Posted by Larry Johnson on July 16
Welcome back everyone to the last version of the Roost for 3rd session this year. I still can’t believe how quickly this summer and this session has flown by, I know the campers feel the same way just by listening to them talk today in all their classes. You could hear them as they ran from one activity to another saying “Lets hurry so we can do that one more time!!”. There was definitely an urgency to their steps as they all knew today was their last chance to get one more ride on the ropes course or whatever class they were in.
Since it was the last day of classes, I tried to pay a little more attention to what everyone was doing and saying as I worked through camp. There were several times I noticed that “things just weren’t the same and they were a little different”. One of those times was during all the campers favorite time of day, Beli Deli. Now usually everyone is piled around the snack shop getting their favorite treat to help them make it through the morning but when I looked out at the circus class, I noticed all the circus counselors were there and there was a group of campers that were going up on the elements and performing a trick or two and then hurrying down while another camper was already up on a different element just starting their routine. These campers and counselors were actually giving up their last chance at a morning treat to practice for their circus performance that will be tomorrow during Showtime. Nevermind the fact that the sun and humidity were set to “high”, these girls were out there working to get better, giving up their last free time no mater the cost.
The other “thing” that wasn’t “normal” today was rest hour. (by the way, ‘rest hour” to me is kinda like the Loch Ness monster and big foot….. I’ve heard about it and heard other people talk about it, but I ain’t never seen it myself!!) Anyway…. As I was working on our gear for rappelling class during rest hour, I kept hearing Christmas music and some girls voices sing so loud and on key (a surprise around camp!!) that I had to peek into the gym and see who it was. It was the whole class from Chorus and Drama working one their songs for tonights show and there I was, with special access to the last warm up before tonight. How they got that many girls to give up their rest hour to go and work on their performance is amazing, but everyone of ‘em was there. Let me just tell ya, they didn’t need the extra practice, cause they knocked it out of the ballpark tonight when they did it for the entire camp!
For the last day, we had a role reversal in camp. You guys know Miss Francis, our camp mom and how fond she is of having her 2 feet on the ground. Well, today she was talked into trying out our zip line and to say she was nervous would be a huge understatement. It took nearly half of camp out there cheering and encouraging her to take that final slide off the platform and take the ride of life down the zip line. All the campers she has been encouraging and giving hugs to in order to help them make it though the summer were out there encouraging her to do what she had helped them do earlier. And yes, when she finished and got down from the zip line, all those campers were right there telling HER how proud they were of her and giving her hugs. If you’re not a believer of what goes around comes around, then you should have been there today to see it first hand for yourself!
Folks, we’re not done yet, we had our rappelling class today working on a pretty technological move called a change over. This technique takes a lot of skill, determination, and desire to do correctly. As our campers were learning the change over, one of them struggled with the final parts of the move. I had started the other campers with the next part when I turned around and the camper that had struggled was on rope, getting one of the counselors to help walk her through it again, and again, and again!! She kept working on it (and sweating) for 3 more times until she finally had it perfected and had caught back up to the rest of the group. That determination paid off when in the 2nd half of the class, they had to climb up (on rope) to the top of our 3 story cabin and “change over” to another rope to rappel back down towards the river. All her work getting ready before sure helped out as she and every one of the campers accomplished the maneuver with out any problems. You could tell they all were proud of what they accomplished by the smiles and sweat every one of them had on their faces when the class was over.
The highlight of the day was dinner. Now don’t go and get ahead of me, I know what your thinking but it wasn’t a “normal” dinner tonight. Tonight is a very special dinner where Sally cooks a huge meal for all our age out campers as they all come over to our house and enjoy the meal there. What makes this so special it’s pretty much the only time I truly get to sit and enjoy the time with the campers who are on the eve of their last day at camp as a camper. Its great to sit back and hear them recall all the stories not just from this year, but from all their years, no matter how far back it may go. This year, because of that dang virus, we have some special age outs who are back for their extra “official” age out year since they really would have missed it last year. Its truly an honor to be able to sit and enjoy the time with them and hear their memories at camp. (I also learned several parents may have been in school with me, I’m not saying which school, but you guys “NOLE” who you are!!). I was also told by one age out that her father and I would probably be best friends and we have a lot in common (shout out to you John McClintock).
Although there’s a lot to celebrate as we near the end of camp, theres also a down side. Seeing these young ladies that we’ve gotten to see grow and gain confidence in everything they do, spend their last day at camp as a camper, is something I never look forward too. It will all start with our end of session banquet where we’ll announce the winners of all the cups the clubs have been competing for and the honor counselors and campers. The girls will make more noise than a rock concert cheering when we announce the wining clubs and then it hits them. Their last time at camp is now fast approaching on their timeline. The smiles and celebrating will be replaced with hugs, tears and an understanding of how special their time here has been to them.
Our final “event” of the night will be river vespers where the whole camp will be sitting along the banks of Little River as our canceler choir will canoe past them singing our camp alma matter, using only the light of torches as they glide through the water. After that it will be cabin wishes where each cabin will send a representative to the podium to announce what their cabin wishes are for everyone for the coming year. The kicker is then it’s time for those age out campers I’ve been talking about to step up and deliver their age out speech. I don’t care who you are or what speaking classes you’ve had. There is no one that can speak straight from the heart and with as much emotion as these girls do when they speak. Some campers have been working on these speeches for months to prepare them selves to say just the right thing while others won’t write them until the final day of camp, because they don’t want to think about it until then. It’s an inspiring thing to sit back and just listen to these girls talk about what all their years at camp have meant to them as they deliver their speeches to the rest of the camp. Most the time I sit back on one of the porches of a cabin on the river and listen so no one can see me (ya know…. in case I get bad allergies while they’re giving their speeches). It can happen!
Well folks, its been a blast to play along with y’all online while your campers are here with us for these 2 special weeks. I can’t begin to tell ya how honored we are to have ‘em here with us and what a joy its been to watch each and every one of them grow in confidence, skills and their walk with God while they are here. You’re gonna be surprised when you see ‘em and see how much they’ve changed over such a short time.
I could go on and on (it appears I pretty much already have) but there’s no way I can describe all the things that happen every day and how your campers impact and are impacted by each other. It’s truly been an amazing session and a treat to get to enjoy it with your campers. Thank you for trusting us with your most prized possession, its been a blessing.
Y’all have safe trip up here on Sunday, thanks again and we’ll see ya out front on closing day!
For the last time 3rd session……
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.