Jane Megginson, Camp Program Manger
We had another great season at BYM Camps this summer! Counting campers and work granters, we had 711 participants, eclipsing last year’s record-high 709! In addition, our camper weeks edged out last year’s total by two, with 1388 camper weeks in 2014. Our directors who took over Shiloh and Catoctin three seasons ago, Hope Swank, Kathrin Gilbert and Dyresha Harris, have shown a lot of growth in their programs and in their skills and knowledge about directing camps. Opequon welcomed a new Co-Director, Sara Brigham, who directed with her sister, Elaine Brigham for the first time this summer. Sara is no stranger to leading at Opequon as she has been a senior staff member there for many years. Our Co-Directors at Teen Adventure, Jesse Austell and Jenn Schneider, continue to tweak our most popular and logistically complex program, drawing graduates from each of our residential camps to further their personal, spiritual, and leadership growth. Our Work Grant program continues to be an important and unique aspect of our camps. Many of our Work Grant participants return year after year not only to help pay a camper’s fees, but also to enjoy the community and experience of BYM Camps themselves. I know of no other camp that has such an extensive program trading work and participation at camp for tuition remission.
Diversity at all of our camps continues to improve as we work on various grants, projects, and undertakings to recruit underrepresented children to attend camp. In 2008, when we began systematically keeping track, 16% of our campers were non-white. This year, 25% of our campers were non-white. The Catoctin Diversity Group has been developing an approach that serves and really includes campers of non-white ethnic/racial backgrounds. For example, a volunteer translated the camper materials into Spanish this year. Other volunteers hosted potlucks with camper recruits and their families, teaching camp songs, explaining camp activities, and going on practice hikes. Funds were raised and grants sought to help pay for campers. This project has been resoundingly successful. We received another grant from the Bama Works Fund of Charlottesville this year and we have brought campers from that area to Shiloh for the second time this summer. We have patterned our recruitment and preparation of those campers after the work that has been done with the Catoctin group. The Camping Program Committee has even incorporated the idea of extra preparation for incoming campers into our routine for all new campers. Although we have not hosted a potluck with all of them, Committee members did call all of the new camper families (117 of them) to welcome them to camp and to answer any questions they might have about our camps, equipment, homesickness, and any other concerns.
Another milestone to celebrate – at Catoctin this year, more than one-third of the staff were people of color. Although we do not have accurate data to compare to other years, I can tell you anecdotally that we have never before had a staff anywhere near as diverse as this at any of our camps. The real victory here is that we are recruiting counselor/mentors who are as diverse as the campers who are attending our camps. In this way we are providing a more meaningful, fuller, richer experience for all our campers as they participate in a community that more accurately reflects the world we all live in. Thus we will develop a more diverse group of future leaders — staff, counselors, directors, and possibly General Secretaries of Yearly Meetings. I want to thank all of the people who have worked hard and continue to work toward making our camps a community that reflects who we want to be. This is not just a project but a calling and part of our spiritual practice for our camps. Our efforts are making a difference.
We know that the community that we create at camp has impacted generations of BYM Quakers. Catoctin Quaker camp has been in session for over 50 years, and now Shiloh and Opequon are maturing and have devoted alumni. This late summer/early fall at Catoctin and Shiloh we hosted alumni events for former campers and staff at those camps. It was the first time we have held an alumni event at Shiloh, and it was a big success with over forty people in attendance, including folks from every era of Shiloh’s existence, and some who worked and attended camp at Old Opequon (which became Shiloh). We are excited about continuing to host alumni events in 2015, at Shiloh, September 25-27th and at Catoctin September 11-13th, so save the dates and show up next fall! Invite your friends from camp that you have not seen in years. Tell your family members who may not have heard. It is a lot of fun to see old familiar faces, meet some new folks, and renew our connections to the sites, the songs, the food, and the community that is CAMP!
As I think over themes of this past year, and the flow of my work, I keep coming back to one of the recurring themes of our work in the BYM Camping Program, and that is developing Quaker leaders. I find myself remembering that when Linda Garrettson, Director of Catoctin Quaker Camp for 17 years, announced that she would retire from directing camp, several people commented to me, “What are you going to do now? What will you do without Linda?” and I thought to myself, “Well, now that is a funny question. Of course, I will hire a new director for Catoctin.” The question of what will we do now without someone we love who has served us so well for so long really gets at people’s discomfort with the unknown, the future, transitioning and change. I get that. But what I also understand is a great tribute to Linda, and to Barry Morley before her, and to all of the Directors who have served our camps and led this program: By doing their job well, they are training young people to take on responsibility and to become leaders. They have trained the people who will become the next leaders in our camping program, in our Yearly Meeting, at our colleges, and in our schools. What better tribute to Barry Morley is there than that he helped young people grow enough to become new leaders in our camping program – JoAnn Coates Hunter, Linda Garrettson, Michael DeHart, Sue deVeer, and Elaine Brigham, to name a few. And what more fitting tribute to Linda Garrettson, or Dana Foster who served 17 years as the Shiloh Director, than that former campers and staff are now following in their footsteps and directing Catoctin and Shiloh? But they are not mimicking Linda (or Barry, or Dana) or trying to recreate exactly what Linda did at camp. When a leader moves on, it creates an opening for new leadership, new styles, methods, and ideas. Each new leader brings a unique set of skills, gifts, and a vision which will take the camp forward and perhaps in a slightly different direction for the next round. It is both simple and profound, and a small act of faith, to believe that this has always worked before and will continue to work into the future of our program. So the next time a beloved Director of one of our camps announces it is time to move on, feel free to come to me and say, “Wow, I wonder what great new opportunity for leadership and growth we will get to experience now!”
In fact, that is how I experience an important part of my job, making sure the Camp Directors have everything they need to do their jobs effectively. I love working closely with such a talented group of people, and I love the challenge and renewal of getting to know new Directors, learning their communication styles, seeing where we are similar and different, learning the ways I can complement them in their work, and supporting them in growing into their position as camp director at a BYM Camp. Directing camp is a daunting job, but what a joy to work so closely with them and see the genius at work, and grow through the hard challenges. Oh, how I envy their ability and desire to work with young people and shepherd them through these difficult times, giving them a spiritual home and core – an emotional safe space, a place of radical inclusiveness, a community where all participants belong.
I want to thank the Committee members who put in much time and effort to make the Camps run well and continue to be a place we want to send our children. I want to thank the Directors and staff at our camps who work so hard and care so passionately about the children we entrust to their care. We place so much into their hands, so many precious children, and charge them with the spiritual, mental, physical well-being and growth of our kids. It is truly an astonishing gift that each summer this group of young and passionate staff carries out all that we hope for and more.
George Fox’s spiritual breakthrough was a gift he longed for before he understood what he longed for.
In a blazing act of grace he finally received it.
And though he explained his discoveries to us and though we teach them to each other, they were not his gift to us.
His gift was constant encouragement that we discover for ourselves the source from which spiritual discoveries come.
~ Barry Morley, Fire at the Center: A New Look at Quaker Religious Education