By Nichol Ellis

Past – Camp Director, Now – Camp Korey Community Engagement Manager

As our final Spring Family Weekend ends for 2022, we are all walking away with full hearts knowing the impact of camp programming lives and thrives within the gates of Camp Korey, but maybe more importantly, outside of Camp as well.

This weekend we were thrilled to host six families for our Family Weekend. It was a mix of returning families and new families. And, as always, I am constantly amazed to watch the transformation from Friday evening to Sunday morning. The shy camper who hid behind their parent somehow finds their way onto the stage for a solo dance performance the next day. Or the dad who clearly was out of his comfort zone watching silly campfire skits somehow turn into a master archer. And he lit up as he got to share this talent with his family. Or even the long-time medical volunteers who were thrust into a Family Pal role for the first time, after years of coming to camp. And they found themselves emotional as they shared how this felt different, and the connection was so much more powerful and special in this role.

As I was taking in the beautiful morning on Sunday, I was reflecting on my past 3 years here at Camp Korey. The countless faces of campers, staff, parents, volunteers, and guests who have shaped my personal journey and the journeys of so many were scrolling through my mind. The endless smiles, moments of laughter and joy, silliness, adapting programs to fit into whatever the world was throwing at us, and the opportunities for all of us to try new things together.

As I sat there on that log, a mom walked over to me and quietly asked if she could interrupt. I invited her to join me on the log, and we both sat looking out at camp, and she shared how important this weekend was for her family. She shared that their family is heading to Disneyland next week, which, of course, will be a fun trip, but this weekend was better than that ever will be. Her son was able to see other kids navigating the same condition and experiencing the same things. He was able to ask questions and know that he is not the only kid who faces these same challenges. This mom gushed about getting to know other parents and connecting over stories and shared experiences. She ended by saying, “For me, Camp Korey is better than Disneyland.”

Transitioning into a new role here at Camp has a lot of feelings attached to it for me personally. I will miss these impromptu moments with campers and parents. I will miss the day-to-day bustle of activity and brainstorming. But what I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that I am passing the “program baton” on to an amazing team who will thoughtfully bring in innovative and fresh ideas and who will continue the legacy of connection and belonging.

Some highlights from the weekend are:

  1. Many new entries into the book of firsts!
  2. Archery challenges were in full force. Campers designed their own targets and if they hit a specific part the challenge was activated! Let’s just say eating out of a cup, or with only 2 knives, or with tongs added an extra layer of sloppy to the sloppy joe lunch!
  3. A camper played some beautiful music at Stage Night and was asked to sign his first, of what I can only assume will be many, autographs!
  4. Our large warm fuzzy was transformed into a tinfoil wrapped “boulder.”
  5. Our family pals were so engaging and amazing!
  6. Parent coffee hour provided moments of lovely conversation, connections, and of course coffee!
  7. The beautiful and vibrant crafts that came out of arts and crafts were truly inspiring!
  8. A staff member stepped out from under his accounting hat. and volunteered for the weekend to help Chef Derek in the kitchen. He was able to see the magic of camp firsthand and we are so thankful for any year-round staff who chooses to be part of the program and understand not only the why, but more importantly the who of what do!

Look out Mickey….

Thank you all for being part of this journey of camp and your invaluable contribution to making this place the actual Happiest Place on Earth!