Leading Lady

One of my favorite things about being Illahee’s newest guest blogger is I get to write about certain people who are not always mentioned in the updates, mostly because they are writing them. So April’s blog features camp director, Laurie Strayhorn- affectionately known as “mom”. If you know our family well, you also know our running joke is quoting a hilariously painful “Saturday Night Live” skit “Have you met my mom?” The clip features Bedelia, an extremely awkward teenager who spends way too much time gushing about her mom (short can be found on nbc.com). This joke has developed over the years as Laurie and I have spent more time together- working together, living close by, and often sharing social engagements. And yes I have calculated the risk of posting this blog, and realize that I may be the butt of this joke for a few more people now and I am content with that…

This inspiration came from my last trip to New York, where I met with a group of other camp directors who also have family members in camping. Bob Ditter facilitates this group, and it has been one of my most valuable professional experiences as a camp intern, especially with other family members involved. During this meeting we had the opportunity to listen to a seasoned camp director from the north, whose daughter is also part of the group. We spent the morning hearing his camping experience and advice.  The overall theme was leadership and one of the buzzwords was “humility”. A trait that is often hard to maintain in a position of leadership, however, I immediately thought about Laurie during this discussion. He asked us what we admired in our leaders- for me it is a combination of humility and flexibility illustrated by my mom on a regular basis.

A few anecdotes come to mind: like the summer Laurie donned a hairnet and became Illahee’s newest pancake flipper, or the time she filled in as riding director- for the whole summer. You can often find her weeding around camp, or shucking corn on the porch of the dining hall- all smiles. Before coming to work full time at camp one of the things she told me was “to keep the humor in life” and to laugh at myself. She told me to look for the comic relief in all sorts of situations. My mom laughs at herself; she makes mistakes like everyone else does and is not afraid to admit it even if it’s in front the whole camp. I think it’s one of her best qualities and when the head honcho does this, it certainly helps to create a safe environment for our girls to be themselves- to succeed and to fail, and to try again.

Humility and flexibility are just two ways that Laurie leads. Illahee girls come to camp and are given the chance to be leaders-to grow and develop in humility and flexibility. As Laurie continues to model leadership for me and others, so do our counselors for our campers. Because of our staff and their mentoring, our campers grow in character and succeed each summer.

Illahee family, thanks for reading!

Until next time,