McKinley, Michael, and Matt Shea


I wrote a blog last spring about The Importance of Community. It was in response to my parents having been recently hit by a drunk driver. They both survived but not without lasting impact and the accident left me struggling to continue living in the present, rather than being fearful of something happening to those I love. A life lived in fear is not a life lived, but when you love people so deeply, letting go of that fear is difficult.

I wish that I could wrap my kids in a bubble, and protect them from all the bad in the world…from fear, and loneliness, and sadness. Some days it seems completely overwhelming, and you wonder how do you help them navigate this uncertain world. And one way, I’ve realized, is that you build a community of people around them who can support them when things get tough. You make sure they realize that no matter what happens, they are never going to go through it alone.

I think that’s one of the hardest things to convey to parents considering Deerhorn…that this is so much more than a summer camp. That each summer when they come back to Deerhorn, they are building that foundation, creating that support, and ensuring that no matter what, they will never walk alone. Whether it’s happy times like the Deerhorn wedding of Brittni and Matt a few weeks ago, or supporting Spencer Rose as he ┬ámakes his Second City debut, or whether it’s sad times, like the loss of a Deerhorn Family member.

A few weeks ago, we lost one of our Deerhorn Family. Judy McKay-Burkey passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Many campers and staff will remember her as one of our long time nurses at Deerhorn. She was special to many of us and she will be missed. I always question whether or not to share events like this on Facebook. Somehow it seems not to be appropriate to share something so personal and private on a social media channel. But then I realize all the good that can come of sharing such events…support for the family and friends left behind, and being part of a community of people who are grieving the loss of one close to them.

Last weekend, the Deerhorn Family lost another friend. Matt and McKinley Shea have been long time Deerhorn campers and amazing staff members. They are known and loved by many. Two years ago, their dad, Michael, got to share camp with them when he came to Father Son that summer. We have known Michael for many years through knowing Matt and McKinley, and his death last weekend came as a shock to all of us, of course, most of all, his kids. So we wanted to share this news with you in case you felt so moved to reach out to Matt and McKinley during this tough time. The service is tomorrow (Friday) at 10am at the First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest, IL. I have no doubt that there will be Deerhorn people in attendance…who know that there are no words that can make it better, but that a hug from a friend speaks volumes. We all are sending the Shea Family so much love and so many prayers. This is what Deerhorn is. It’s a community of people who are there for each other through the highs and the lows, the celebrations and the mournings, the sunshine and the clouds. All of it.

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