Wishing Everyone Holiday Cheer

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

Happy Holidays from Gwynn Valley!

Dear Campers, Parents and Friends,

As we all know, blessings come in so many different ways.  As families and friends gather for this time of year it is especially important to recognize and give thanks for all that is good and all that brings peace and joy.  Sometimes even our challenges open doors that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened.  Anne and I are especially grateful for our campers and families and the work we do here at Gwynn Valley.  We believe that a good camp experience is an essential part of developing the whole child and the outcomes translate in wonderful ways on the big stage of life.

Camp is a place of community providing multiple positive opportunities for interaction and character development.  And … it’s just plain fun.  Maggie has always said, “camp brings out the best version of ourselves”.  I do love the Holidays, all its ceremony, spiritual significance, friends and family, good food and more.  What I cherish almost as much is our opening of camp, which captures much of what the Holidays embody.

We are doubly excited this year to be in the process of building our new Dining Room, Kitchen, Program Office and Staff Living Room.  Things are going well and we’ve included a video to update you on construction.  We’ve also shared video highlights from all of our sessions as well as our 2016 “U Rock” video.  We hope this brings back fond memories of the summer and will provide you and your family anticipation of our 2017 summer.   Please note that any Mountainside and Riverside footage is included in the Main Camp sessions that correlate with those dates.   If you haven’t reapplied for this summer, be sure to check our session availability here or contact our office.

U Rock 2016

New Building Construction

A Session Highlights

B Session Highlights

C Session Highlights

D Session Highlights

E Session Highlights


Peace and Joy from all of us to you and yours!

Grant , Anne and the GV Team

Happy New Year!

Campers, Parents and Friends,

Here’s hoping you and your family have a wonderful beginning to the New Year, 2016.  This will be Gwynn Valley’s 81st year of operation.  Enjoy the short video that Jacob Bullard (my youngest son) put together.  Looking forward to another great summer at Gwynn Valley!


Happy Holidays and New “You Rock” Video!

Happy Holidays Everyone,

We hope your holiday preparations are going well and you and your family are looking forward to this wonderful part of the year. One of my goals for the end of the year is to really slow down and get the most of these days ahead. We do the same thing at camp sometimes. We get on a roll and everything is moving so fast that we suddenly realize that we need to apply the brakes. Camp moves at a fast pace and it’s hard to slow down a moving train. Children get tired and they need good rest and time to just recharge those batteries. When we do put the brakes on it’s rewarding to see how a bit of unstructured free-play and some rest can rejuvenate everyone and bring a sense of well-being to our home away from home. We all need this in our lives and it’s especially hard this time of year to slow that train down.

With the holiday season also comes the aspects of ceremony and tradition. We have a lot of tradition here at camp. Traditions of camp vary from events in the summer to cabin photos that campers receive in the winter. Several years ago a counselor, named Tyler Swain, produced a video for us called “You Rock”. It still stands as an iconic piece for us and is on our website. I can’t even remember when the video was created, but it was time for an updated version. We thought about trying to work with that same theme with new footage but you can’t always build on some things that are done so well the first time. We have created a new version with an short beginning similar to the last “You Rock”, but then it departs and speaks to 2014 and a glimpse of our magical summer past. Many thanks to my co-workers who critiqued my work and also Emery Ford who introduced me to the song used and added some footage from a piece she did this summer for Session B. We may or may not put this on our website but you can certainly view it on Vimeo as well as our Facebook page for Gwynn Valley. Here’s the link. http://vimeo.com/114361671

As another year comes to an end, I highlight the things for which I am grateful, but what are those things, really? In this season of thanks, I am grateful for my family who is there for each other, I have a nice home, income, an active life of activities, a system of positive beliefs and much more. At camp one of our values is simplicity and the older I get the more I want things to be simple. I’ve accumulated enough “stuff” in my life that I really don’t need much more, especially gadgets and outdoor toys. However, every now and then I do envy a new mountain bike or boat, but then I see my friend Robert Dye (one of our whitewater instructors who teaches at the local college) making his own sea kayak and that friends, is simplicity. I’m also grateful for the association I’ve had with the many families that come to camp and all the children that have attended Gwynn Valley. I also include the fact that I wake up each morning to another beautiful day in paradise to accomplish good things along with my fellow workers in keeping Gwynn Valley a great place for children to attend.

In this season of giving, the gift of a camp experience is different than adding more “stuff” to the accumulation pile. Camp is a great gift for a child and the camp experience is one that is not forgotten and does not come from a screen. It’s an active, hands on event that propels the camper to new heights of self worth, resilience and time away to grow on one’s own without parents.

So… enjoy the video link listed above and all it stands for. Give thanks, slow down and have a wonderful Holiday Season with those who surround you. Best to you and yours from all of us.


Dear Campers, Parents & Friends,

Even though it’s a fairly warm day here at camp, true winter has been with us for a while.  Leaves have been gathered, hydrangea’s have been trimmed and many projects have been started in preparation for the coming summer.  We here at camp hope that you and your family are doing well during this festive and special time of year.  We’ve been fortunate to connect with many of our campers and families on our camp promotion trips up until Thanksgiving.  Those will resume again as the new year begins so look for us in a city or area near you.  We’ll be showing our new video,  which premiered in the fall.  Just this past week we went live with the video on the camp website.  If you haven’t had time to check it out, do so.  You might see someone you know.  There are also other videos from the summer if you click on the “You Rock” video at the bottom right side of the page.  Once it plays you find a few more scenes from our super 2011 summer.

Staffing is going very well and at this point we have over 85 of our outstanding staff from last summer who have committed for the summer of 2012.  We’ve been interviewing some new folks who will round out the excellent staff ranks for the summer.  If you know of a wonderful  young man or woman who is keen on working with children please send them our way.  You can never have too many good staff.

As many of you know one of Gwynn Valley’s values is simplicity.  With all the hustle and bustle of this time of year, don’t forget to stop and give thanks for all that we have, for family, for friends, for faith, for good health and for places like Gwynn Valley.  Anne and recently placed a metal sign above our doorway in the kitchen leading into our family room that is just the word “Believe”.  There are all kinds of magnetic additions you can add to it depending on the season.  It’s inspirational for our family in so many ways.  Just remember to start that “Believing” process by believing in yourself.  I think that Gwynn Valley provides children the simple act of believing in themselves and going forward to gain other life building skills that camp teaches.

At every camp closing our staff sings the song “The Irish Blessing”.  It’s a great way to end our sessions and I think the words speak for themselves.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again.
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May the peace of the season touch your lives in simple ways!