Happy New Year – Camp Style

Two campers reunite on opening day

It’s the beginning of a new season at Illahee- summer #97# BESTSUMMEREVER. A few years ago, we defined this time of year as the Busy Buzz of May! Our riding director, Sellers, arrives next Wednesday to wrangle the horses; Lifeguards take their first slide down the Streak on Thursday. Van drivers and trips’ staff will be in clinics all weekend and the rest of the 2017 counselors will arrive on Memorial Day. When camp opens, our community will be made up of girls from the age of 7 to 17 and counselors from 8 to (nearly) 80. We will represent 29 states and 8 foreign countries.
During the summer, Illahee becomes its own country with unique customs. I think of the summer in the Heavenly World as being out of the country on a mission trip. The Illahee community is known for putting aside differences and experiencing what unites us. Illahee girls appreciate the beauty of camp’s forested setting with its backdrop of chirping birds, tree frogs and crickets. We are united by the love of a campfire and singing in unison the sentimental and the silly songs that have been passed down from Illahee girl to Illahee girl. We each leave behind our “Smart Phone” and we put on our “Smart shoes” (the reminder to wear closed toe shoes around the hilly camp terrain.) We have “crazy hair” day, country club Saturday, twin day, and Surprise Day. Before meals, we take time to sit on the wall outside the dining hall visiting both with old and new camp friends. Illahee girls work to include each other. After all, our motto is BE A GREAT GIRL.
For many, these camp friendships continue beyond the summer and even beyond childhood. It’s easy to see on Facebook threads and Instagram likes, but yesterday a 1988-’89 alumna from Clearwater, FL stopped by camp “in person” with her husband. It was her first time back to camp, and she was on a mission to take photos around camp to surprise her best friend from camp, now in California and about to celebrate a significant birthday. (I hope I didn’t ruin the surprise.) She talked about the vivid memories from her two summers at camp- nearly 30 years ago! So as we clean the dust out of cabins, open the kitchen, finish landscape projects and wake up the activity areas, we are ready to launch into the summer with great anticipation for all that this year will hold. We know that we are continuing a much loved tradition and that the spirit of Illahee inspires us to be our best!