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.
gardner and lucas
Gardner and Lucas serve as Illahee’s 6th generation of Directors. Gardner, the daughter of long-time directors Gordon and Laurie Strayhorn, grew up at camp. She has worked at Illahee as a Junior Counselor, Counselor, Intern, and Associate Director. During that time she met Lucas, a Presbyterian pastor and Raleigh native. In 2021 they married and moved to Columbia, South Carolina where Lucas served as an Associate Pastor. In 2023 Gardner, Lucas and their two sons Jasper and Brooks moved back to Brevard to transition into their roles as Executive Directors at Camp Illahee. In their free time they enjoy biking, swimming, or hiking in their beautiful backyard!
Illahee’s owners Laurie and Gordon have more than 35 years of camp experience having served as directors through the summer of 2023. They met during college while working at a boys’ camp and after a stint teaching at a girls’ boarding school, they directed another girls’ camp for a decade before becoming the 5th set of owner/directors at Camp Illahee in 2002. Laurie and Gordon enjoy working on behind-the-scenes projects to support camp’s mission. Gordon can be found in his Carharts creating in the woodshop while Laurie enjoys a microphone and leading campfire songs. 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.
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.
Lee and Jono joined the Illahee team as our Directors of all-things adventure in 2023! Lee grew up at Illahee, where her love of camp and kayaking was fostered. She served as Illahee’s head of Trips Kayaking for six summers, and oversaw the Adventure Programs in 2023. Lee met her husband, Jono, in 2017 where they were both teaching at an outdoor adventure school in Idaho. Leading highschoolers down rivers in Idaho and trips to Patagonia brought these two together. Jono joined the Illahee team in the summer of 2023, leading kayaking and duckie trips. Together Lee and Jono bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to Illahee’s Adventure program, and are wonderful mentors for staff and campers. We are excited to have them as part of the team!
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.