A few weeks ago I happened upon a parenting blog by Rachel Macy Stafford that brought tears to my eyes. Reading it filled my heart with the purest of joys as it spoke to me about the way I strive to be with my own children but also the way we at camp strive to be with those who we meet at camp. I want to highlight here a few of the shining pieces of that blog.
First, the title, A Relationship Worth Protecting, was a hook for me. Every writer knows there has to be a hook if you want someone to read your writing. Rachel Macy Stafford grabbed me right away as I am someone who thinks a great deal about relationships. I think about navigating them and also how I can protect them, essentially protecting the people I love. There were lessons for me in the words on the screen. Oh, right, I quickly reminded myself, THIS is what we do at camp and suddenly it wasn't only about parenting. At camp we protect each other by building each other up, plain and simple, participant/camper centered to us is also people centered and relationship centered. This blog is a beautiful reminder starting at the very beginning, it’s title. It’s worthy to protect our relationships.
Second, a quote the author built her words from “Can you see your love for me shining through? Cuz what you see in me, I can see in you. And soon enough, you and me we’ll be out of time. And kindness will be all we can leave behind.” - Nimo Patel
It’s about love, right? We are all embraced by God’s love and are at the center of His creation. And we also have each other…human beings were created FOR love. What a gift! Again, this happens at camp. Camp is a place where love for our Creator and for each other happens every day. Our staff members give of themselves freely and humbly every day. They share their faith; they lovingly support. The smaller moments are my favorites, hiking in the rain a program staff members lends a rain coat; in the dining hall, a summer camper gets the last piece of pizza; someone loses a retainer and we see it in the trash---dumpster diving becomes a thing at camp.
The author of the blog shares this about her daughters, “Just as she is shaping her little sister’s self-esteem through words and actions, I am shaping hers.” This is true at camp as well. We as camp staff are shaping the children and the future. Every day encompasses humility and giving to others. Another layer is teaching others about this love. We often talk about the joy of letting another go first, or letting someone else have the bigger cookie and that putting ourselves second is love and pleasing to God.
Third, the author’s closing lines, “We all need someone in our corner … to have our back … to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. We can do that, my friends. We can do that for our sisters … our brothers … our children … and for each other. We can do that for the people who are learning how to treat others by watching us live. “
Yes! Life is so much sweeter when we are in it together, when we have each other's backs. This kindness and supporting each other speaks loudly in our Catholic teachings. St. John Bosco, CYO Camp’s patron saint, teaches us to be in and among the children, to meet them where they are, to build them up so they can become closer to God and live better lives. He took care of so many so they could grow closer to God and do the same for the next guy.
And finally, the author’s personal pledge,
The Presence Pledge
I hope you feel like a welcomed spark to my life, not an inconvenience, annoyance, or bother to my day.
I hope you feel comfortable in your skin, not constantly wondering how many things you need to change before you’re loved and celebrated.
I hope you feel heard, valued, and understood, not dismissed for being too young or too inexperienced to have an opinion or know what you need to thrive.
I hope you feel capable and confident, not incapable of doing something without constant supervision and correction.
I hope you feel brave to bare the colors of your soul, not pressured to hide your light or play small to gain acceptance.
I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence,
I leave your heart fuller,
your smile wider,
your spirit stronger
your future brighter
than you could have ever imagined by yourself.
We can all strive to be THIS each and every day and honestly this is the part that made my "feels" light up. It's good and it's God; it's loving people and making the world a better place and to me this is CYO Camp. Lord knows we aren’t perfect but we give it our best and hope that people leave camp feeling loved and whole.
Angi K Sullivan, CYO Camp Co-Director
For Rachel Macy Stafford’s full blog post click here.
I love learning. Finding out new information or someone teaching me about a subject that I know nothing about is endlessly exciting to me. At camp, there are so, so many opportunities to learn. One of the ways that I think I have learned the most is in the area of sustainability. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that Stewards of the Earth is one of our core values. When I interviewed to work at camp, I admitted that this was the core value that I was the most nervous about being to able to live out, not because I don't think it's important, but because I don't have very much experience with it at all. Before this job, I didn't know what foods are and aren't compost able, I had never taken care of chickens, and I could not tell you which plants on camp were native and which were non-native. Now, I feel comfortable with all of those things, and I like to talk about them. However, since I'm still a sustainability/stewardship novice, I will be linking to several articles throughout this post written by people who know much more than I do about the subject.
I mention sustainability because it's important for what I actually want to talk about: something that I have started to call the de-pineification. Over the last couple months, the camp landscape has changed pretty dramatically. The red pines that surround our amphitheater and the edge of the road leading to our dining hall have all been cut down, leaving a bare, straw-covered meadow where several dozen trees once stood. And I'm going to tell you why that's a good thing (or at least try).
When I first found out that all of the trees were going to be cut down, I was pretty mortified. At a very basic level, my opinion was: cutting trees down = automatically bad choice. What I found out was that these trees were going to fall down anyway at some point. The red pines had fallen victim to something called the pine bark beetle, causing them to die. So not only were these trees sick, but if we left them be, we could not control when or where they would fall. Remember where I said the pines were? It's one of the parts of camp that is the most traversed throughout the year, meaning that a spontaneously fallen tree could be devastating. So it made more sense to get rid of them now, when there are no groups on camp, and keep camp safe for everyone.
Not only that, but the red pines were only visitors anyway. They are the only species of pines on camp that are non-native to Brown County, brought in during the 1960s to stop erosion and play into a fad at the time of planting Christmas tree farms. Of all of the pine trees on camp, the pine bark beetle has only attacked the red pines, which is kind of the best form of poetic justice for our native plants. You might think, "If they are non-native, why didn't you just cut them down earlier." The simplified answer to that is, "because they weren't hurting anything." Red pines are not invasive and did the job that they were intended for, which was to stop erosion. There was no need to cut down healthy trees just because they were non-native.
So, we've cut down all of these trees down; what do we do next? We are incredibly lucky to be involved with groups like the Nature Conservancy who not only help us identify and remove non-native species, but also support and nurture the natives ones. Through working with them, the meadow will eventually become a pollinator field made up of native plants. I'm kind of way too excited about the pollinator field because of one big thing: we get to be beekeepers. Camp is going to be home to a hive of bees, which will get their pollen from a combination of pollinator trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. We have been working with a number of people to help us decide what to plant, and it is just so fun to listen to what they have to say, and it's fun to see just how excited they are, too. We have an awesome opportunity to not only create an awesome teaching experience for our campers and participants, but we are fostering growth for some of our native species in a space that has been taken up by non-native plants for more than 50 years. If that's not stewardship, then I don't know what is.
Articles from people who are smarter than me:
Forest Health Problems Impacting Indiana Forest Resources
Honey Bee Information and Trivia
Indiana DNR Resource Guide of Yellowwood State Park (talks about red pine-to-hardwood conversion in a state forest close to camp)
Indiana Pollinator Guide
Posted by Lauren Owen, Program Staff 2016-2017
Many years ago I made a friend at CYO Camp. I was a camp counselor and she was a counselor in training. She quickly became more than a friend though. She was caregiver for my first child. We also experienced pregnancy together, my second, her first, both boys. The boys are still friends today. That was over 20 years ago. And while we met at camp and our bond was nurtured in our experiences there it was through our common experience as women, wives and mothers that made us friends and ultimately family.
My friends name? Annie Beeson Endris. Annie was mama to Nathan and Clare, wife to Ned, Benedict Inn Program Director and a Spiritual Director until she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in May of 2015. She is missed dearly. Annie was deeply spiritual and devoted to women and their successes and challenges in life. She touched lives in a way that was meaningful. Annie had a light about her and her presence exuded love.
Our work and our friendship ultimately led to collaboration. Our goal was to provide a weekend that supports women on their faith journey and in their lives. As working moms who were often looking for ways to nurture themselves as spiritual women both Annie & I wanted to offer something that provided a space and time for women to take a step back, breathe and potentially reconnect with their faith or discover something new.
It is in her honor that CYO Camp continues to offer our Women’s Only Weekend (WOW). While Annie is not here is person we know her spirit lives on in the important work women do for themselves and in this weekend.
WOW is April 21-23 this spring. I hope you will consider joining us or inviting a woman in your life to be a part of the weekend.
Angi K Sullivan, CYO Camp Co-Director
WOW 2014, Annie is the one in the middle wearing the green shirt.
In 1978 I was 10 years old and a 5th grader at St. Christopher Catholic School on the west side of Indianapolis. I had just become best friends with the new girl (Gesche Huneke) and was navigating “new math” and the spring kickball schedule. Life was pretty good as 5th grade goes, but it was about to change. In the spring of that year I would hear a presentation that would ultimately guide the rest of my life. The presentation was a slide show filled with smiles of campers from CYO Camp Rancho Framasa and CYO Camp Christina. The pictures also included images of the pool at Rancho, the horses and various other activities. Two college age students were our presenters in the basement of St. Chris. A slide projector was set up when we arrived and the presenters were all smiles and full of energy. I wish I could say I remember the presentation in detail and that I knew that this was the place I’d be most influenced and grow into the human being I am today but, hey I was only 10 and honestly I don’t remember much at all about that presentation. I remember the smiles and I remember that a classmate, Gus Miller, was in one of the slide photos. Gus had red hair and a huge smile. My friends and I probably teased him about being in this photo. We knew nothing about this camp so we undoubtedly labeled it as lame. My new best friend and I went anyway. I’m not sure why we decided to go to camp but once we attended camp we fell head over heels in love. We went back year after year, often twice in one summer. Once we were too old we became Counselors in Training. We brought others with us and appointed ourselves cheer leaders for all things CYO Camp. I loved my counselors (especially Trish Franckhauser McClanahan), the activities (mostly campfire and the horses), being outside, the songs (Circle Game & Stewball), and the friends I made. Of course, I wanted to work at camp as soon as I was old enough and at the young age of 17, my dream of being a CYO Camp counselor came true.
Thirty plus years have passed since that school visit and many things have changed and many have stayed the same at CYO Camp. We still visit schools to spread the word of our programs. I actually lead school visits for years. It always made me smile to think of the little Gesche’s and Gus’ out in the audience. I’m more office oriented these days and it does seems more apt to send the younger staff to share our enthusiasm for camp and to spread the word of faith, fun, friendships, silliness, etc. that is CYO Camp.
We happen to be in the middle of school visit “season” currently. Long gone are the days of the slide show, but our staff members still visit schools and are still full of smiles and energy. They often start with a song and ask for volunteers to dress up. They conclude with time for students to ask questions. Its high energy and fun just like camp!
When staff members return from a school visit there are always stories. The best part of these stories for me is the question session at the end. “Is there a unicorn? Can I bring my dog? Will there be lunch?” are a few of my favorites. I love this. I also love thinking about the ones who will attend camp this summer and how their lives might be changed just as mine was changed because camp is a place where positive change truly happens. Over 1800 kids this summer will either begin or continue their relationship with camp. They will run, play, laugh, pray, sing, dance, and know the goodness of our Creator through the hands of our staff members. They will also experience positive peer and adult relationships without the distractions of technology. They will experience true wholesome fun. They will get to be kids in a world that demands more and more of them each day.
I know all of this to be true; from 10 year old camper to 16 year old Counselor in Training to Counselor to Co-Director to the “mama” of the “camp family” I’ve seen the story of camp play out again and again. I have seen campers become counselors; counselors become our camp leaders and then ultimately leave camp for careers as teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. In addition, they become parents. Parents who believe in camp often sending their own children to camp. In all of the roles that our past campers and counselors fulfill we know they are out in the world spreading a bit of camp love wherever they go thus making our world a lovelier place to be.
When I was that 10 year old girl at St. Christopher’s School I had no idea what camp could do for me or what I had to give to camp. I now know its significance. I've actually known it for a good long while now. Not just for me but for so many others. Camp has made a difference. I’d like to go back in time and meet 10 year old me so I could tell her to hold on for an amazing ride! I’d tell her to savor it, savor it all, even the hard stuff because you will grow and you will be a part of impacting others to grow and your life will be all the better for it.
Angi Sullivan, CYO Camp Co-Director