Counselor Spotlight!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been a great day at camp and that’s not unusual.  You know staff really make camp what it is and we’ve got a great staff this year.  You’d probably rather know what’s going on at camp with your children but I thought it noteworthy to talk a little bit about a few staff in particular.  For the first time that I can remember, we’ve got three staff members who are or were involved in arm services from three different countries.  I recently did interviews with all three to find out more about their duty and service and see how camp was different and similar in some ways.

Stacey who is a cabin counselor in Peter Pan is active and on leave from the New Zealand Army.  We have her all summer and she’s doing a great job.  Stacey said, “Camp is certainly more laid back than the army, but safety and risk management is #1 in both settings”. The Value of Acceptance, which is one of camp’s values, is also emphasized in her service.  The service is very competitive unlike camp where games end in a GV tie.  Stacey has signed on for 20 years and at this point has the rank of a Corporal.  She was the first woman in her family to join the service, but her great grandfather and grandfather served in WWI and WWII respectively.   She joined in 2008 and presently is serving as a dental assistant on her base.  Stacey grew up in Hastings, near Hawkes Bay close to the ocean.  It’s on the North Island and is very close to the sea.  She’s presently stationed in Linton which houses about 3000 troops and 25% of those are women.  Over the next few years she could be posted to an Air Force base or a Navy base with her skills.  She’s been surprised by the recognition our military service gets over here.  She’ll be heading back to the base when the new year begins and has really enjoyed her time at camp.

Tom has been with camp for two years and served for 7 years in Australian Army.  He’s multi-talented and has a lot of experience in the outdoors.  He works with our Riverside campers.  His love of the outdoors started with being a Scout in his home country.  When he was a young scout he had a chance to meet Bear Grylls who now is famous for his outdoor survival life and reality show.  He loved learning all the outdoor skills from being a scout and years later took that to the next level in joining the military.  He focused on infantry even though his CO recommended other areas and thought he was too smart to be just an infantryman.  Tom served 14 months in Afghanistan.  After service there and his honorable discharge he went to South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia to work in anti-poaching situations carrying his bush skills with him and creating a safe environment for many African animals.  In Kenya when not on patrol he was a “camp counselor for baby elephants who had lost their mothers to poaching”.  Nurturing baby elephants is akin to making sure Riversider’s needs are met some days.   “When you live in a small group like Riverside, you quickly learn what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are.  Teaching weapons training is quite similar to teaching canoe strokes, starting with foundational basics and going over the information several times to help implant those skills in the campers. The prep work that you do at camp goes right out into field with you and teachable moments are everywhere.”  Bonding with fellow soldiers (campers and staff) and processing the day happens in both environments.  Tom recognizes the difference between talent and hard work.  One of his favorite things is to wake the campers at 4 AM and drive them up to over 6000’ on the Blue Ridge Parkway to watch the sunrise.  Tom was very close to the patrols he worked with in the service and he feels the same about fellow staff and campers than he’s mentored the past couple of years.

Biggest Austin as we call him, is in our youngest boys cabin, Echo.  Austin comes from Holland, Michigan and his family met our Andy (assistant director), many years ago when Andy was an exchange student in the US.  Austin’s family and Andy have remained close through the years and Andy invited Austin to work here this summer.  Austin was involved in the Marine Corp Reserve and spent several years in the reserve while working and going to school.  His boot camp training took him to San Diego, later to Camp Lejeune and to Morocco for more training.  He spent about 5-7 weeks a year devoted to the Corp.  He grew up in a household with strong faith and when back home is involved in working with the youth at his church.  Austin stated his faith grew a great deal while in basic training.  “While military life is so different than camp, listening skills are important in both environs.”  At camp we include in that ability to listen, engagement, eyes and ears perked on what we call the “zone of awareness” when around campers.  “You make sure everyone is safe around you at camp and in your group and making sure that they are maintaining themselves.” There’s not much nurturing or gentleness in the Corp and here it’s all about that.  There’s a time to be firm and a time to relax and have fun.”  Austin will continue his education and work back in Michigan at the end of summer.  This ex- Marine is doing a great job with our youngest boys who have loved being in his cabin.

I thought you might be interested in these folks.  Our staff have many stories to tell and live very interesting lives in all parts of the globe.  I wish we had more time to have you meet more of them.  As stated above staff like these and others make us who we are.  They are partnering with you to be good parents here at camp.

We finally got some rain today and only during rest hour.  Our lightening detector went off about 2:30 and by 3:30 it gave the all clear signal.  It rained buckets and we need it.  This has been a very dry summer.  Bikers and paddlers made it back before the rain hit this afternoon.  Mountain Bikers went to Dupont and Kayakers went to the French Broad Wilson Rd. section.  There’s a great small rapid there for teaching the basics of ferrying, peelouts and generally controlling your boat in current.  Climbers are headed out early tomorrow morning to beat the rain.  Hopefully the rock will be dry when they arrive.  Tomorrow is New Zealand Day!  Stay tuned!