As Denise reminds us every time we see her, there are only 27 days left until Ranch Camp begins. In June the first 50 or so campers of the season will tumble out of cars, vans, and buses, ready for a week of fun, friends, and activities.
Ranch Camp doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Naturally we tend to focus on our Ranchers; this is their year-round home, after all. But camp was our first program, created out of nothing in ’95 because we knew residency was still years away and we desperately longed to begin actively working with those we planned to serve.
Why camp? How important could a few days away from home in the country matter much in the grand scheme of things? You'd be surprised.
I’m the one who pushed for camp, and I can testify to that, because when I was a kid, my camp gave me a vision and saved my life and sanity.
Shortly before my ninth birthday, in April of 1951, my father committed suicide after years of struggling with alcoholism and failure.
Like most such families, we lived in chaos, never knowing what to expect. My grandmother, concerned about me in the aftermath of this tragedy, asked if I wanted to go to a girls’ camp in the Kerrville area for part of the summer. I don’t recall what I answered, but I wound up going to Camp Arrowhead for 5 ½ weeks, the first of several years I would attend.
What most kids learn in a family, I learned at camp—to trust the people in charge of my well-being, to follow rules in place for my own good, to relax in the company of friends, to be given the resources to learn new things, to know what to expect from day to day.
We ate in the “Filling Station” and got doctored at the “Pill Box.” We drew names to see what tribe we would be in (Pawnee or Kickapoo) and competed throughout the term for points to win a plaque.
I loved camp. I lived for camp. Even today, when I’m feeling stressed out, if I take a few minutes and think back to those warm sunny days spent on the banks of the Guadalupe—my holy river—I calm down.
So I know, deep down, how much camp can mean to a person. Even though we only get our campers for a week at a time, Denise and Don make sure they get the heart of the Ranch Camp experience–the friendships, the silly songs, the comforting routines, the chance to find out what you're really good at. For a precious week, our campers build memories of happy times.
It’s their special time, their own retreat. And it deserves all the respect we can give it.