It’s the last week of Illahee’s 94th camp season and we just finished a dinner picnic on the white gravel path in front of the dining hall with James Taylor on in the background. This Wednesday evening dinner tradition is affectionately known as “bag supper” and the candy bar treat for dessert is a camper highlight. Tonight’s group chose among Snicker, Skittles, Kit Kat bars and Reese’s Pieces and I think Skittles are the most popular.
This final session is a five day junior camp with campers from 2nd to 5th grade. For many, it’s their first experience away from home but they are taking part in traditions and excitement that is offered at each session- sliding rock, a trip to Dolly’s, floating tubes on the lake, canoeing, painting, pottery and woodworking- among other activities offered at camp. They travel to activities in cabin packs with their counselor guiding them. It’s a great way to get a taste of camp and independence and many of our three and four week girls started with the Junior camp. The camper squeals are a perfect accompaniment to the afternoon bullfrogs and evening crickets. The other evening a camper woke up her counselor and asked her if she could turn the crickets down!
This summer- 28 Illahee girls- a record number- were presented with Ten Year Rings- that is 280 camper years all together! It was also my 25th season as a camp director- the 12th at Illahee! New and old campers continue to come from all over the country and the world to attend camp. At Junior camp alone we have a camper from Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado and of course a splattering of towns and cities in the southeast. Over the course of the summer we also had international campers from Guatemala, Paris, London, and Switzerland. Illahee draws girls from all over and often they are coming without a friend from home but camp continues to be a great place to meet new friends who last into adulthood.
Tomorrow evening’s Final Night will end as each session ends- with a campfire and floating wish boats out onto the lake. This act symbolizes the “spirit of Illahee” going back out into the world. At Illahee, girls often talk about feeling that they are their “best version of themselves” at camp, and we like to think that we are sending each girl’s “best self” back to her home town and community and with many memories of the Best Summer Ever.