Ondessonk Community by Jason Valentine
One of the hardest things to describe to a person who has never been to Camp Ondessonk is defining “Camp People”. In my limited way, I will try to show you, dear reader, what I mean:
Have you ever been to an event where a dance floor is filled with all generations of people, people who might not have ever even met, but they are brought together by the mutual love of the music that is playing? The song might be an old familiar favorite to some folks on the floor, and might have such a wonderful groove that it attracts others even though they have never heard it before. Everyone is enjoying the beat – it’s catchy. It’s so good that it reaches people on a physical level and makes them move their body despite any inhibition they might have. I’ve been to a lot of dances and every once in a great while, the chemistry is just right. All of the guests fall into the groove and it seems like for that short while, everything is alright. The worries seem to disappear and people are able to enjoy themselves and have a great time on the dance floor surrounded by everyone else enjoying the same song at the same time. When I see this happen, it reminds me of my camp family.
There are some in the Ondessonk community that just have camp in their blood. Generations of their family have been campers, staff, or volunteers, so the love of camp just comes so naturally that the place automatically fits like a second home. These people are an integral part of the camp family. The history of camp and their family history are intertwined and Ondessonk is rooted deep in their lives.
Next in the camp world are those who I like to call “lifers”. I categorize myself in this bunch. These are the folks who came to Ondessonk, possibly the first of their family, perhaps following the lead of older siblings, or maybe with friends. Lifers could have begun their association with this magical place as campers, staff, or volunteers, but they experienced the magic that envelops the place and fell in love with it. Once they have experienced this “camp spirit” they feel an irresistible draw to the place, making them come back for more. Camp spirit has been described as “the golden hook” that tug’s on the heart of a person, leading them back to this place. They continue on to become staff members, volunteers, and donors out of a combination of gratitude, nostalgia, and a desire to pay forward the great experiences that they have had.
Camp Ondessonk, to many, seems to have a life of its own. The place itself develops relationships with people. Those people develop relationships with each other, and I can tell you from personal experience that the relationships formed and developed at camp are some of the strongest relationships a person can have. Camp spirit is the common chord. It’s the mutual tone that draws a person in, encouraging them to take a moment from their hectic lives and enjoy the good company and remember that it’s alright to play. Ondessonk, like the dance floor, brings people from various walks of life all together to set aside inhibitions and dance to the harmonious combination of nature, community, and christian values of mutual respect. The reason “camp people” might seem strange to someone who has not had an Ondessonk experience is because we recall that initial moment when camp spirit first hit us. We have fallen into the groove and we are able to sing along – like camp is an old favorite song:
Oh, We are the campers of Ondessonk you hear so much about
People stop and stare at us whenever we go out
We’re not a bit stuck up about the clever things we do
most everybody likes us and we hope you like us too.
JV (Jason Valentine)