In Good Company”, well, these past two weeks we’ve all been right where we’ve needed to be with your campers here.
Its been a great 2 weeks, River vespers and club competition is over and I’m having trouble seeing the keyboard. You guys have a safe trip up (or down) here tomorrow and please stop by the front office and say hi tomorrow. I’ll be easy to recognize, I’ll be the one that looks like they’ve been on the computer as much as some of you guys have these past 2 weeks!
The video is coming and will be up shortly on our youtube and facebook pages please be sure to check it out to see what it was like at banquet tonight.
Thanks again for checking in each night, God Bless and for the last time…..
We’ll see ya tomorrow
Larry is originally from Florida and graduated from Florida State University (Go Noles!). He taught and coached for 12 years before working full time at camp. During the off season, he heads up the winter retreats and leadership training with sports teams from all across the country. He’s married to Sally (who tries to keep him in line) and is an avid pilot and caver in any free time he can find.