I first attended Green River as a rising 7th grader in 1993. With only one exception, I have been back (usually more than once) each year since then. I’ve been a camper, an expeditioner, a CIT, a co-counselor, a counselor, a guest mentor, and a persistent visitor. I know the love, self-confidence, and connection to nature that I continue to feel began that first summer I spent as a three-weeker.
I still have my journals from my years as a counselor, and I thought I would share this excerpt from my journal on August 9, 2001 (at the end of my second summer as a counselor) to begin to tell my story:
“Most of us love this land, this place, these people. And it’s so wonderfully comfortable here. I’ve had years when it was heartbreaking to leave (this is quite true — you can ask Sandy about the year we threatened to move into Indian Cave). But, very gradually, over the years, I’ve come to realize that you can bring a bit of Green River with you. You can use that comfort and love to launch into bigger things. Just as you use the encouragement of people here to climb the tower or sing in front of the group – you can use that to move on to do something different.”
So, here I am 11 years later, and I still return to memories of Green River as well as the actual physical place to keep myself grounded. I have several favorite spots along the river, and my journals are dappled with notes of visits to Green River for renewed connection, happiness, peace, and four seasons of river dunking to keep myself in the moment. My connection to nature, nurtured by my time at GRP, is what has sustained me in times of difficulty and inspired me in times of happiness.
I’m so thoroughly convinced of its healing effects that I’ve created a unique program to bring nature to kids who are stuck in the hospital. The program, called Healing and Hope Through Science (www.healingandhopethroughscience.org) is a part of the NC Botanical Garden at UNC, and essentially brings modified GRP activities to hospitalized children at Duke and UNC Children’s Hospitals. We’ve even created (with lots of help, including from former staff member, Mac McMillan) a model of the Green River with filtered water and rock so kids can play in the creek from their hospital beds. I am so grateful for my continued connection to Green River and for the meaningful work it has inspired.
~ Katie (Vogel) Stoudemire (camper, expeditioner, CIT, co-counselor, counselor, guest mentor)