September 2020

A lot has happened since we cancelled the 2020 camp season four months ago. We opened camp to high school aged Illahee girls, and from July 12th to 24th, we hosted Leadership Camp.  You can read all about it in Stories from Camp : Camp with Masks is Better Than No Camp At All! .  This fun filled two weeks was an encouragement to us and to the 100 girls and counselors who attended.

Our 2021 enrollment process opened in early June and most sessions are fully booked for next summer!  We are enjoying the fall season and families are welcome to schedule a visit to camp. This weekend we are hosting an open house for new families!

We continue to monitor best practices around the coronavirus and protocols that are evolving for camps while making plans for a full 2021 camp season!



Stay Connected!

When you are ready for some Illahee cheer or time with camp friends and families, there are many ways you can connect. Gardner is managing daily Instagram posts.  Our Stories from Camp offers regular updates from the Heavenly World.  And we have lots of Mary Lou’s camp videos streaming on Vimeo!  We want to know how you are staying connected and welcome your participation.


Keep the Illahee Spirit Alive, See you in 2021!




Past Posts

May 15, 2020

Dear Camp Illahee Family,

We are grateful for the love and encouraging messages that you have sent to us during the emergence of the COVID crisis.  Since the middle of March, we have continued moving forward with plans for operating camp.  As we have watched our counselors leave college to quarantine at home, and campers shift to a virtual school room, we have all known that Illahee girls need camp more than ever this summer!

While continuing to hire staff, open buildings and get ready for the BEST SUMMER EVER, we have been doing research and actively seeking guidance from our medical staff, state health department, the CDC, and the American Camp Association.  We started planning alternate opening day processes, dining practices and ways to run activities safely. We also heard from so many of you- hopeful and prayerful for camp.

As guidance has started to trickle out, we have looked at ways to follow recommendations.  Based on the guidance that is evolving, we have determined that we cannot offer the Illahee we all know and love.

Camp is about community- coming together to sing around the campfire…sharing family-style meals in the dining hall…walking arm in arm with a new friend…squeezing into the camp bus for a trip to Sliding Rock and Dolly’s.  Camps evolve, and while it’s not unusual to change over time, the restrictions needed to open camp this summer…if we are even able to…don’t allow us to give you the best of Camp Illahee.

We are heartbroken to let you know that we will not be opening camp this season. 

For the past six weeks, we have prayed daily for wisdom and discernment and as painful as this is, we are confident that it is the best decision.  In 30 years as camp directors, Gordon and I have never faced not opening a season, but Camp Illahee…in what would be her 100th, has weathered the Great Depression, World War II, polio outbreaks, and with your help and love, she will weather this pandemic too.

While Camp Illahee – the place- will be quiet this summer, we hope she will be vocal through you. You carry the spirit of Illahee out into the world. Keep that spirit alive throughout this summer as you reach out to your camp friends while we look for creative ways for us all to stay connected.

We cannot wait to welcome you with a great big hug on opening day of 2021!


APRIL 29, 020

Thank you for your patience and prayers regarding the upcoming camp season.  With May 1 around the corner, we wanted to update you.  Because we are continuing to wait on clear guidelines from our state and the CDC regarding residential summer camp openings, we are extending the May 1st refund deadline.  Tuition less the deposit is refundable for withdrawals made until May 15th.

Since our communication ten days ago, the North Carolina Youth Camp Association has been working closely with the NC Department of Health to establish operational guidelines.  Two days ago, the CDC published guidelines for day camp openings, and they are currently working on residential camp guidelines.  The NC state legislature is in session this week, and the opening of summer camps is on their minds. We have been in active dialogue with them along with health officials and are continuing to wait for parameters from the state. We expeThe health and safety of campers and staff are a priority every summer.  While we continue to learn more about COVID-19, it does appear that children without underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, are affected more mildly by the virus if at all.  Still, there will need to be adjustments to operate.  We have been making plans for screening procedures prior to camp and upon arrival, and opening day will look different.  We also are working on dining hall procedures and general camp operations that would promote hand washing and additional sanitizing practices.  Like you, we know that summer camp and time outdoors with friends is especially needed this year, and that the thought of camp brings hope.

We will continue to update you when we learn more.  Again, please know how much we appreciate your outreach and encouragement.


April 17, 2020

We are grateful for your encouragement, good wishes, and the prayers shared with us the past few weeks.  Dreams of camp are giving homebound girls a lot of hope right now.  We are remaining patient regarding plans to make changes to our summer, as the situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak is evolving daily, and we are monitoring developments closely.  The health and safety of our campers and staff will remain our priority as always.

We have been gathering information from key sources as it pertains to camp operations.  The American Camp Association has engaged a team of medical experts who are working with the CDC to develop COVID-19 guidance for camps which should be available in the next few weeks.  We are in close contact with the NC Department of Health and the Governor’s office through our North Carolina Youth Camp Association. It is gratifying to see that these decision makers understand the importance of camp. Any state orders, CDC guidelines, and travel restrictions will all be part of our decision process for camp.

Our hope is to be able to have more information by the first of May in order to update you again.  We all want to know what the summer will look like and the waiting game is not fun but is important in order to make the best decision for camp and campers.  Thank you for your patience, your prayers and for your part in the Illahee community.

March 27, 2020

What a week this has been! From mornings where we find it hard to put both feet on the ground to afternoons that bring wide grins from shared videos of lifelong camp buddies singing rounds of the Hallelujah chorus from across the country…we’re ready to wake up from this dream and know that you are too! We thank God daily for each of you and for the emails of support and love that have come our way.

Camp Illahee is entering its 100th year this season, and there have been hard times before. Camp has endured world wars, polio and other epidemics, in addition to significant recessions. In our thirty years of camp directing, this by far is our greatest challenge. Camp will make it through this crisis as well and will emerge stronger on the other side. But it will not be easy. As a small business, the potential loss of an entire season means that we could go 22 months between earned revenue (last session 2019 through first session 2021). We remain optimistic, but it is stressful. We have families on payroll that rely on income and health insurance and other benefits…plus there are other operating expenses just “to keep the lights on.”

We have always been careful stewards of everything you entrust to us…your child and your money. It is the way we “roll,” and though we don’t have all the answers in this rapidly changing environment, we do have some clarification that should put your mind at ease:

Will camp happen this summer?

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will issue guidance closer to summer. We will follow their guidance. In the event that we need to cancel, we will make this determination on a session by session basis. As of this letter (March 27, 2020), we still have 10 weeks before the first 3-week session. A lot can change by then. Camp is ready and we are ready if it is clear that it is the right decision to proceed.

If my camper’s session is cancelled, will I receive a refund?

 In short, yes. In this event, the absolute best thing you can do to help camp through this challenge is to roll your tuition paid to date over to 2021. Any camper paid in full by the April 1st, 2020 deadline, whose session is cancelled, and who enrolls for 2021, will be considered paid in full for 2021 which will include a discount for any tuition increase for the next summer. Those who make this choice will enjoy the following: 1.) first choice of sessions for 2021 (moving to a longer session will result in payment of additional tuition difference at 2020 rates and will be due by February 1, 2021); 2.) a full refund including the deposit will be issued at any time requested prior to February 1, 2021; 3.) although rates have not been set for 2021, our average cost of living increase has been a little under 5%…so these campers will receive up to a 5% discount for 2021; 4.) the BIG glow you will get from knowing that you helped Illahee continue to offer amazing experiences for girls in its 100th year!

In the event that we cancel your camper’s session and you cannot roll tuition paid to date over to 2021, we will refund any tuition when that determination is made.

What if I cancel but my camper’s session is still held?

To date, we have waiting lists and have only had two cancellations. Our longstanding refund policy as outlined in your enrollment agreement will be in effect until May 1, 2020. All other policies remain in effect as it relates to cancellation due to illness.

Do I Need to Do Anything Right Now?

Give your camper a squeeze and let her know that we are sending Illahee love her way. Keep us in your prayers and we will pray for your family and the strength that will come from this time together. God is in control and He has blessed our Camp ministry for 100 years, and we have no doubt that he will continue to do so with your help.

March 23, 2020

Camp is family, and as we are separated, we are delighted bythose emails, videos and notes that show that camp is what is on every homebound girl’s mind right now. Keep them coming!

We have had a few “what if” questions in the event that camp is cancelled this summer. Know that we are thinking through lots of scenarios and will provide further information if a cancellation of part or all of the summer sessions seems realistic. Our relationship with our camp family has at its core mutual trust. Though we are well into planning for the 2020 season with physical improvements, activity purchases, inventory for the Ship Store, as well as on-going operating commitments, we want camp families to know that their investment is in good hands.

Our refund policy remains in effect currently, and we encourage any camp families with a balance due by April 1, 2020 to pay that balance as doing so will not further risk that payment. Camper withdrawals received by May 1st will result in a refund of all tuition paid to date less the deposit.

Any cancellation of 2020 sessions would be based on the guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health. In that event, we will be creative in making sure that as many girls as possible can come to camp in accordance with that guidance. We have experience in managing illness, both individually and community-wide and even more at providing experiences of a lifetime. This summer into next, more than ever, your girls will need camp, and camp will need you!

Please do not hesitate to call or email Laurie  if you have questions that have not been answered. Pray a lot, love a lot and reach out to someone who may need a word of encouragement!

March 20, 2020

If you are like us, your flexibility is challenged by changing plans and virtual classrooms.  We have been fielding questions and will keep this page updated as it pertains to the COVID-19 virus and camp.  The amount of information in the news as well as email notifications can be overwhelming. We hope this page will serve to answer questions in the coming weeks.

Camp Illahee’s current enrollment policy remains in place.  The final tuition balance is due on April 1st.  Tuition less the deposit is refundable through May 1st.  If you are feeling a financial burden due to the current situation, please contact Laurie.

While this is a unique time, a summer outdoors with camp friends and wonderful counselors is months away.  We will continue to monitor updates from the CDC and our local health departments in order to offer the best healthcare practices for our camp community.  On March 27th we will be taking part in a virtual symposium hosted by the North Carolina Youth Camp Association in conjunction with area medical professionals.




Laurie and Gardner share our difficult decision to close camp for the 2020 season


We are especially grateful for Spring’s beauty this year.


Love to you from camp and from our 2020 staff, whose feelings remind us….

We are ALL in this together!

Pray a lot, love a lot and reach out to someone who may need a word of encouragement!


Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness    Anni Albers


Spend some time with nature. Let it become your good friend.       Bob Ross


Is rest hour part of your quarantine schedule? We highly recommend it!