Some days are just awesome.
Like the day that I got a thoughtful and sympathetic email from a camp mom — Heather in Brooklyn, New York — who reached out with kind words over our painful decision to close Term Camp this past summer.
Heather told me about how her camper, Roan, was so sad about camp closing, especially after, just as so many of us experienced, one thing after another in Roan’s life — school, activities, trips — were canceled.
But Roan and her parents, Heather and Andy, didn’t want to just shrug their shoulders and chalk it up to another vaguely experienced 2020 loss. Instead, she wrote to me,
…in processing this news today, we tried to come up with a way to memorialize and mark the loss while connecting the Alleghany family with one another far and wide.
The nature of Andy’s professional life means he has access to fantastic patch manufacturers, and as a designer he and Roan thought they’d like to create a special 2020 patch for everyone who would have been at camp this year.
If we design a patch, pay to have them produced and shipped to you, would you be willing to distribute them across the mailing list?
My jaw hit the floor and my heart went aflutter.
Isn’t it amazing how human kindness, and little acts of thoughtfulness, can actually mean the world? We were all — are all — completely moved by this gesture and embraced it right away. It’s like a little patch saved the day!
Your 2020 Patch
Not only is this patch so charming and cute design-wise, but its message to “Keep the Lanterns Lit,” provided a much-needed dose of inspiration, hope, and faith going forward toward 2021, our 99th summer.
Since the patch is either in your hands or on its way to you, to celebrate the occasion — and Roan’s creativity and ‘Ghany Girl drive — I wanted to interview her about the patch, her time at camp, and what else she’s got going on.
Elizabeth: Tell us a little about your time at camp — how long have you been a camper? When did you first come? Did any of your family members come to camp?
Roan: This would have been my fifth consecutive summer—I first came to camp the summer after second grade, right before I turned eight.
All my friends thought it was crazy I was going away from home for three weeks at that age, but I loved it from the very beginning.
None of my family have been campers, but they all grew up in West Virginia and knew girls who’d gone to ‘Ghany for generations. My grandparents always pick me up from camp, and they love being there so much even for one day a year, that they sort of tease the rest of my family about how lucky they are to be assigned pick-up duty!
Elizabeth: What are some of your best memories about ‘Ghany?
Roan: One summer the river was too high for The Barge, and we piled into a van to drive a really pretty road through the backwoods to get into camp. I remember thinking it was just so green and mossy and I was so glad to be back.
Last summer I watched counselors play a game of Murder. The object is to trick someone into being “murdered”— to hold a designated, everyday object for five seconds. I love all kinds of games, but especially sneaky ones, and the stories everyone told about how they pulled off their murders were great.
And sometimes your best memories of ‘Ghany are everyday things like lying in your hammock during Quiet Hour or roasting marshmallows.
Elizabeth: What was it like for you to not be at camp this summer? What things did you miss the most?
Roan: It’s been a bland summer without camp. I live in the city, so some of what I missed the most is pretty simple — just being outside, going creeking and cooling off in the chilly water.
I would have been a Start-Up this summer, and it was upsetting not to be able to really finish Junior Camp, gain a new color, and be a leader.
I love The Banquet and all the decorations counselors make, and to be honest, I missed milk and cookies — we never have Oreos at my house!
Elizabeth: We LOVE your patch! How did you come up with the idea for your awesome and beautiful patch?
Roan: I knew pretty early on that I wanted to use the lantern. It’s something you just think of immediately when you think of camp (lanterns hang outside each tent), and something you don’t encounter the rest of the year.
Then I had to think about what to do with the lantern, because I wanted the patch to acknowledge we’ve been through a hard time. I wrote a lot of different text before choosing the right message. And I picked the colors by looking at my other ‘Ghany patches and choosing ones that weren’t already used much.
Elizabeth: What was the process you used to design the patch? A drawing? Computers? Collaborating with someone? Help from others?
Roan: First I collected lantern photos online to determine what the right model was. My dad helped me trace the photo I chose into line art in Adobe Illustrator. It was easier to sketch on paper all the ways to layout the text and the date in the circle of the patch, but I tested all the color options digitally.
I brainstormed lots of text and thought I had a winner until I laid it out on the patch and realized it really needed to be two parts, almost like two sentences. That’s when we knew we had the perfect one.
Elizabeth: How did you get the idea for sending the patch out to everyone?
Roan: Actually, the idea of creating a patch for everyone came from my dad. He’s the one who sews my patches on my pillow each year, and he knew how sad I was going to be about missing camp. I’d already been in remote school for months and had traveling tournaments from my debate team get canceled. So when he and my mom broke the news to me about ‘Ghany, they suggested we could do something to feel better about it and maybe help others feel better, too.
Elizabeth: That is so lovely, something some small and so sweet that’s healing for you, and that builds bridges and helps heal others, too! What are you hoping will be the result of your message to keep the lanterns lit?
Roan: I’m hoping that people feel motivated to continue loving camp while we’re away, that they’re reminded to keep their hope going, and to keep looking forward to next summer.
And I’m hoping they feel special to have been through such a strange year.
Elizabeth: What other things do you do with art and/or communications?
Roan: I paint with acrylics and draw. I like to relax by designing avatars for the games I play online, coloring the characters and creating backstories for them.
I’m also on my school’s policy debate team. We research a real-world problem (this year it’s criminal justice reform), develop proposals to address it, and make arguments to convince an audience to see the problem the way we do.
Elizabeth: Are you planning to be back at camp next summer, for 2021?
Roan: I’m definitely coming to camp next summer! I’ll be in Senior Camp for the first time, and look forward to the short and easy walks to the store and the Hen House!
Patch Work of Friends
As you can see, a ‘Ghany Girl’s creativity knows no bounds, and her heart is just as big.
We couldn’t be more impressed with what Roan did to lift her own heart and touch that of others, including some teary-eyed Admin Team folks who were just so touched by this.
We hope that you’ll get your patch sewed on to your patch pillow or another special place you keep your patches. When you do, please share it on your social media and tag us — we’d love to see it!
If you’re not registered for camp yet, we hope you’ll get registered* and bring that patch to camp next summer! A big group photo with all our would-have-been 2020 campers and their patches would be so fun!
In the meantime, I’m just going to drop a hint that we have a ‘Ghany-wide special event coming up this month.
I’m not going to tell you what it is yet. I’m just going to say that YOU, TOO should spend some time thinking about what it means to “keep the lanterns lit…” There’s going to be a way for you to act on that, so stay tuned to the blog and to our Facebook | Instagram | and Twitter for more…
Thank you Roan, Heather, and Andy for your generosity of spirit, your thoughtfulness, your ability to make lemonade from lemons, and for being part of the ‘Ghany community. It’s your example, and the evidence of how meaningful camp is to our families, that makes this job so wonderful, and this place so very special.
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls
*If you want to learn more about the merits of sleepaway summer camp, download my FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Experience Early. It’s a great resource to share with friends, or if you are a first-time camp family and you wonder what sleepaway camp would be like for your child.