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