Summer camp tradition meets Decatur High School

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Photo courtesy of Edie Brush

Junior Edie Brush (middle, green shirt) and all the CITs gather at the friendship circle. They come together as a camp before the all camp competitions to encourage good sportsmanship.

Camp has been a summer staple for over 100 years. The American Camp Association (ACA) has reported over 12,000 camps in the US with over 11 million attendees each year. Decatur students travel near and far for a camp experience like no other.


Edie Brush

Camp Juliette Low (CJL) was founded as a Girl Scout camp in 1921 and has since been broadened to an all girls camp. Junior Edie Brush began attending camp there in third grade.

Brush and her best friend at the time signed up for Gypsy Week, a week of camp at CJL exclusively for first time campers.

“We didn’t want to go to a camp where people already knew each other and had already made [strong] friendships,” Brush said. “When we heard about the Gypsy Week we thought that would be a good way to get introduced to camp to see if we like it or not.”

Brush and her fellow CITs gather in "eno city." This is a picture of everyone in what was called "eno city". "Almost everyone brings an eno with them to camp and we all set them up in the middle of the CIT unit as a place that we can all hang out and do our work," she said.
                                                                                          Photo courtesy of Edie Brush
Junior Edie Brush and her fellow CITs gather in “Eno city.” “Almost everyone brings an Eno with them to camp and we all set them up in the middle of the CIT unit as a place that we can all hang out and do our work,” she said.

Campers can continue to attend camp until their summer of ninth grade. Then, they have the opportunity to become a counselor once they graduate high school. In between, they have to take part in a two year Counselor in Training (CIT) program.

This summer, Brush will complete her second year of CIT training.

The CIT program teaches the future counselors skills such as first aid, learning to deal with certain camper situations, how to empower campers to solve their own problems and specific class-related skills such as sailing, archery and horseback riding.

One CIT activity is an overnight, when the counselors-to-be pack their belongings and camp off site for a night.

“For the CIT overnights there’s an adult there to make sure nobody dies, but otherwise, you pack your own overnight and they give you no direction,” Brush said. “If they know you’re forgetting your water cooler, they’re like ‘ok,’ and let you figure it out.”

During her last overnight, Brush and her fellow CITs had a run-in with a copperhead.

“It was really big,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do.”

The CITs walkie talkied to the supervising counselors who returned from their hike to help.

“We’re shining our flashlights on it [so it wouldn’t run] and the girl next to me was flipping out,” Brush said. “They pin it down with a shovel and start chopping its head off and then they’re just like ‘okay, goodnight.’”

Aside from hacking snakes to death, a normal day at camp is fairly typical.

Campers wake up and eat breakfast, and after announcements and cleaning dishes, campers rotate through classes with lunch and a rest hour in the middle, and then eat dinner as a camp.

There are four units during each session. Each unit consists of seven tents of girls and a counselor tent.

“We don’t stay in cabins, really,” Brush said. “It’s like a really supported tent [on a platform].”

Brush and her fellow campers attended CJL's Christmas in July part dressed as Christmas trees. Each unit was given their own theme to dress up as for the party.
                                                                                          Photo courtesy of Edie Brush
Junior Edie Brush and her fellow campers attended CJL’s Christmas in July part dressed as Christmas trees. Each unit was given their own theme to dress up as for the party.

In addition to the daily classes, CJL hosts “weird camp things” such as shaving cream fights, paint wars and all camp day which is a series of competitions between the units.

Brush competed for her unit in the water boiling competition one year.

“You get a tin can of water,” she said,” and you have to build a fire to boil the water. [The winner] is whoever can do that first.”

It was the last session and all of the close viable firewood had been picked, so Brush and her partner ventured far out to find their wood

“We got really lost in the middle of camp and we had no idea where we were,” she said, “but could hear them yelling at us to come back.”

By the time the pair returned, one unit had already built their fire, boiled their water, dumped it out and put out the fire.

“There was a point where we were all just sitting there waiting for our water to boil.”

In spite of her “crazy” adventures, Brush has enjoyed CJL over the years.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It gets more fun as you go, too.”


Olive McKay

Senior Olive McKay took a physics test on the last day of her junior year and then left for Carolina Point, a Young Life camp in Brevard, NC.

“I grabbed my bag and hopped in the car and drove to camp,” she said. “My mom dropped me off and I stayed there for a month.”

McKay was a member of the work crew at Carolina Point. Work crew is mostly comprised of rising juniors and seniors.

“I wasn’t the one doing the outreach,” she said, “but we’re the same age as campers so we’re supposed to show as much love as we can and just give ourselves away for a whole month.”

Work crew are assigned various jobs around the camp. From May 29 to June 30, McKay was a server.

Her day started at 7:45 a.m. with a morning devotional. Then she and the other servers would prepare the dining hall for the staff breakfast. After that, they’d clean up and set the tables for the campers’ breakfast, and so on for every meal.

Stormey Barton, senior Olive McKay, Michael Toole, and Leah Hayes are dressed up fror tableau night at Carolina Point. Tableau night is part of "the best night of camp" which includes surprises and activities for campers.
Photo courtesy of Olive McKay – Stormey Barton, senior Olive McKay, Michael Toole, and Leah Hayes are dressed up fror tableau night at Carolina Point. Tableau night is part of “the best night of camp” which includes surprises and activities for campers.

“Each week there would be an outdoor meal so we wouldn’t have to set the table four times that day [since] we always set it for the next day,” she said.

As a server, McKay had the chance, unlike other work crew jobs, to interact with campers on a regular basis.

“I loved being able to talk to the people that I was serving,” she said. “Some of the tables would actually be super nice because we were serving them, [but] they were being funny about it because we were the same age as them.”

The campers were also happy to see McKay.

“It was really exciting because they were really happy when you brought out their food because they never know what they’re about to eat.”

Especially when it was big cookie night, said McKay.

Big cookie is a Young Life camp staple. It’s a chocolate chip cookie baked in a pan with a “giant slab” of vanilla ice cream on top and a chocolate drizzle.

“It’s never not perfect,” McKay said. “I don’t know why it’s just the most perfect consistency. You bring out big cookie and [the campers] get so excited and it’s just amazing.”

The kitchen doesn’t make any extras, though.

“I remember someone dropping one of the big cookies and the table was all really sad.”

When McKay wasn’t dishing out big cookie or other meals, she and the other servers were passing off plates and silverware to Pits, the dishwashers.

“We’d have to wait on certain things like silverware and right after they came out they’d be really hot from the dishwasher so we’d play this game like hot potato with the knives.”

They called the game “hot knife.”

Work crew was hard work for McKay, though. She worked long hours and didn’t always receive gratitude from the campers.

Clark Wilson, Max Kight, seniotr Olive McKay and Lauren Forster wait for the next bus of campers to arrive. "We cheer and shout and welcome the campers in," McKay said. "Then we carry their bags to their cabins and tell them to have a great week."
Photo courtesy of Olive McKay
Clark Wilson, Max Kight, seniotr Olive McKay and Lauren Forster wait for the next bus of campers to arrive. “We cheer and shout and welcome the campers in,” McKay said. “Then we carry their bags to their cabins and tell them to have a great week.”

“It’s really hard work and you don’t get a break so I got really tired,” she said.

It was the little things, like the laughs with her fellow workers or the Carolina sunrise, that kept her going.

“One time this leader [who] I had talked with a few times that week handed me a note at the end of the week,” McKay said. “She was really appreciative of the fact that I was working at the camp to make it a great week for the campers and it really re-energized me.”

It was for that reason that McKay chose to do work crew in the first place.

“I went to camp the year before I did work crew and I just had the most amazing time ever,” she said. “Seeing campers have that too made [the work] worth it.”

McKay had been told beforehand that work crew is “the best month of your life,” and she wholeheartedly agrees.

She shared some advice for future work crewers.

“It’s going to be really hard work but it’s the experiences you have there that you will never forget,” she said. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance and the community you’re in is so loving. If you had that opportunity and didn’t take it, that would be a mistake.”


Jenna LeBeau

Also located in Brevard, NC, freshman Jenna LeBeau’s camp, Rockbrook, stands in the “heart of the wooded mountain.”

Rockbrook is an all girls camp for ages five to 15.

LeBeau has been attending Rockbrook for four years.

Freshman Jenna LeBeau sprays her friend Nastia with shaving cream during Rockbrook's shaving cream fight. "Every girl gets their own bottle of shaving cream in an epic free-for-all," LeBeau said.
Photo courtesy of Jenna LeBeau
Freshman Jenna LeBeau sprays her friend Nastia with shaving cream during Rockbrook’s shaving cream fight. “Every girl gets their own bottle of shaving cream in an epic free-for-all,” LeBeau said.

“I’d been going to a different camp for four years before that and my parents decided they wanted me to go to an all girls camp instead of a co-ed one as I started middle school,” she said.

It turned out that one of LeBeau’s father’s coworkers went to Rockbrook and helped convince LeBeau to go.

“I ended up going that summer and loved it,” she said.

The girls stay in cabins with 10 to 12 campers and 1 to 3 counselors in each.

“The counselors are just people that watch over us and make sure we don’t go crazy,” LeBeau said. “Every counselor teaches their own activity so you might happen to have an activity with your counselor.”

Every day, campers attend four activities, ranging from kayaking to horseback riding to tutu making, with lunch and a muffin break in between. The activities cycle through every three days.

In addition to the activities, Rockbrook includes “special” activities, like a trip to Sliding Rock.

“We slide down a giant natural rock into a freezing pool of water,” she said,” but it’s worth it because they always take us to ice cream afterwards.”

Rockbrook also hosts a shaving cream fight, a dance with the boys camp and the fairy party.

Freshman Jenna LeBeau sits by a creek at Rockbrook blowing bubbles. "Why not," she said. "Even high schoolers need bubbles every now and then."
Photo courtesy of Jenna LeBeau
Freshman Jenna LeBeau sits by a creek at Rockbrook blowing bubbles. “Why not,” she said. “Even high schoolers need bubbles every now and then.”

“[The counselors] wake you up in the middle of the night screaming ‘fairy party’ and they take you all out on the hill and they have a bunch of candy and stuff,” LeBeau said.

Every Sunday, the spirit award ceremony takes place. One cabin and one camper are awarded “most spirited.” Whichever cabin shows the most spirit gets the spirit mop,

“It’s a mop with a face on it,” she said. “You get to keep it for a week and then you pass it on to the next most spirited cabin.”

LeBeau read on Rockbrook’s website that she should pack a costume with her for camp, so she packed appropriately.

“I’d been a banana for Halloween that year so I’m like ‘hey this is a great idea,’ so I brought my banana costume,” she said.

She ended up being one of the most prepared campers.

Every night, cabins are given a skit and 30 minutes to prepare it before they perform for the rest of camp.

“I came out singing the banana song one night and people called me banana girl for the rest of camp,” she said.

LeBeau intends to become a Counselor’s Assistant, then a Counselor in Training and finally, a counselor. She hopes to stay at Rockbrook for “as long as possible.”