We all love the delicious chocolate chip cookies served at Sunday evening cookouts, on opening days, and at camp picnics in between. The CIT’s and JC’s are lucky enough to grab them out of the oven before serving them. A definite comfort food, cookies are part of the Illahee tradition that links us summer after summer.
For the past 16 winters, we have shared a taste of camp with our upcoming summer’s counselors sending cookie boxes for a surprise Valentine’s treat. (Shh, don’t tell them but we’ll be baking them in Pinecrest on Sunday afternoon!) That little package is a loving reminder that we care for them and hope that they will pass that on to their girls at camp. Each Illahee counselor is chosen to be the best leader and role model she can be.
I am reminded of this when I hear Gretchen and Dave interviewing counselors and following up with staff leads. They start the mentoring and training process with the first phone call or meeting. I spent an afternoon recently with a group of counselors who were having a reunion in Lake Toxaway. They wanted to know everything we were working on at camp and Coleman, a long time camper and counselor, played a voicemail message from her mom saved since closing day. Coleman had called her mom sobbing on her way home asking her to promise her that she’d send a future granddaughter to Illahee. Coleman played the recorded message for us that afternoon….talk about blackmail!
In Atlanta, a group of eight counselors were the center of the camp show and included current college girls and recent graduates teaching in Atlanta. The Charlotte gathering held a surprise visit from Mary Boyd who detoured through the city on her way back to UVA and from tennis director Jasha who had just flown in from Vancouver and was able to come to her first camp gathering before returning to college in Asheville. These mini- reunions of counselors helped me see what a privilege it is to be around such an inspiring group of young women. When I speak with each staff applicant before sending a contract, I remind her of the awesome responsibility she has in caring for our campers and of the privilege to be part of the community. Our counselors trade personal space and leisure time to move into a cabin with eight campers for a 24/7 adventure! And at the heart of the adventure is the hope of serving others! I’ll be thinking about that when I warm up the ovens on Sunday and crank out the cookie dough!
Four months and counting to the best summer ever!