Walt Whitman once wrote, “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.” This is one of my favorite quotes because it makes me think of my time at camp along the Greenbrier River. Elizabeth and I both agree that when we are at camp, we feel our best, and we are the best versions of ourselves. Studies show that time spent in the great outdoors has huge benefits for both body and mind. Children who spend a significant amount of time outdoors tend to have greater happiness than adults. Who knew?!
I guess that makes the most sense since I started my camping career in 1985. I went to a weekend session at Camp Don-Lee in Arapahoe, NC with my cousin Whitney. It was a two-night stay. I don’t remember much of that first year, but of course, we returned the next summer for a full week. That year, I remember learning how to sail a sunfish boat and getting stung by jellyfish in the Neuse River. I canoed in a creek, and we slept in cabins. Luckily, another cousin, who happened to be working at Alleghany in 1987, convinced my parents that I should try out sleeping in tents and canoeing in a river instead! There began my time at Alleghany. And the rest is history…or so they say!
From that point on, I have spent every summer in West Virginia. Three years in Junior camp, four in Senior camp, a JC, a Unit Head twice, a Department Head, a Head Counselor for three summers and a couple of here’s and there’s in between. I have always been a devoted Family Camper, so much so, I was the assistant Head and Head for 8 summers. However, since that first summer in 1987, I’ve only missed three summers. I was happily having my two daughters those summers and winning a tennis championship the other!
Maybe all that time in the outdoors has done some good for me! I find that I love being outside not only in the summer but year-round. Watching the constant changes in nature is one of my favorite things. A couple of years ago, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend more time outside. That year, Tucker, my yellow lab, and I did the entire York Rail Trail. This trail, much like the Greenbrier River Trail, was an old train track that runs from York, PA to the Maryland state line. We completed the 20 miles of trail more times over, and it was so worth it. My most recent outdoor adventure is bird watching! My girls poke at me a little, but a set of binoculars and a bird book was one of my favorite gifts this past Christmas. You never know, we could do bird watching as a Sunday activity maybe?
What I do for Alleghany
Speaking of activities…that is one of the biggest roles of my new job as Program Director. I spend a great deal of time planning our entire summer! I know, right?! Before we even get to camp, things have been planned and prepared. My weekdays since October, look very different as I’m in front of my computer all day -most days!
I oversee our counseling staff and our 13 Departments, Evening Activities, Blue/Gray, 4year, and Carnival. Did I forget anything? I might have! I also work closely with Cami Bresee, our Leadership Program Coordinator, in seeing over programs such as Startups, Midways, Upstarts, LITs, and the JC Program. Updating curriculums, purchasing supplies, and creating new plans are all part of the job as well. My main goal is to plan and execute a diverse range of activities that will engage and challenge campers of all ages and skill levels. From traditional camp activities like Swimming and Wild World to more specialized programming like Rifle, Drama, and outdoor education. I hope to create a well-rounded experience that allows campers to explore new interests, develop new skills, and make lasting memories. Like learning how to sail a sunfish and getting stung!
I also am responsible for overseeing the hiring, training, and management of our large team of nearly 60 dedicated staff members. Most weeks, I’m setting up interviews, and recruiting returning and new staff as well as hiring our support staff who help run camp. Our staff is such an important part of camp and it’s such a joy getting to know all of them. Our 2023 staff is shaping up to be the best!
Looking Forward to Summertime
Clearly, I have spent many summers at camp as a child and as an adult, and now I have the unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of young girls at Alleghany, much like the woman before me. With a new job, comes big dreams and aspirations! As I move forward planning engaging activities, fostering a positive and kind community, and effectively leading and managing a team of counselors, my wish is for an unforgettable summer experience for everyone! I hope that you will join Elizabeth and me this summer and aspire to be your best self “being in the open air and eating and sleeping with the earth”!