A Summer of Growth

This time of year, I admire the resiliency of trees. I respect and hope to emulate how they emerge from a dark winter, bigger and brighter than ever. Stepping out of Curtis (the camp office) you can’t help but stand in awe as you’re surrounded by these decades, even centuries-old behemoths. One of my favorites is the Carolina Hemlock. The dreaded wooly adelgid invasive pest has decimated many in this area, but thanks to targeted treatment, ours are doing great.

Like with most things, the closer I look at the hemlocks, the more they fascinate me. The tip of each limb is a shade of green brighter than the rest. One of our friends came by to check out camp and was ecstatic to see the trees filled with glowing green colors. He exclaimed, “Look at all that new growth!”
The freshly grown, bright green needles shine on the end of each branch as if they are announcing to the world, “We’re here and we’re growing stronger than ever!”

There are many reasons to send your daughter to summer camp.

The reason, however, that I will hit on, over and over again, and the reason that Gardner and I send our oldest son to camp, is simple: Growth.

Camp Illahee is about to set forth on its 104th summer. Gardner and I are honored to be Illahee’s current stewards. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of each and every girl to come to this place, hoping and praying that they experience love, transformation, and in the fullness of time, growth.

We know the challenges that many of our kids face. In what many call “the age of anxiety” we are privileged to be in a place antithetical to the hatred, exclusion, or fear. We hope expect that the girls who picked up at the end of their session are not the same that are dropped off. I’ve heard parents describe the glow that their daughters take with them when they return home from camp. Their glow might not be literally bright green like the hemlocks, but we hope that they grow in a similar way in this place that so many have called “the heavenly world.”

With this growth comes pains. As someone who grew five inches in 12 months in high school, I can assure you that growing pains are very real. You might receive a slightly homesick letter sent the first week of a session. There might be a picture or two online where your daughter looks a little hesitant. There might even be conflict that has to be worked out between campers. Camp is a place of simultaneous comfort and challenge, and in the ebb and flow between these two emotions is where our girls grow in resilience, confidence, and overflow with joy.

This growth is not limited to the campers.
We’re around a week out from campers arrival, and in the thick of staff orientation. It’s inspiring to see the change in maturity, confidence, and ability of our staff (growth) that can happen in a few weeks. Our counselors are forced out of their comfort zones to grow so that they can help campers do the same starting on June 9th.

Even Gardner and I continue to reflect on the ways we are being pushed and challenged to grow as leaders stepping into this new role as Executive Directors. We are learning from Laurie and Gordon, from our amazing staff surrounding us, the many counselors who will be here, and especially from the hundreds of campers who will be filling these hills shortly.

For all those who visit this place…

May it be a summer of joy and growth!

Lucas & Gardner