Our year-round crew
Camp Illahee is not just a special place for its campers, but also for its staff. It takes every one of these unique, talented and devoted individuals to make Camp Illahee the extraordinary place that it is.
Boss lady and camp Matriarch, Laurie, brings more than 30 years of camp experience and wisdom in her role as Camp Director. Laurie has been around camp and kids her whole life. She met her husband and business partner Gordon during college while working at a boys camp. After teaching at a boarding school, they directed another girls camp for a decade before becoming the 5th generation of owners and directors at Camp Illahee in 2002. Laurie loves the mic, and to lead campfire songs- in her next life, she would like to be a backup singer. She is a skilled administrator, and leads with positivity and grace. When not dressed in her whites at camp she loves to host dinner parties, plan family vacations, and hike with Gordon and their two labs, Henry and Liza.
Illahee’s Queen of Flare and Staff Cheerleader, Associate Director, Gretchen, oversees the love and care of each staff member who comes to camp, beginning with the interview! She has an eye for creative detail, AND an eye for recognizing the gifts in others. Her motto is, “Many hands make light work!” and her team oriented attitude helps to make Illahee’s loving community come to life. The skills she gained from 10 years as an educator, and her twenty years at camp has benefited Illahee greatly. One of her many talents? A hug from Gretchen can cure a homesick camper in a second. Gretchen loves spending time with her family, re-arranging her furniture, painting, perfecting her pickleball game, and dreaming of ways to make the world a kinder place.
Gardner is our Associate Director. Although she can’t grow much of anything in a garden, she loves to grow relationships with campers. One of her greatest passions is working with the oldest campers, Illahee’s Sparks and CITs. Whether it’s through leadership classes, or JC and staff interviews, she enjoys being a small part of the growth campers and staff experience at Illahee. Gardner enjoys telling camp’s story through social media, blog posts, and from behind the lens of a camera; while talking with families who are new to camp! She also is an amateur fashion designer through her work as “buyer/ designer” for the Ship’s Store, and a semi-professional event planner organizing camp-wide events and evening programs. Outside of camp, she loves to mountain bike, run (short) distances, and explore new places with her husband, Lucas, and sons Jasper and Brooks.
Lucas serves as the Program Director, overseeing the camp’s Programming and Adventure activities. He spent a number of summers helping out at camp alongside his wife, Gardner. Whether it was washing dishes in the Dining Hall or leading day hikes to local waterfalls, Lucas loves camp! An ordained minister in the Presbyterian (USA) Church, he spent three years as an associate pastor in Columbia working with youth and leading adults on a number of backpacking trips. In 2023, this passion and outdoor ministry led him on a perfect path of white gravel through the Illahee gates! In his freetime, you can find him cheering on his alma mater, the Wolfpack, biking, or taking a nap outside.
Known as the “detail master”, Claire is camp’s Director of Operations, and is a familiar voice on the phone. She paves the way for a smooth camper experience – overseeing the enrollment process, travel to camp, and keeping all of those camper information, activity and store forms straight. Her background in Recreation Management and Master’s in Business along with camp experience as a hiking trip leader and camp leader at a wilderness Young Life Camp in West Virginia, has given her a unique perspective in her role at Illahee. Clarie and her husband, Michael, enjoy mountain biking and hiking with their goofy black lab, named Ralph.
Phil, aka the “Keeper of the Camp Kingdom”, is the master of tree climbing, leaf blowing and maintaining anything with a motor or plumbing. Phil grew up across the pond in the UK and caught the camp bug in his early 20’s. He spent ten summers as program director at a local boys camp, and brings a wealth of experience to Illahee! Not only is he Mr. Fix-it, but his eye for detail keeps camp looking great. Away from camp, you can find him kayaking local rivers and exploring new trails and mapping hidden waterfalls with his toddler, and wife, Becky- also familiar faces around Illahee.
Liza, aka THE Queen, is our furry matriarch and resident camp “cat-dog.” She joined the Strayhorn family in 2009 as a teeny ball of yellow fur and a mischievous shoe chewer and basketball destroyer. She takes her job of guarding the camp gates seriously, but is really just a curvy gal who loves a belly rub. She enjoys roaming through the camp neighborhood garbage cans, eating sandwiches off bag supper plates, and nuzzling her way into the dining hall.
Henry, or better known as Hoover, is the unofficial yellow lab sibling to Liza. Wondering if something is edible? To Henry, the answer is always YES! He is our office greeter introducing himself with a giant, sloppy lick. In the summer he is based in the middle of the rec lodge with a tennis ball in his paws. Henry’s heaven will consist of endless tennis balls being rolled to him, but for now, we have to protect his joints because he is a “delicate dog”.
Ralph is Claire’s newest family member, and the youngest of the camp pup tribe. He made his debut during Junior Camp in 2022, and proved to be a hit! He is a giant goofy ball of energy and loves a tennis ball like his cousin, Henry. He spends his days trying to impress his lab elders, and enjoys hiking with Claire, and her husband, Michael.
Churro is Illahee’s most controversial pup, but if you’re on “team Doodle”, he’s your guy! He is a lover through and through, but lacks any concept of personal space. He is happiest in a lap, or stealing tennis balls from Henry. He lives with Gardner, Lucas, Brooks, and Jasper and is often found bouncing around camp, or sneaking a hello to the horses.
Each summer welcomes an extraordinary group of young women, and a few men, who come to Illahee to nurture, inspire and lead its young campers. These smart and energetic counselors bring new life to old traditions and make every camper’s experience one that is memorable and unique.
Interested in joining the Illahee family? Learn more about our team.