by Kate Wallace
Jeff and Amy Wheeler of Atlanta have three daughters who have grown up spending one or two weeks away each summer at Camp Ocoee in Ocoee, Tenn. The Wheelers discovered the traditional “cabin in the woods” summer camp when friends invited them to visit it during the annual “Family Camp” program over Memorial Day Weekend. The family fell in love with the lush green landscape that allows for kayaking, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and water sports on the lake.
Ten years later the daughters have countless memories and friendships gained through their time at camp. Grace, 17 has developed a love for horses after learning to ride at Camp Ocoee. Camp for Abigail, 14, allows her to be the social butterfly that she was born to be. For Clare, 11, wakeboarding and water skiing are among the activities she most enjoys at the camp. When asked what his daughters most like about attending their overnight camp, Jeff found himself saying “everything.”
What Jeff loves about seeing his kids off to camp: “The camp my girls go to is traditional, old and rustic. There are no air conditioning, Internet, computers, iPods or iPads. I love that they’re disconnected from the bigger world for at least six days. My wife and I are able to spend extra time together, but truthfully, we probably both work more while the kids are at camp.”
What the kids love about being at camp: “My kids love that they know the place so well,” Jeff adds. “They have room to roam around in a safe and open environment. The fellowship of the kids is great and they look forward to seeing friends they’ve made over the years.”
Steve and Sue Campbell have been sending their three kids to a variety of overnight camps for almost 20 years. As the last of their brood, 15-year-old son Sean, transitions from being a camper to a counselor in training at Camp Woodmont, Steve is proud of the skills and character his son has acquired.
The Johns Creek family started sending Sean to the North Georgia camp four years ago. When Sean arrived home from his first year bursting with stories to tell, they knew Camp Woodmont was a perfect fit for their adventurous, outdoor-loving kid.
What Steve loves about seeing his son off to camp: “We love knowing that his horizons are expanding beyond our ability to expand them. I like that my son is in a safe place while learning new things and making new friendships. When Sean gets back from camp we’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to hear about his experiences.”
What his son loves about being at camp: “Sean speaks so highly of the counselors he’s had and he still keeps in touch with some of them. He really likes the friendships he’s made at camp. He loves the opportunity to try new things and to deepen his experience with things he already loves.”
Melody Blount admits she was the only mom crying as the bus drove away with her 7- and 5-year-old daughters on its way to Camp Lutheridge in Arden, N.C. But after six days of swimming, canoeing, hiking and campfires, Blount arrived back at her church to pick up her girls – only to learn that they were wishing camp wasn’t over so soon.
Kristen and Kaitlin, now 10 and 8, are excitedly awaiting their fourth year at the camp. Blount found out about Camp Lutheridge through her church and has been quite pleased with what it’s done for her kids.
What Melody loves about seeing her kids off to camp: “I really enjoy having time to myself. After I saw that my kids came back and had so much fun, the next year at the bus I said ‘I love ya, but I’ll see ya in a week!’ As a parent, it’s a good time to be able to regroup.”
What her kids love about being at camp: “They love everything. I know this because they come home with so many stories. They love meeting new people, they love their counselors. They’re able to build friendships and really be themselves.”
Nancy Valentine is in the midst of planning her 9-year-old daughter Natalie’s second year at a Girl Scout camp. She and her daughter are deciding between Camp Meriwether in Luthersville or Camp Timber Ridge in Mableton. Location is a big deciding factor for Valentine, as she prefers that Natalie attend a camp that’s fairly close to home. Like a lot of parents sending their kids off for the first time, Valentine admits she was scared to death, but tried to keep those feelings to herself. Natalie’s first-ever week away at camp last summer went swimmingly and homesickness was not an issue.
What Nancy loves about seeing her daughter off to camp: “I loved knowing she was having a good time and was doing something she wants to do. Camp gave her a chance to spread her wings. I was able to take the time to go to hot yoga and do a few things for myself.”
What her daughter loves about being at camp: “She loves all the different activities within the camp, like canoeing and the robotics program,” Valentine says. “I know this year she’s looking forward to climbing the rock wall. She gets to camp not knowing a single soul, but by the time she leaves she’s made friends with so many people.”