The Holiday Season always provides a time to look back on the previous year. Memories recalled and gathering together with friends and loved ones helps us to reflect on all that is good and joyful in our lives and to recall even the challenges. It’s a time to give thanks and recognize all the blessings in our lives and how the holidays provide yearly traditions that we so love and need. Camp has so many traditions and that’s part of it’s magic. You can feel it by the generations of families and staff that come back year after year and by the new campers that say “I don’t wanna leave”. With each of these, we know that the “simple joys” of Gwynn Valley have made an impression. Whether they come back for the familiarity of the traditions: serenade, friendship circle as cabin groups, Tajar Ball, or specific camp songs, we are always excited to see each familiar face.
While the magic is abundant and obvious during the summer, few get to experience it during the other seasons. Each summer brings the joy and laughter of children during the day and nightly sounds of cicadas which put us to sleep. We get gorgeous views of the changing leaves in the fall, while winter can bring blankets of snow and a fresh start for the coming year. Without fail spring brings new growth and a rebirth of nature after months of sleep.
We are wishing all of our Gwynn Valley family holiday cheer as we approach the end of 2018. Looking back, this year brought so many new memories, and experiences to us. We built two new cabins, expanded our Mountainside program to 50 campers, added in Earth Skills as an adventure on MS, built a new shower house for the boys on Brookside, welcomed Kevin into our year round team, and so much more. Our very own Maggie, Associate Director, finished her Masters of Business in Administration (MBA) from the University of NC, Chapel Hill. We’ve even had our first snowfall (14 inches at camp) before Christmas, which hasn’t happened in quite a few years.
I can’t begin to say how much I’ve learned about camp through the years. While growing up at Gwynn Valley, I was privileged to have experiences that ranged from digging potatoes out of the ground at the farm to making a woven basket (that my mom and dad still use for holding napkins), and even testing my limits like climbing a tree, despite my huge fear of heights. Now, I still get to experience the joys of camp and and see the growth and outcomes from a camp experience. After graduating from Guilford, I joined the year round team serving as an office intern and have been able to learn about the inner workings of our office and how much passion, time, and energy our year round staff give in order to make the summer such a wonderful experience for our campers, and seasonal staff.
While I always knew we relied on our families to send their children to camp, I have a new appreciation, and am so grateful for the trust parents give us. As Anne and Grant say, “They [the parents] are trusting us [Gwynn Valley] with their most important treasure, their children.” During staff training we tell our staff that we are partnering with parents to help raise their children, and provide each child a multitude of opportunities for their growth. We honor our relationships with our families by sharing daily photos during the summer, posting a daily blog, communicating with parents and families both during the summer and during our off season months, and try to make sure they have all the resources necessary for both the campers and parents to have a positive experience while their children are with us.
I love this time of year and hope everyone is positively affected by this joyous season. Whether it’s by the Christmas music playing in stores, drinking hot chocolate next to a fire, lighting a candle on the Menorah, decorating homes as per family traditions, or the generous, and kind spirit that spreads like magic in the air. I love seeing and hearing of the stories of people who reach out and help those who are less fortunate, or seeing staff and families who stop by camp during this festive time. In the spirit of gratitude, and in appreciation of all that we have, we would like to thank all of you, our camper families, alumni, and staff, for being a part of Gwynn Valley and helping to carry out our mission for 84 years.
Wishing you and your family a very wonderful, warm, and peaceful holiday season.
Your friends at Gwynn Valley