New beginnings for our director, Maggie

Dear Gwynn Valley Families, 

We hope all of you are healthy and well as we move through these challenging times and hope for a better and healthier 2021. Here at camp, we are enjoying the fall season with crisp, cooler days and evenings, and lots of changing colors. Hopefully, you are getting outside and enjoying some quality time with family as the next season ushers in change.

New seasons can bring transition, change, and opportunities for growth and this fall is no exception. As we prepare to greet 2021, we are sad to say goodbye to one of our directors, Maggie Howe who directed our older programs for quite a few years before becoming our Director of Staffing. As a new mom and a recent MBA graduate, she is excited to take on her next professional challenge in the world of renewable energy development and business which has been her passion since attending Georgetown and early in her career in environmental work. Maggie has recently accepted a job with East Point Energy, a utility-scale battery storage startup in Charlottesville, VA. She will continue to impact lives as she works toward reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy possibilities for our future.

Maggie first came to Gwynn Valley as a camper in 1996 in cabin Playhouse. She has spent 6 summers in Main Camp and Mountainside, another 6 as a summer staff member, and 8 years as a full-time staff member. You may have met Maggie around camp or on the road for camper and staff recruitment. She has interviewed and hired many of our seasonal staff members in recent years. Her passion centered on working with our team to place each staff member in a role where they would give campers the best possible experience and they as young professionals would have the opportunity to grow and become the best version of themselves. Maggie has also helped in many areas across camp including creating the Young Leaders curriculum,  growing our Mountainside program, and most recently helping us run a covid-friendly Family Camp over the 2020 summer. 

We will miss Maggie and her fun and positive energy! We greatly appreciate all of the excellent organizational systems she has created for camp and helped all of us to learn. We know she will be a strong asset to the new company she is joining and will help them to grow and develop, just as she did here at Gwynn Valley. We wish Maggie, Stu, and their son Thomas the very best as they take on the next adventure in life. Maggie and Stuart both plan to remain part of the GV community as proud alumni and future camper parents. 

May God hold them in the palm of His hand. 

Anne, Grant, and the GV Team

Joyful surprises at Family Camp 2020

Dear Gwynn Valley Campers, Parents, and Friends, 

2020 was the first summer in Gwynn Valley’s 85 years that we did not host a traditional camp program. We really missed our campers and staff and all the JOY that normally fills our valley and makes summer feel like summer! As you know – every challenge brings new opportunities – and for the 2020 summer that was Family Camp. After making the difficult decision to cancel our summer sessions due to the pandemic, we worked creatively to come up with a program that would reach our GV community and continue our mission as best as possible. While we missed our campers and staff terribly, we ultimately feel that hosting family camp was the best choice. 

We were surprised and delighted by the positive impact family camp had on not just the children but the adults as well! Although families have been spending a LOT of time together, as you probably know more hours together does not necessarily mean more connection. What we heard from our families was that the opportunity to come to camp where they could slow down and spend high quality time together was invaluable. Being outdoors and not having to worry about what was for dinner or who would do the dishes gave families an opportunity to truly relax and live in the moment. Of course, time spent immersed in the natural world really helps with this too – and it’s easy to spend all your time outside when you’re at Gwynn Valley! 

Having families here at camp also gave us the chance to learn more about how program can happen while managing for the risk of COVID. We are very happy to report a COVID-free summer (whoo!) thanks in no small part to the incredible summer medical team who helped us roll out new procedures as well as public health resources from our local health department all the way up to the CDC and the American Camp Association. Being able to test out new policies with a smaller group on site has made us feel more confident and ready to welcome larger numbers of campers and staff on site next summer. 

While we plan to run camp for our campers in 2021 and can’t wait to welcome them back to Gwynn Valley, we have heard from many folks who want more family camp!! We are looking into ways to possibly offer family camp weekends in the future. We saw first-hand what a powerful experience it was for families to have this fun and quality time together. We want to build more opportunities for family connection into the future.

Stay healthy everyone!

Climb to new heights!

When you think about getting outside of your comfort zone at camp, climbing is often the first thing people think of. Getting 50 feet off the ground makes most people feel a little nervous, which is honestly probably a good thing when you think about it! Even if you know intellectually that we have safety systems in place to manage the actual risk [check out this video with Andy and Elizabeth for a run down of our climbing systems at the tower!], there is still a high level of perceived risk. This is what makes your heart start to beat a little faster when you’re climbing, even though you’re tied in and you know you’ll be safe if you take a fall.

Climbing lesson at the tower with Andy and Elizabeth!

At Gwynn Valley, our founder (Miss Mary) encouraged everyone to ‘do something difficult every day.’ Some days, this might be climbing, but other days it might be saying “hi” first to a new friend, or giving a presentation in front of your peers, or remembering to be compassionate in the heat of a political disagreement. Every time we work through a challenge, we are building resiliency skills and collecting tools that will serve us in each future challenge, however big or small, for the rest of our lives. Remembering what we have accomplished can help us feel strong and confident!

If quarantine has you running low on dinner table conversation topics try asking – What difficult thing did you try today? What was that like? What big challenges have you overcome in your life? How have they made you stronger?

Keep climbing!