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What Makes This Place Truly Magical

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Happy Summer, y’all!

Camp Mom Liz reporting from Base Camp, where I’m enjoying my fourth year at GRP. I started as a camper way back in 1996, worked as a Counselor-In-Training in 1999, and made a triumphant return last summer, when I came to work a session as Camp Mom and fell in all-the-way-head-over-toes-in-love with taking on a supporting role as a GRP elder.

Despite my time away, I’ve always revered GRP as a place of respite, where I can return to who I am when I’m not encumbered by all the pressures of modern society. When I first crash-landed here as an awkward 13-year-old camper, I was rife with frustration about the world and my place in it. It was the perfect time for an intervention at Green River Preserve, where kids and young adults are encouraged to be exactly who they are as they explore and delight in the world around them. There are no expectations or pretense in these outdoor classrooms - just the hope that everyone will enjoy luxuriating in the riches of this unadulterated paradise in their own way. When I revisit photos I took from that first summer here, it’s clear to see my evolution from an anxious, performative adolescent to a self-assured, relaxed young adult in just a short two weeks. GRP intervened in my life in a way that’s still evident in the adult I’ve become, all these years later.

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As Camp Mom, I get to work behind the scenes to ensure that this remains a sanctuary like the one I so direly needed in my youth. Most importantly, I get to play: I teach theatre classes, go on hikes, learn from brilliant Mentors, and create with abandon. Sure, Camp Moms also put in office hours, do chores, and run errands while here, but these things hardly feel like work in such beautiful surroundings with such enthusiastic coworkers.

As much as I rave about camp being magic and sunshine, GRP lets me see my worth on the hard days, too. When a homesick kid needs a little extra care or the rain just won’t stop, that’s when I’m most grateful to be here as an adult who has made a daily practice of Love, my favorite of the Woodcraft Laws. All these years later, with everything I know now, I still seek the joy of being alive and I’m so grateful to get to pass this tradition down to the next generation of campers, including my own child.

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If you were to tell me there’s anywhere more beautiful or full of joy than Green River Preserve in summertime, I wouldn’t believe you; however, what makes this place truly magical is the people, and I’m proud to be among them at this or any age.

Story by Liz Z Pardue with photos by Samantha Keebler & Brandon S. Marshall