Outpouring of Love

“A roller coaster of emotions” hardly describes our feelings since Friday’s announcement to cancel this summer. It is more accurately a typhoon or a super cyclone of emotions. We know you all can relate, after hearing from many of our families and their response to the news. If you “took to the bed” on Friday, you were not alone. I soaked way too long in a bath with a side of double fudge chocolate ice-cream. Not my finest moment, but grief does not care. Henry, our camp pup, refused his puppy chow for the entire weekend and we decided he was also depressed.

While the office bustle is high with enrollment, phone calls, and payment processing, it is difficult not to mourn a lost summer in the Heavenly World. The sounds of the bell, morning Rise n’ Shines, sharing the Bull Frog nightly symphonies, and meals together in Tilley Lodge. The list of “misses” is endless. Brooks, my five-year-old, realized that no camp means no County Fair. He lives for County Fair and counts down to this event starting in February. He refuses to acknowledge the cancellation and is adamant we can still get a bounce house, llamas, and a dunk tank.

Amidst the disappointment and sadness, we cannot ignore how special Illahee is. The community that has rallied behind camp, reaching out to offer prayers and encouragement. We have heard from Brevard locals like, Robert, the owner of Dolly’s and the manager at the Sav-Mor grocery store, neighbors of camp telling us how much they will miss the sounds of girls’ squeals through the woods. Local camp directors in this area have become a cohort of khaki short, vest-wearing, walkie-talkied warriors; a force to be reckoned with. Working around the clock to gather information, meet with legislators, and fight for the camp cause. Though so much has been lost, this group has grown stronger together.

Strength and resilience. When I think of this week, this is what comes to mind. Not only in our year-round team, but in our families and our staff. Through teary phone calls we are constantly reminded that we WILL come out on the other side from this. The love that surrounds the Illahee community is giving us strength to move forward. And the hope that we will all be together next summer, for the best reunion ever. This hope is confirmed by the generosity and the trust that families are putting in us right now. As we are amidst enrollment for next summer, the majority of families are choosing to confirm a spot and roll their tuition over. This is incredible and we know the challenges that so many are facing right now. This choice will help ensure that next summer will be the best summer ever.

As we all continue to march ahead, spending another year apart, we remind you of the Illahee prayer. The spirit of Illahee and all the love and joy that is found in this place, goes with you each day:

Lord, give me grace when I go from the mountains, Away from the things that bring peace to the soul. Hemlocks and spruces, fresh sweet smelling balsam, all green things of the earth which in beauty unroll. Peaks in the sunrise, and peaks in the sunset, stars of pure gold in clear, silent nights. Mists full of stillness, bright clouds of soft whiteness, mystical glowing of far northern lights. Help me, I pray, when these joys are behind me, when down to the flat-lying city I go. Take me in spirit back, back to the mountains, to rest in thy presence, be still and know. Amen.

We continue to pray for you, Illahee family! And in the meantime, share a camp meal, or a song, Facetime with a cabin-mate, or send a letter! Continue to share the Illahee memory, and we will do the same.

Until next time!

-Gardner

11 responses to “Outpouring of Love

  1. Emerson, Spencer and I want to send a big Illahee hug to everyone in Brevard. Wow- your message was so moving, I am still teary. Having been an Illahee camper myself, sending my girls to Illahee was a dream of mine and one I was proud to make come true. Watching them go each summer and then wearing the Illahee gear all yearlong in anticipation for the next summer, is second to none- they love it and the memories. Spence is upset, but knows Illahee isn’t going anywhere and is worth the wait. Summer of 2021 will be EPIC! Kind of interesting this pandemic happens on the 100 year anniversary, but, it shows the strength of our dear Illahee- she will withstand this and we will use this situation as a an example of fortitude and how to be your best girl and the power of positive thinking for future set backs. For the Croom girls, we still plan to visit this summer. A summer without Illahee simply can’t happen. So we will pack up our car with a picnic and drive to Brevard and wave to Illahee from the street, find a Trail or spot to picnic and drive home. We will miss you all but we know you made the best decision and the toughest one. Thank you for always putting Illahee and our girls first.
    Health and happiness.
    -Tara
    (Spencer & Emerson’s mom)
    Ps- Illahee t-shirts will be worn ALL summer around here!

  2. I tell you this (as I’m sure so many other people tell you all of the time!) to remind you of ALL the good you do for your girls. Illahee is a special place and it will be a special place again. We truly are sending so much love and prayers your way – and some shared tears too.

  3. Barrett and our family are heartbroken that camp cannot operate this summer, but we totally understand this is the right thing to do during this difficult time. Our gratitude to you all for the prayerful consideration and extensive information gathering you put into this decision.

  4. Our hearts were heavy and sad with disappointment but also faith and hope for better days ahead. The girls then decided to wear Illahee shirts all day and look forward to being on that blessed mountain with all of you in June of 2021. Illahee spirit radiates far and wide and is with these girls every day. Sending all our love to all of you!

  5. We are so very sad, but we totally understand and respect the decision. Our compliments on a very well done and heartfelt letter and video. It brought tears to our eyes. Although our daughter Janie has been so very excited about Illahee, we know that this will be especially hard for the children who have been before and aren’t able to return this year.

  6. I know this must have been an incredibly hard decision for all involved. As much as we wanted the girls to go to return to camp this summer (and goodness knows they need it), I appreciate the decision you made. I think keeping everyone safe should be the priority and there are just too many unknowns right now. Thank you

  7. Thanks so much for your hard work. Based on everything I’m reading and learning, I can’t imagine how y’all might have operated summer camp in the kind of fashion that would enable a safe and healthy experience for all involved. There is so much that remains unknown about Covid-19 and we are grateful that your good conscience and leadership on behalf of all families’ health and well-being has prevailed over the fear that inevitably accompanies such a tough financial choice. Still, we’re heartbroken over the news. Sara told me (without hesitation) that she definitely wants to return to Illahee whenever it is open. The experience is so meaningful to these kids and I expect that the silver lining is that most all of your Illahee families will be there for you when it’s time to re-commit. Thank you again for all that you have done and continue to do for Illahee girls

  8. The Bixby family grieves with you in the loss of summer camp at Illahee this year. Heartbreaking, indeed. We applaud you for demonstrating Christ-like behavior in putting the welfare of others above your own personal interests, and we pray that you will be richly blessed by your decision.

  9. I would sense that this summer will be more disheartening to you than the girls. Although everyone is going to miss the great joy of being at Illahee. You all put so much into this experience for young girls, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of prayers from parents to ensure a grand reopening in 2021. I’m not looking forward to telling Isabelle. She will be very very disappointed. After Isabelle’s first Illahee experience last year, her pure joy and enthusiasm was everything I had expected. She had a glow about her and to this day still keeps in touch with her girlfriends.

  10. My heart is so heavy at the thought of not having camp in our lives this year. It fuels our souls for the year. I cannot imagine what all of you are experiencing. Please give everyone BIG hugs from us.

  11. Hugs and Love to you all from a former camper and counselor and a mother of a heart sick counselor who was looking forward to another summer at camp spreading Illahee love. It’s hard to fathom a summer without Illahee but we know camp will be back in full force next year as the BEST summer ever.

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