Distance Can’t Keep Sisters from Each Other or Camp
Liz (Gasparich) Alvarez and Mandy (Gasparich) Bernard have a lot in common. Both were Ondessonk campers, served on staff, volunteered during Summer Camp, are Lodge members, and are, most notably, sisters. While they now live far from each other, Liz in Belleville, Ill., and Mandy in Las Vegas, Nev., Camp Ondessonk is one of the ways the sisters stay connected.
Being inducted into the Loyal Lodge of Ondessonk & Tekakwitha as campers was an extra special memory for the sisters because they were following in the footsteps of their father, George Gasparich. “I’m fond of the mystery and tradition of the Lodge ceremony itself,” Mandy shared, “and have vivid memories of my Lodge initiation.”
Decades later, Liz was the first to begin volunteering during Summer Camp which inspired Mandy to do the same. “Although I didn’t work as a staff member, I decided to volunteer at Camp once I had children old enough to attend.” Liz explained, “Although my children have outgrown Camp, I continue to volunteer, and I’ve volunteered with my sister and also our parents.”
With Liz serving in the Heath Center and Mandy in program areas, the sisters don’t see each other much during the day, so evenings are special. “We are in different departments so there isn’t a lot of ‘together time’ during working hours, but once the kids retire to their units and volunteers are back at the Noel Center, we enjoy sitting fireside and catching up.” Mandy shared that these times usually create her favorite memories of the week. “Sometimes someone in the volunteer group plays the guitar or sings, sometimes it turns into a dance party, and once we even started our own percussion band. And who can forget the visits to see the goats? I have become quite adept at imitating a goat scream and it makes my sister laugh so hard!” Mandy concluded, “It means a lot to me to have that time together.”
Liz’s favorite memories also included singing and laughing with fellow volunteers, but it’s so much more that keeps her coming back each summer. “Camp is not just about the activities or being in nature. Camp is about the experience – the people, the love, the sense of joy, and belonging felt at Camp. I always say that although I take some amazing vacations, Camp (Ondessonk) is my favorite reset. Although I might be exhausted at the end of the week, I am also joyful. It’s worth it every time!”
Both sisters have retained Active Membership in the Loyal Lodge and Mandy became a Lifetime Lodge member when the option became available in 2020. She explained, “I want to support Camp even when I cannot volunteer, and I thought this (becoming a Lifetime Lodge Member) would be one small way. It’s also easier to pay once rather than yearly!”
We are so thankful Liz and Mandy have continued to be engaged in the life of Camp Ondessonk and the Loyal Lodge of Ondessonk & Tekakwitha.
Become a Lifetime Lodge Member to stay an Active Lodge Member the easy way or maintain Active Membership by renewing your Lodge dues annually. Learn more about volunteering during Summer Camp by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (618) 695-2489 x145.