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AUG. 28, 2014

Extraordinary Camp Counselors

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Edee Robinson, Grandparent Counselor and Trustee

I’ve got “roots” at Eagle’s Nest and there are a hundred things I could tell you that make it special for me. I’ve been a camper, a JC and a staff member. Later I was asked to join the Board of Trustees, which I serve on with honor. However being a parent-counselor just might top the list.

Several years back I began returning to Eagle’s Nest for a few weeks each summer in a new role as a Parent Counselor (or in my case Grandparent Counselor). This summer the boys and I loaded up the truck with our camp supplies and began the drive from Florida to Pisgah Forest. It wasn’t long before they started asking “what counselors will be back?” I would go through the names of people I knew were returning and then a few minutes later one of them would ask “well do you know if so- and-so will be there?” They were very curious about the staff.

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I’m always impressed with the quality and creativity of the staff, this year it began on day one. The opening day of camp is always exciting: the morning is busy with campers arriving and settling in, and then it’s off to explore campus in cabin groups for the afternoon. At some point each of the cabin groups comes to the lake to get acquainted with the safety rules before each camper hops in for “Swim Fest”. I usually help lifeguard at the lake on opening day. This year I watched the Waterfront Director make the afternoon fun. I watched lifeguards spend the whole afternoon in the chilly lake swimming along side the campers, making everyone feel comfortable and safe (and gently helping a few to the dock). On other parts of campus, counselors were were busy building their cabin community by helping the campers get acquainted with campus and each other.

The opening day of camp is also long. After a busy day of settling in, after dinner we head over to the New Lodge for “Activity Skits” which give campers a sense for what each of the classes will be doing during the session. A string of creative and entertaining skits ensued. BY the end of opening day I was exhausted, but the counselors were just getting warmed up! They were knitting in the Core Values (Nature, Community, Confidence, Compassion and Joy) of Eagle’s Nest into skits, flag raising and activities. These counselors are self confident and have boundless energy, creativity and enthusiasm. The counselors at Eagle’s Nest are attending (or just graduated from) some really great schools, like UNC, Wake Forest, Princeton, Appalachian State, University of Florida, Middlebury, Warren Wilson College, Duke, Lewis and Clark, Prescott…the list goes on and on. There are also a handful of international counselors who come from The Netherlands, Great Britain, South Africa and Australia! All are very disciplined young people with real life goals who choose to spend their summer teaching young people in the mountains of North Carolina. They impress me and give me real hope for the future.

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After the session got underway, I was asked to be the driver for the Cabin 9 outing. Cabin 9 is the cabin for the youngest boys. We drove into Pisgah Forest to a nice spot on the Davidson River. I was happy to go but have to admit I was a little nervous about keeping these little guys’ interest for the whole afternoon. Instead of rolling out a Big Plan of the afternoons’ activities, the counselors asked the boys what they thought they should do together. One of the boys suggested building a dam, while another was interested in building a raft. The next thing I knew the counselors were moving large rocks at the direction of the campers (who were moving plenty of smaller rocks themselves). Over to the side another counselor helped one of the boys build a raft out of sticks and leaves. Of course they also wanted to float down the stream on their backs and watch the fish and salamanders. These little boys had plenty of ideas and the counselors just encouraged and supported their creativity while keeping a safe and watchful eye. I’m not sure who I was more amazed with- the six-year-old making the raft, the others directing the construction of a dam or the counselors guiding all of this creativity! When it was time to go, the dam was disassembled, the raft sent down the stream (with a note of course, directing anyone who found it to return it to its journey to the ocean). The ride home was filled with incredible discussions about scepters and other worlds.

One of my favorite moments, happened in the Dining Hall, which is central to camp life. The World Cup had recently started. During announcements a counselor near me raised his hand. When called upon, he stood and began drumming on his table, before breaking into a rather impressive and loud chant. After about 30 seconds of chanting and drumming he announced that South Africa (his home country) has won its’ first match, then hung his South African flag from the rafter over his table. Over the next several days, each of the other international staff brought in their flags to hang above their tables and made similarly entertaining announcements.

These kinds of events happen on a daily basis at Eagle’s Nest. On the ride home, ad the boys told stories about their favorite counselors (who was funniest, etc.) I realized how impactful these young adults are. I could tell that my grandchildren had had real, meaningful conversations with their counselors. As we continued our drive south I overheard one side of the telephone call they made to their dad. After several general answers I heard one of the boys say “Dad, it was extraordinary”. Now I assure you, this 12-year-old did NOT use the word extraordinary to describe things on the way TO camp. I must say, extraordinary is an excellent description of the Eagle’s Nest Camp staff and the impact they have on the young people in their care!