While in a foxhole in Italy during World War II, Sandy’s father, Alex Schenck, shared a dream with his best friend, Isadore Scott. He told Scotty, “If I ever get out of this war alive, I’m going back home to North Carolina and buy some land.”
Alex Schenck and his wife, Laurie, purchased the 3,400 acres, now called Green River Preserve, in the early 1950’s as a place to spend weekends and summers fishing, hiking, and exploring. As a child, Sandy Schenck was fortunate to learn the lore of the Green River Valley not only from his parents, but also from the people who had lived in the valley for generations. Newman Levi, a lifelong resident, taught him about tracking, hunting, and valley customs. Charles and Pearl Cox, an old school mountain couple, introduced him to milking cows, churning butter and cooking on a woodstove. Alfred Heatherly, a logger, and his wife Lori taught him stories of Cherokee Indians, jack-o-lanterns, and life in the valley in the early 1900s. From these memorable teachers, he learned a reverence for the land, a sense of valley history, and a joy and wonder of outdoor living. These kind and gentle mountain folks were Sandy’s counselors, and he was their camper.
In 1987, Sandy left a career in the business world to fulfill a lifelong dream of sharing the magic of the Green River Valley with children through an innovative, natural science-oriented summer camp. This would be a camp unlike any other, in that it would offer a community of bright, curious, and creative children a chance to learn about land stewardship and to grow as young leaders.
Construction of the base camp began in an old cornfield bordered by springs (complete with an old moonshine still). Timber harvested from the site became logs for the camp lodge and dining hall. Cabins were built on an old Indian campsite where artifacts are still found today. The corn patch became the playing field and the spring was dammed to create the fishing pond and swimming hole. From sawyer to carpenter, stonemason to electrician, the people who built the camp were from many of the same families that taught Sandy to love the valley so long ago.
For Sandy, the reasons for starting a summer camp are rooted in childhood memories, in lessons passed from one generation to the next, and in the simple pleasure of sharing the wonder of nature with young people. In 2006, Sandy and his wife, Missy, put 2,600 acres of Green River Preserve in a conservation easement with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. This action will preserve the land for perpetuity.