A Deerhorn Life

My Deerhorn story started in 1997. I was in college and had read a book called “I Will Sing Life,” a book written by kids at The Hole in the Wall Gang camp in Connecticut. It’s a camp for kids with terminal illnesses that was started in 1988 by Paul Newman. I was moved by their stories and have always loved kids, so I sent in an application to work there that summer. I received a letter back after a few weeks that I did not have enough experience working with ill kids or with being a camp counselor. I was disappointed, but decided I wanted to be a camp counselor for the upcoming summer. I applied to 3 or 4 different summer camps, and within a week I had a phone call from Don asking if I would want to come be the waterfront director for the summer at Camp Deerhorn. That first summer, I remember heading up to camp very nervous, because I knew no one and it had the possibility of being a disaster. Once I arrived at camp, that thought never crossed my mind again. In fact, I loved camp so much that summer that I brought my younger brother, Nathan, up with me the following summer to be an assistant counselor. There weren’t many AC’s in those years, and he had to work in the kitchen a lot that summer. For the first few weeks, he was not happy that I had talked him into this job. But the hard work in the kitchen soon paled in comparison to the friendships he was making. He returned for 5 more years, as an AC & then horseback riding instructor. His years at camp made him realize he wanted to be a veterinarian, and meeting guys from all over gave him the courage to go far away to college. He and I had always been homebodies, and camp gave us the confidence to go out into the world and really find ourselves. We also had always gotten along well, but the greatest gift camp gave me in those years was finding a best friend in my brother. We shared so many experiences and became incredibly close.

I graduated from college and became a teacher, so I got to return to camp every summer as the waterfront director. In 2003, Patrick and I got married and I became a camp director.  Just before that, Blaine had written a book about the history at camp, and my contribution included a line that said “Someday I will have to leave camp, but camp will always be a part of me.” Turns out, I didn’t have to leave camp after all. I was incredibly lucky to get to marry into this special family and get to do this as a full time job. In 2006 & 2009, our two kids , Ryder & Rowan, were born, and now I get to be a camp mom as well. Watching our kids, but especially our 7 year-old son, Ryder, grow at camp is incredible. Watching our counselors befriend them and treat them as equals…I am so proud of our staff and those boys hold a very special place in my heart.

But the most amazing part of all this is that, yes,  I was fortunate enough to never have to leave camp…but the truth is, camp is always here for anyone. Once you join the Deerhorn family, you’re a part of that family forever. Many former campers have grown up to be dads and now get to come back to camp with their sons to Father Son camp. We have moms who don’t let their kids ride the bus to camp because they love getting to drop them off and spend a little while at camp.  We have lots of alumni who stop by for a visit and are amazed at how little has changed, even if it’s been 40 years. And even if you’re never able to come back to the physical place, the friendships remain. The picture shows me in 1998 with Lenny, one of the first friends I made at camp…17 years later he is still one of my best friends. There are Deerhorn friends all over the world and we love seeing spontaneous reunions happen all the time. As Lloyd Richmond said “The boys may leave Deerhorn, but Deerhorn never leaves the boys, and I think they’re better off because of that.”

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