Posted by Larry Johnson on July 26
Hello again parents, it’s me, LJ here again for the final blog of the whole 2023 summer (can you believe the summer and 4th session is almost over already?). I don’t even know where the time for 4th session went to, it seems like it was just a few days ago when I was telling all y’all about what time to get emails in on our very first blog. You daughters sure have been busy this session, as I was walking around camp this morning, you could hear them al calling out to each other by first name and yelling shouts of encouragement as all the campers were trying to make they best time up the Tower of Power or trying to perfect that certain trick at circus. I made a stop down to arts and crafts this morning and I was blown away buy what all they’re doing down there with their projects. You’re gonna be surprised too when you se them Friday morning.
Out at horseback today we were having our horse championships where todays winners will compete tomorrow in front of the whole camp for the Horse Grand Championship. This is a huge deal here at Skyline and everyone is already talking about which campers will be riding and who’s representing which club in the Grand. We’ll be there with al the campers to catch all the action and let you know who wins and gets the traditional dunk in the water trough. Whoever wins is sure to score some major points for this club in pursuit of the horse cup that will be presented at tomorrow nights banquet (more on that later).
It was another beautiful warm day up here on the mountain and all the classes were finding ways to incorporate water play into e their activities. Tennis was doing a little water balloon serve and volley while sports was doing some water balloon tosses along with an awesome slip and slide. Of course the water front had the easy job of just keep on doing what they do and there was plenty of water slide, blob and pool time today for everyone. Not wanting to be out done, our CSR class decided to join in the fun and bounce Little River (thats what its called when you rappel and climb back up several times). Needless to say, it felt pretty dang good once we went down the rope into the waste deep cool water. I may have made the rip a couple times myself just to cool off. The girls loved splashing into the water at the end of their rope.
Today was the last official day of activities as as mentioned, tomorrow will be our Grand Championship horse tournament followed by Beli Deli time and then club meetings as all the clubs prepare for tomorrow night banquet. They will however have one more shot at what ever activity they like tomorrow as we have what we call “County Fair” where well open up quite a few of the activities and everyone gets one last ride down the zip line, or one more chance at a bullseye in archery or rifelry (they’ve gotten quite a few already!!). Our CSR class will miss out on county fair as we have one more out of camp trip to go do our final and biggest rappel tomorrow as we do the 100’ cliff off the side of the mountain. There will be some great pics from all around camp but you wanna see some of the ones from the rappelling trip. The view from there is amazing.
Speaking of amazing, our age out campers (those who’s are here for their final year of being a camper), were all invited over to our house where Sally had prepared a home cooked meal just for them. They enjoyed kicking back and gobbling p all the snacks and then sat down to a dinner of ham baked in Dr. Pepper (its delicious), home made mac and cheese, sautéed veggies,, biscuits and of course, sallys famous homemade ice cream. I think tonights flavors of the day was Oreo with homemade chocolate sauce. Spoiler alert, there isn’t any food or ice cream left so I think they enjoyed it pretty well.
After that it was time for showtime where Cheer, gymnastics and dance put on their best shows for the rest of camp and then to top the night off, we were entertained by our Chorus and Drama class to their fantastic presentation of “The Little Mermaid” they’ve been working on all session long. Between the acts we were entertained by our age out campers who emceed to the theme of Frozen and they all dressed the part! I found out they had all been in touch throughout the year and had been planning this the whole time. There something special about camp friends……
So tomorrow, after all the last plays on the activities are finished well have our end of year banquet and this is where the emotions start to turn. During banquet well present our campers with their stick patches for outstanding performance in their classes and then we’ll have our honor campers and counselors presentation. This is an honor for any of our campers that receive an Honor Camper paddle. This award is voted on by all the counselors and when they are chosen as Honor Camper there isn’t a dry eye in the house. There are some amazing stories from former honor campers and how they cherish their paddles and still have them in college and even afterwards.
At the end of the banquet well announce the winning clubs for the horse cup, the points cup (thats why they take all those nighttime competitions so seriously) and the ever coveted Elise H. Temple Spirit cup. When they announce the winners of this I’m sure it sets off a richter scale some where form all the cheering and yelling they do. You can honestly hear it all across the mountain when they’re screaming for their club.
And then it happens…. the campers all realize the banquet and their time at camp this year is coming to an end. All the girls they’ve been competing against these past two weeks are the same ones they’ve been yelling the words of encourage to as they try to climb up the tower, or get that first canter on a horse, ride the zip line for the first time or hitting the target in archery. All those times the’ve enjoyed just hanging out and having fun without unsung their thumbs or a keypad. All this times are coming to an end and they’ll be soon heading back into their too fast paced world.
As the cheering starts to wind down, all the campers put arms around each other and they play a song called “friends” that somehow conjures up every fun memory they have of their time over the past two weeks and the flood gates to tears open up. There’s not a dry eye in the building (thats why I try to skip this part of banquet) as the girls start to say good bye to all they knew best camp friends (there really is something special about your cup friends, just wait and see for yourself).
After most of the eyes have been wiped dry (you’ll never get them all dry, some keep on letting the tears flow) all the clubs will head down to the river for our river vespers. Here we’ll have our cabin wishes and this is where my most rewarding part of camp is about to happen. Our age out campers will each take a turn stepping up to the podium and deliver their age out speech to the rest of camp. I may try to miss the song crying at the end of banquet, but I never miss the age out speeches, your about to read why……..
These same girls that over the past 2 weeks painted their faces and bodies the color of their clubs in a show of leadership will get in front of the mic and deliver some of the most honest and heart felt speeches you’ve ever heard. They al talk about how quickly they rtime here at camp has gone by and warn the younger campers not to blink or they too will be giving their age out speech before they know it. They talk about taking advantage of every opportunity they get, taking chances like finally going down the zip line or riding a horse for the first time. They talk about their friends they’ve made and what they mean to them. They talk about what they’ve learned over the years and how they will cary that knowledge forward to help them through life. It may be something like being scared to try the ropes course, or not having the confidence to display their own painting, or even doing their first back flip in gymnastics. It all ends with “I finally did it with the help of my counselors and friends, and then I did it again and again”. Hearing that confidence, knowing they’ve learned to expand their growth zone and conquer new skills and seeing how much they’ve grown over just the pst 2 weeks……. Its all worth it. Especially with camp friends.
These are the moments I wait on and sit back and just smile watching these girls be the leaders we all knew were in them the whole time.
I hope everyone will stop by the front office on pick up day (Friday) and say hi. I won’t be hard to miss, I’ll be the one that looks as tired as all y’all that have stayed up each night to read the blog as soon as it comes out.
So for the final time this session and this year, thank you for allowing us to have your most prized possession here at camp for 2 weeks. We truly have enjoyed getting to know them and watch them grow over the course of the session.
thanks you, God Bless and have a safe trip up (or down) to camp.
See ya soon,
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.