I spent most of my childhood in western North Carolina and was blessed with the incredible outdoor access that comes with this area. My parents led my sisters and I on countless adventures through Appalachia- whitewater trips, backpacking, climbing, mountain biking and so on. Looking back, it’s truly difficult to imagine a better place to grow up.
In high school, I began to notice all of my friends talking about summer camp. I had never been, but their stories about adventures with their “camp friends” piqued my interest.
Sure, I was going on my own whitewater and mountain biking trips, but I craved something my friends had that I didn’t: a community of friends my own age to explore with.
My parents responded to my pleas to go to camp with “we do our own summer camp,” which wasn’t entirely false. Spending time outdoors with my family was fulfilling indeed, but as a teenager I craved something more.
The summer after my Junior year of high school, my dream finally became a reality. I enrolled in a small wilderness summer camp in Brevard, NC as a Junior Counselor, ready to dive head first into my first summer at Camp. From the moment I stepped foot on camp property and met the directors, my counselors, and my cabin mates, I knew this place had more in store for me than I could have anticipated.
Never had I been in a place where I felt so empowered to try new things, make new friends, and give so much of myself to the community.
That summer, I made several of my closest friends to this day. The time I spent with young men like myself in my cabin, out in the woods, on mountain tops, and on rivers provided an experience so formative that I turned summer camp into a career. My counselors became my first role models outside of my family because of the way they lived out a life of joy, faith, and encouragement. In them, I saw the man I wanted to be.
Young men need supportive peers in an environment that promotes discovery, celebrates inquisition, and understands failure. My first summer at camp fundamentally changed my life trajectory in the best of ways, and I thank God that I was so blessed to experience Summer camp as a camper, a counselor, and now as a Director.