It is hard to believe Illahee welcomed my family nearly 14 years ago thus beginning my camper years. It was the July session in 2002 -I was deep in the throes of soffe shorts and Lizzie McGuire. I still remember the night before camp, lying awake trying to calm the butterflies in the pit of my stomach- mostly excitement, but also nerves: “Would my cabin mates like me?” “What if I don’t make any friends?” “What if my counselor is a wet blanket?” These were some of the thoughts that seemed to race in my mind as opening day approached.
Coming to Illahee as a first time camper, mixed with my parents being new directors created a recipe for “new girl” anxiety. However, this quickly disappeared as I drove through the gates on opening day with my grandmother Mimi, who came up from Alabama each year just to make my bed and “drop me off” at camp, even though I could practically see the cabin from my driveway. All the counselors were smiling and if the girls weren’t smiling they were just as nervous as I was- which was comforting!
I realized right away that I was surrounded by people who care! Illahee girls care about each other but they also care about this place and this creates such a fulfilling and safe environment to grow and have fun. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t the best in my activities, or if I had ever been on a horse. I was able to try things that I never would have dreamt about doing at school or at home. I could be silly and I could be quiet, and that was O.K. Illahee is a place where you can be YOU.
So, as you think about camp, get excited! Set a goal or make a list of all the things you want to try at Illahee! Take a look at last year’s fun to see what adventures await. The summer will be here before you know it.
And remember, it is OK if you don’t sleep the night before camp, and if you don’t have the same trunk as everyone else, or if you don’t know a soul. Your questions will be answered and your name WILL be learned. You will probably miss your family, and that’s ok too. But when you leave camp with so many new experiences to share with them, those feelings will be a distant past! You will find your place in the Heavenly and those first memories will last a lifetime-treasure them. We can’t wait to greet you at the gates future campers!
Illahee Love, Gardner