Illahee Olympics and a Summer Drizzle!

Summer Campers dressed in green crawl toward the camera.
The green team unites for one of the many relays of the Illahee Olympics.

It’s been a long time since I can remember a summer rain like the one today. Usually in the mountains, rains come with thunder, and in dramatic fashion. They leave as quickly as they came, and we clean up the leaves and sticks, and washed gravel left in the wake. Today was just one of those drizzles like you experience in Scotland or Wales, without the low-lying fog. It has been steady all day, but never so hard that a raincoat or umbrella had to be used to get from building to building. This morning, we even did individual cabin pictures, cabin pictures and video shout-outs outside. If there were ever a perfect day for it, today is the day. Sundays are just a little bit slower around camp. After last night’s late night (I got back with Pineview and Heigh Ho girls about ten), it was nice not to hear the wake-up bell until a half-hour later than usual. Full cabins shuffled to the dining hall, still sporting their “bedtime best,” and were greeted by fresh Krispy Kreme donuts that were delivered in the wee hours before dawn. There were also eggs, fresh fruit, and cereal and yogurt to add to the continental cabin-style breakfast.

Today was sheet and towel day too. Every camper changes sheets and towels at the laundry. You should see the mound of towels waiting to be laundered after fresh ones were taken…probably five feet high and looking like they were going to swallow the laundry ladies! Around 9:30 or so, all of Heigh Ho, looking fresh and clean in their Sunday whites, assembled in the Rec Lodge, and got an individual portrait, a cabin shot, and a chance to record a cabin video “shout-out” to be included on the 2012 DVD. Many returnees are familiar with the individual portraits. Many Illahee families take each one of these camper year portraits and pin them to their refrigerator or get them framed to chronicle the growth of their Illahee girl. I will tell you an ulterior motive. Our camp database software is proprietary software that I developed with a friend of mine over 15 years. It does some amazing things, one of which renames the image of your daughter to include with her database file…so when we pull her name up, her photo comes up too. It helps all of the directors and nurses who have access to it learn your camper’s names that much faster.

Many of you know that our “tag line” that we use over and over is “the Best Summer Ever”! That’s more than a motto for us. It’s what drives us. If you think about it, that phrase sets a pretty high standard. It means that each successive summer’s goal is to be better than the summer before it. Ultimately, your camper will decide if that was actually the case in 2012, (and you after you help her evaluate her experience), but I can tell you, we are off to a great start. We had our staff meeting today after a traditional and yummy lunch of fresh fried chicken, steamed broccoli, wild rice, mounds of warm yest rolls, and hand-scooped cookies and cream ice cream. At the end of some business items and looking ahead toward next week, I bragged about Gretchen and Laurie’s staff hiring skills…and how they only get better every year. This is a special staff, and we have had some REALLY good ones. From my vantage point as one of the camp photographers, I get to see a lot through my lens…and there is a lot to like that is going on out there…great interaction happening right where it is supposed to…at camper level. From the Trips Trainer kayakers and beginning swimming instructors, who are right there in the water showing skills, to the woodworkers, soccer coaches, riding instructors connecting one on one with each of their students, it is good stuff! I am able to make adjustments as I see them and generally only do that to hone supervision and safety (which is always the first concern), but this staff has the gift. They love what they are doing, and want to be the best at it.

Sunday is my favorite day of the week for another reason besides the slower pace…it is our day to worship our loving God for the blessings He has bestowed on us in allowing our camp family to gather in such a Heavenly World. The songs and scripture, and praise pouring forth, from McLeod and not from the Woodland Chapel due to the rain, lifted any spirits that could possibly have been dampened by the wet stuff outside. The Sparks opened our 92nd Summer Illahee Olympics in grand style in a colorful parade in and around the Rec Lodge. Teams representing every color of the rainbow engaged in friendly competition through relays and games that were full of afternoon energy. The afternoon led to evening, and hamburgers and hotdogs grilled outside were fare for dinner. James Taylor played his tunes while girls gathered by cabin to enjoy a more casual meal together. Again in whites, the day ended as the session had begun, at campfire, complete with its skits and songs, stories and fellowship. It was the perfect end to a great day. We are indeed lucky that we have so much great indoor space to enjoy entire community gatherings for whatever activity we may want to hold.

The coming week will be busy. We have 7th grade trips with me, a fly fishing trip, lots of kayaking trips to the Nantahala and Chatooga Rivers, and our first ever encampment at Hannah Ford Farm for all of the hills Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. If you haven’t already, you better get over to the Photo Galleries where you will find cabin pictures, individual portraits and today’s regular galleries.