When we first bought The Heart 40 years ago, one of the sweetest traditions we inherited was that of sending a Christmas gift to the “Earlibirds”.
The Earlibirds, of course, were the campers who registered for the next summer before Christmas, and for many years the gift was a tribe-colored blanket.
In October 1976, the Ragsdale and Moore families bought Heart O’ the Hills from the Hawkins family, and
Whayne and Bobbie Moore became the directors. Whayne in particular thought the Christmas gift should be something that the campers could collect, and so the idea of the charm was born.
Back then, Jim Morris was a designer at James Avery, and Whayne would deliver sketches to him, which Jim then developed into charms. The charm we sent out for Christmas in 1976 was a beautiful depiction of the Big Tree.
After Jim Morris opened his own design studio, he has produced the charms for us.
Since then, charms have reflected places on camp–the Ark, the Lodge, Cypress Hollow, Rat Bridge, Whale’s Pool and the Aviary.
There are events commemorated, such as war canoe, flag raising, opening ceremonies, blobbing, pizza night, and tribe hills.
Quirky things that remind us of Heart-specific summer memes, such as the porch swings, cedar deer, dinosaur tracks, tepees, River Journey, uniform T-shirt, ice cream party, OWL, skunk, Tubby Turtle, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and camp TV.
And the inherent beauty of our setting–wildflowers, horses, lizard, hummingbird.
Also, things that mark a particular occasion or event–Christmas tree, double-heart logo, Y2K, the 50th birthday cake, and others.
The charm for 2017 campers will be mailed out on Dec. 12. Its theme is still a secret, but we feel sure our campers will love it!
Campers with just a few years tenure generally wear a charm or two or three on a necklace, and campers with more summers tenure start a charm bracelet.
One of the few surprises I’ve ever had pulled off on me was during my 25th summer as director. Monique Richard (now Rode) and Cristi Lee Ahern conspired behind my back, and got a boatload of former campers and counselors to chip in, and they presented me at Naming O’ the Braves ceremony with a big fat charm bracelet, loaded with every charm of my years as director, plus a few special charms. It was most touching. And now when I wear it, I must take care not to fall into the river, because it’s quite heavy!