Support the Sun Lodge Renovation project in honor of Ted!

In honor of Ted Wesemann, The Outdoor Academy’s founding director and long-time faculty member, and to celebrate his retirement after 27 years at OA, we are launching the “Ted’s Deck” initiative.  

Thanks to our amazing donors and supporters, you’ve already matched the first $2,500 leadership gift! We have a new match on the table; your gift to the Sun Lodge Renovations will be matched up to $10,000, double your dollars today!


Ted’s thoughts on the Sun Lodge proposal:

Long ago a man built a big house on a hill, and then went far away, never to return. But that was fine because he had not built it for himself – he had built it for children he would never know. Every summer the children came and filled the house with their laughter and the house was happy. But at the end of every summer the children swept and cleaned and closed the doors leaving the house empty and lonely through the beautiful fall and cold winter. The house had to be satisfied giving shelter to the mice and squirrels and sometimes even a snake through the long months. When the spring leaves turned the valley green the house grew excited knowing the children would be back soon. And they were – every summer.

At the end of one fun summer the house was cleaned and closed as usual and the house stood on its hill bravely facing months of solitude once again. But, in the middle of one afternoon nap – what’s that?! Voices outside? Why were the children back? Certainly the house had not slept all through the winter? The door downstairs was flung open and children poured in with their packs and bags and books. Books? That was new. The mice and squirrels upstairs scattered in all directions at the excitement and noise. Even the black snake retreated to the safety of the attic. And the house was happy again because now it was full of children for the whole year.

Over the years, the big house was joined by other buildings scattered at its feet. They were pretty and friendly, but the children all loved the house on the hill best and the house loved them right back, giving them tasty meals and warm woodstoves and hot cocoa and cozy corners to read. Songs were sung at every meal, games were played in the den, music rang through the big rooms, and sometimes costume parties were thrown. The children were happy and the house was glad to see all the friendships that were made under its roof. It completely forgot about those long, lonely winters. 

As I was thinking about our Sun Lodge for this bit of writing, I realized I’ve always given it a personality – kind of a children’s book identity as a mother figure of The Outdoor Academy. Simply put, the Sun Lodge is OA’s home. I doubt that J.B. Hannum had any idea how loved his lodge would become as he headed up its construction in the 1970s. OA also has Sikwayi, Cheoah, and Wayah – all wonderful work and study places – but our home is most definitely the Sun Lodge, because this is where the hearth is – the kitchen. We gather here to prepare meals and wash dishes and pots, to break bread together, and to share conversations over a cup of tea about big, fierce animals and why they are rare. Every time we circle up for a meal, the Sun Lodge encourages us to pause to breathe in its atmosphere of tradition and memories – and give thanks for all the many faces and voices that have shared that space. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean – it’s a big group hug of a building.

But, you may find it odd to know that I have always thought of the Sun Lodge as unfinished, both aesthetically and practically. Even on my first visit in 1994, coming up from Cabin 7 field, I rounded the corner to see the flat expanse of those three stories and wondered if the second story deck was in the planning. I thought maybe Eagle’s Nest just hadn’t gotten around yet to what I saw as this obvious finishing feature of the building. Over the years as Eagle’s Nest expanded and improved and invested in so many exciting projects, I felt the Sun Lodge was waiting patiently for its turn to be completed. I found the thought of it graying over the years on the hill a little saddening, even as it provided such a welcoming and generous home to us. (Did The Giving Tree just cross your mind, too?)

However, I believe its turn could be here now. The proposal of a deck on three sides with glass doors out of the dining room and den along with the replacement of all our old thin panes with insulated windows is the big thank you the Sun Lodge deserves for 52 OA semesters and 40+ years of service to Eagle’s Nest Foundation. Hmm… that means the Sun Lodge was new when the first OA students were being born. How timely.

I want to ask you to join me in reaching back in time to pick up J.B. Hannum’s hammer and completing the Sun Lodge he so generously began. I love Sikwayi and Cheoah and Wayah and our newest addition, but it’s time – I think it’s past time that we honor our Sun Lodge by giving it this gift of restoration and renewal.

And…my deep thanks to every OA Alum and faculty that have made these 27 years the best of my life.

With love,