Welcome Four Week and Mini 1 Campers!

Four campers arm and arm swim in the swim lake.

One of my favorite things in this day of virtual relationships is to see “real” ones resume where they left off at the end of camp 11 months ago. There are usually squeals…and BIG “arm-sweeping” hugs. There is no doubt…camp is about the relationships. We work hard year-round to make our facility look great…to add new buildings and programs, and I think that it all pales by comparison to the real attraction: camp is the catalyst for life-long relationships. One of our “nurse” P.A.s has spent 19 years or more at camp, 12 or 13 of them as an adult helping us provide GREAT healthcare to your girls. An alumna herself, Kendall told this year’s counselors of a recent hiking trip up Mt. LeConte in the Smokies…with buddies from camp. They have remained fast friends all these yearsOne of our barn staffers, a former camper herself, spent time with her mom (also an alumn) last session and her aunt who were in Brevard with four other friends, and who had not seen each other in almost forty years…since their days in this Heavenly World as Illahee campers. These “girls” attended worship services in the Woodland Chapel last week, and spoke to the three-weekers about how being a part of this family remains one of the most special parts of their lives.

As we move toward Illahee’s 100th in 2020, we are excited to track down more of these stories and to work on telling them as well. It’s pretty remarkable really…through wars and the Great Depression, polio scares, as well as times of triumph, Illahee has thrived. I think it’s hard for most girls who are here right now to wrap their head around the idea that they are part of a continuum…6 or more generations of girls who love Illahee just like they do…and who are now moms or even great-great grand moms. (That’s a little hard for me to wrap MY head around). And from where I sit, it doesn’t take the challenge away…to make this summer…this session, the very BEST yet.

Welcome to Il-la-hee! (The mountains echo welcome to thee). I will check in with you every night to give you the run-down on the day. Writing nightly updates is very therapeutic for me, and an important part of my bedtime routine…so don’t feel sorry for me that I get to come home after a full day and try to give you some insight, albeit vicariously, to our life at camp. It is also not lost on me that any update I give is “second fiddle” to the glimpse you may catch of your beloved having the time of her life in our online galleries…

A word about these…we are constantly working to tweak this experience for you. Remember, you can save images where your camper appears to your own album by clicking on the + button…you will also see some “tags” of other campers appear when your mouse goes across her face. You can do this too! Simply draw a box around your camper’s face and choose her name from the drop-down box that appears. Click on her name below the picture and all of her tags will show up! If you purchased the high resolution option, you can download full res copies of any of the images to your computer and send them to your favorite printer for processing by clicking on the downward pointing arrow when an image is open. Email Stephanie if you don’t see the down arrow and want to add that.

We had a perfect opening day. At least in main camp, our trunk boys stayed on “point,” and there was only a little wait at the peak arrival time. Dave said Pineview went swimmingly. Since I’ve never been over there on opening day, I’ll take him at his word. Once we got the last parents outta here, we got down to business…and lots of fun. Oh yeah, and lunch…sandwiches, chips, pasta salad, and still-warm chocolate chip cookies…by cabin. Cabins rotated through all sorts of stations. We took cabin and individual camper portraits, picked up Illahee pre-ordered “swag” from the Ship Store, with ample opportunity for fitting before heading off…there were games in the Rec Lodge, Splash in the swimming lake…the Sparks did the high ropes course and zipped off…everyone did some “campkeeping” chores…including a head check for unwanted hitchhikers.

Laurie loves her fried chicken, especially Illahee’s finest. Our traditional Sunday lunch includes plenty of chicken, perfectly fried…steamed broccoli which tastes so much better than any we get at home…Laurie says it’s the butter. Salad, lots of warm yeast rolls that girls like to smother in butter and honey….rice (plain and wild), and hand-scooped ice cream to fill in any cracks. Since we miss lunch on opening Sundays, we enjoyed this fare at dinner. And then…

Campfire. Martha, on Pineview, says opening day is like three days. Day one is arrival; day two, afternoon activities…day three. dinner and campfire. There was lots of positive energy at campfire, which is set in a natural ampitheatre behind McLeod lodge. We sang, told stories, watched each hill perform skits, and recognized four-year campers as they received their silver Pinetree pins, which which are worn proudly on an Illahee blue tie, right above the square knot.

It was a GREAT opening day. I am excited for activities tomorrow. Everyone is already signed up, so we will be off and running right after breakfast and Rise n Shine! I am especially excited about the friendships that are picking up right where they left off…and the new friends that are being made right now…that will last a lifetime.

Welcome to Illahee!