Final night is a pretty emotional time for our entire community. Illahee attracts great girls, but there are some really GREAT girls this session, and they love Illahee. The future is certainly bright for our heavenly world. I wrote at the start of the session that Laurie and I see our time here as stewardship of something special that has been built over a lot of years. The McLeods, Robin and Teeter, Frankie, Frank and Elizabeth…we’re only the fifth set of directors in 92 years, and just a cog in that wheel that hopefully will keep spinning forever. Camp is relevant because it brings out the very best in all of us. God gave our hearts such a capacity for love, and no where in my experience is that more evident than at camp. I don’t think I could tell anyone how to recreate it…it just is. But, we do need to nurture it, to protect it. I hope as your girls come home, you can help them put to words the experiences they had this summer. Some of those have held challenges…learning to love a cabinmate with a different personality or a different perspective…keeping up with things mom usually takes care of…waiting for a shower to open up.
I’m going to step out on a limb here, and say that camp is the single best practice you can give a child to launch her into that big scary (exciting) world successfully. I know college admissions folks would agree with me. Camp kids do better adjusting to the rigors of the freshman year. More and more companies are catching on too. I love convincing parents of staff-aged young women that a successful career as a counselor will do more (and make more of an impression on recruiters) than most any internship. I was walking back to the lake from final campfire along the candlelit path through the Illahee wood, listening to the sounds of this summer solstice evening. Branches and twigs cracking under foot, the occasional sniffle from a camper walking arm in arm with her counselor or another buddy, sad that the hours are waning before she will be picked up….some of the youngest openly sobbing and being comforted by their counselors. The sweet sounds of summer…happy sounds…sounds of growth and of friendships forged that can literally last a lifetime. Camp is good for your girls.
It was a busy day. I am an early morning person. I wake up like clockwork during the year…pretty much at any time I need to, but always before 6:15 or so. Camp rolls around, and Laurie’s alarm is my wake-up siren. 7:00 a.m. except on Bible study mornings. Except this morning…there was too much to think about and 5:45 rolled around and both Laurie and I were wide awake. Eyes open and feet on the floor. After breakfast, we started the day with Rise n Shine and our youngest cabins, then the final two dance performances from the oldest campers who had lost members to the three day trips. By the way (stream of consciousness)…both our kayakers and climbers came home saying “Best Three Day” ever. I’ll let the girls on the trip tell you about that. We tried something new with our horse fair this session and it was a fabulous success. Instead of watching horsemanship and vaulting from a spectator’s point of view, we were all allowed to enter the pasture after an initial “opening” by the horsemanship girls, and wander between the three outside rings to watch all girls who took riding show their “stuff.” It was much more interactive.
A homemade pizza lunch with salad launched us to some packing time, and then cabin time to create a plaque masterpiece to commemorate the session. The plaque showcases all the girls in the cabin and will be hung with pride somewhere on the wall. The event that all of us have been waiting for…final banquet and campfire began around dinner time with the unveiling of the banquet theme…”Arctic Freeze.” Our 42 Sparks (a record I think) transformed the dining hall into a a winter wonderland with beautiful signs with an arctic theme. There were polar bears, the Titanic in its last hours, the “Snowhorns,” and load of added touches. Each camper received a snow globe with the Illahee logo inside as gift from the Sparks. Dinner was tasty. Tortellini with Alfredo and Red Sauce, Caesar salad, warm yeast rolls, and Hershey Pie for dessert. Hot chocolate was served from a roving cart…a very popular addition despite the temperature inside the dining hall with windows covered by signs!
Final campfire is over at Dohivi Noche under the watchful eye of the giant pine tree. Clad in white and following a path candlelit by the CITs, the final ceremony is a “light” ceremony. Lanterns are lit, representatives from each hill and staff kindle the fire with symbolic woods, and the night is made alive with songs and ceremony. Laurie and I presented gold C/I signet rings to ten year campers and staff and a twenty year bracelet to Molly Christman, our woodworker and fitness guru extraordinaire. J.C.’s are presented with Bibles, CIT’s with charms, and new Illahee campers with Illahee felt banners. At the end of campfire, we processed through the candlelit wood to the lake where each girl received a “wishboat” to light from the hill lantern and float on the lake. It’s really quite spectacular and symbolizes the spirit we all share here going out into the world.
Thanks for trusting your camper to us this summer. We hope that she will arrive back in your loving arms better than when she arrived…maybe taller, maybe happier, maybe more confident…hopefully with memories that will sustain her through trying times. It is a privilege and blessing to do what we do.