Every August for the past ten years, my family has loaded up my Suburban with flashlights, blankets, bedding, trunks of clothes and coolers full of everything from Capri Sun to Bud Light and headed down the winding roads through the mountains of West Virginia to our favorite place, Camp Alleghany.
The week of Family Camp at Camp Alleghany has become a time-honored family tradition that we simply won’t miss. One summer we even brought our four-week-old baby girl who was mothered and held by the same people who helped mother me throughout my childhood. It was truly a full circle moment.
There’s no other vacation where you wake up in a platform tent with your family to the beautiful backdrop of the fog rolling off the Blue Ridge Mountains!
Kids of all ages
During our years at Family Camp, we’ve watched our children along with countless others grow and flourish. They’ve been afforded the opportunities to learn to shoot a rifle, paddle a canoe, and hike up a mountain with skilled instructors, but also, with us by their sides, watching the sheer joy on their faces when they hit the target for the first time or can finally paddle by themselves!
In addition, due to the safety of the camp around us, our children have learned to become more independent while at Family Camp. They will venture off to the Gaga Ball Pit with a pack of other children and spend hours playing with no fighting! It’s amazing what children will do for themselves without parents hovering over them.
They love the movie night in the Dining Hall with blankets and popcorn. They’ve seen incredible fireworks reflecting off the Greenbrier River at night – a sight that none of us will ever forget — and swam to Alleghany Rock to sit and hang out for hours with friends we cherish seeing every summer.
My children love the other adults around them as Family Camp provides a true village mentality. They venture to one tent to play with Barbies and another tent to paint rocks and yet another to enjoy a card game, and there are always adults around who welcome them and love them.
Literally, my children have grown up with these people and I feel so blessed to have provided them with other adults who embrace them every summer. (Enjoy the photo gallery below of many generations enjoying Family Camp.)
Rest, renew, rejoice!
At the same time, Family Camp provides a respite from the real world for the adults.
Most afternoons, while the children are playing, we sit in large, ever growing circles and catch up about the past year. There are no phones ringing in the background, no work calls to be made and no televisions to distract us – it’s just pure old-fashioned conversation and it’s amazing how much that time is needed.
I have often referred to Family Camp as my “reset button” for the coming year. It allows me time to just be and “just being” is something we all need more of in our lives.
The conversations are real and true and subsequently the friendships made are as well. The laughter shared is deep and often bubbles back up throughout the winter when I think of my time on the Greenbrier River. Sometimes it’s that laughter that carries me through the snowy days of winter…especially the past few here in Baltimore with #Snowzilla2016!
Some of these people I have known the majority of life, while others I may have just met; some have spent most of their life attending Alleghany, but others have just been drawn recently to the simplicity of Family Camp, but all of us are connected with our love and appreciation of this time we share at Camp Alleghany.
These friendships are woven into my yearly summer tapestry.
It may just be a week out of the summer, but the memories made and relationships forged are some of the strongest we have as a family.
Come to Family Camp
There’s not one word to describe the importance of Family Camp in our lives or really what makes it so special. As trite as it sounds, you kind of have to experience it yourself and we’d love to see you in six and a half months for the 50th Anniversary of Family Camp! Registration opens in five days, so we hope you’ll come!
And P.S., we are following up this blog posts with two informational post about Family Camp and the American Camp Association accreditation requirements and process. They’re coming in the next two days, so please follow the blog for more.
— Natalie Litz Bissonnette, Head of Family Camp, Camp Alleghany for Girls