Our 95th season opened with an alumnae reunion the last weekend in May. 130 women – three generations- returned to the Heavenly World from all corners of the country- Oregon, California, Texas, New York and Florida. Our senior alumna was former director Frankie Hall who recently turned 90 and held court all weekend telling stories from her 70-year association with camp. Frankie is a woodworker and this winter carved a new pulpit for the Woodland Chapel with a verse from the 121st Psalm: “I Lift Mine Eyes Unto the Hills.” She recited portions of it in the Cherokee language during the worship service explaining the origin of Camp Illahee’s name. Mary Stone Frazer whose daughters attended Illahee and granddaughter was a JC last summer, visited on Sunday and we learned that she had coined our motto “Be a Great Girl” which continues to inspire campers today. Kitty Coleman Neff captivated us during campfire with stories from the 1940’s. Kitty continues to be an avid hiker in the Toxaway area and will be leading some trips for us in Panthertown Valley this summer. She is the mother of Julia Pinkston and Catherine Kendall – both Illahee women and Frank Tindall who owned and directed Illahee with Elizabeth for twenty years. It was a treat to spend the weekend with Frank and Elizabeth who are two of our best friends.
On Saturday morning, we dedicated a covered chestnut bench to Skip and Dolly Thomas, directors of the riflery program from 1958 to 1977 and again in the mid-1980’s. Their love for campers and high standards for their program inspired two generations of Illahee girls, and the stories shared over the weekend help to continue their legacy. We loved the connection to the past which is alive and ingrained in our current camp season.
After the alumnae headed home on Sunday afternoon, we greeted incoming counselor, and we were back in McLeod Lodge learning names and playing games. Staff training included ways to encourage this generation to “Be Great Girls” with guest speaker Susan Fee and an evening with a current Parent Panel. Activity training, first aid skills, moving in day and time at the bowling alley were all part of the staff orientation week, but meeting this summer’s campers was the highlight for all of us.
These Illahee girls- the 95th group – will be lining up in front of Curtis in a few minutes to head into the Woodland Chapel for our worship service. The sun is out, there is a gentle breeze and I’m watching a few campers wait in the shade on Skip and Dolly’s bench. It’s a peaceful morning at camp, and we are all looking forward to Sunday’s fried chicken lunch, songs in the dining hall and an afternoon of colorful Olympic games on the field. The first Sunday at Illahee in what is sure to be the BEST SUMMER EVER! To follow daily camp updates this summer, email us to request access to the summer blog.