Personal Growth through Adventure
About a month after the dust settled on the 2018 Summer Camp Season, I sat down with campers Walker Selby, Abbie Hernandez, and Josie Hooten, who were willing to share some of their camp experiences with me. All three participated in Camp Ondessonk’s Smoky Mountain Adventure Camp this past summer. Walker is a veteran of several adventure camps. He’s participated in Horse Camp, Horse Adventure, Surfing Adventure, Shawnee Backpack, and Zipline Adventure, and Hike, Bike, Paddle, and Climb. All three were Lodge Campers in 2016 and 2017, but this summer they wanted to do something different. When asked what the best part of the trip was, they all chuckled, recalling silly moments together that they could barely describe, or perhaps moments that will not make sense to those of us that were not there. Then Josie said, “When we were driving out, we stopped and looked out through the fog, and suddenly there was the Little Tennessee River! We found it completely by accident, but we all stopped and appreciated the beauty at that moment. It was nice to feel the transition between the humid Ozark air and the cool mountains of Tennessee. ”
These three individuals first became friends at Lodge Camp, and each has attended camp for several years. “The relationships you build at camp are so great between the campers and with the staff,” says Walker. “I love that people come back year after year to reunite with the friends that they’ve met.” Abbie started as a girls’ week camper in 2014. I asked her how she felt about attending girls’ week versus a Coed week. She said, “There is different energy during girls’ sessions. There are more songs and cheers. I think that a girls’ week is a good introduction for a new camper and their parents to feel comfortable at camp.” Abbie has now completed the CIT program and is eligible to be a Leader in Training (LIT) next summer. “I used to be shy and introverted, but coming to camp has grown my leadership skills and my relationship with nature is so much stronger.”
Walker Selby agrees. He says, “Camp has given me a greater sense of preservation and appreciation for Leave No Trace ethics, and for giving back. Camp creates an environment that shifts your mindset from thinking of you to thinking of others. You develop a unit perspective, instead of an individual perspective.” Walker should know. He has been a camper since 2012 and has completed almost every program offering there is. He is still involved with the Boy Scouts and continues to go to other camps each summer, but Ondessonk is his home. This year, he also completed the CIT program, as well as Climbing Adventure.
Josie loves that camp has a vibe of happiness and kindness. “People go out of their way to be kind,” she said. She shared that her participation at camp over the years has taught her to let go of trying to control everything and to be a little more flexible. All of the best camp memories, after all, are typically the unplanned things. Like finding the Little Tennessee River.
By Alissa Hollmann, Camping Services Director