“I can’t believe this is my home.”
Over and over again this sentence has come across my mind over the last 12 months. A year ago today, I moved to Western North Carolina to begin my journey as the Summer Camp Program Director at Green River Preserve. I worked here during the summer of 2012 as a Mentor and absolutely fell in love with everything that GRP had to offer. From the exclusive land resource to the unique community of people to the value on facilitating education and connection with nature, I felt I had truly stumbled upon paradise.
A paradise so wonderful, in fact, that it all seems like a dream sometimes. Every day that summer, I got to work with some of the brightest, most curious and creative campers and staff that I have ever encountered in my ten years of working in youth development. I was floored by the aspirations and experiences of some of the staff—from traveling internationally to incredible musical proficiency to a drive to improve the world in big ways to sheer knowledge of and passion for conservation and sustainability, it was immediately clear that this place is like no other.
Something that many of you may not know is that when discussions began originally about my taking on this role, I told Sandy and Missy that I wasn’t interested. My passion is for education and for taking people into the woods and sparking their interest in this incredible environment that surrounds us. There is nothing really like the moment where you show something to a student and their eyes light up with wonder, curiosity, and awe. You cannot beat the experience of silently sitting on Lower Bald listening and observing the quiet of the valley or joyfully feeling the invigorating chill of Uncles Falls. My vision of the life of a camp director consisted of many hours in the office in front of the computer which was exactly what I had fled to work in outdoor education.
And yet, as we talked more about the position, it was the opportunity to work with the people that are drawn to Green River that kept the option on the table. As I have found over the last year, it is the people—the campers, staff, alums, and parents—that truly make this community the inspirational place that it is. You all make the hours that I do have to spend inside a pleasure and I hope that you will continue to grow your relationship with the GRP employees and other families throughout the next several months and years.
I was also surprised to find that the Western North Carolina camping community is truly one of the finest in the world. With over 60 camps in the area, you would expect that it is a cutthroat world where we fight for each registration. But we are in the relationship business and all of us realize that collaboration will get you much farther than competition. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have learned from and how much I respect so many of the other camp professionals, who are also some of my dearest friends. I would trust each and every one of them with my friends, family, and most valued possessions. There are amazing people here doing amazing work and we all continually push each other and support each other to provide a more professional and beneficial camp program to our individual camp communities.
If your child has gone on a hike with me during their time at Green River, they may have ended their hike with a gratitude circle where the group interlocks arms and each person shares something they are grateful for. Often the campers express gratitude for their families, their pets, their friends, and their experiences at camp. Every time I do this exercise, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the life that you all have given me. You have given me incredible children to teach and to learn from. You have trusted me to hire fine young adults to grow and lead your children. You have welcomed me in to your camp community with open arms and kind hearts and I will be eternally grateful for the past twelve months and the many years to come.
“I can’t believe this is my home.”