“If you ever change your mind, come back to camp and you will find us waiting here at your command, we understand …. We understand”
Staff sing the above song lyrics to campers on Final Mountain Top every term of every summer of every year. It’s a promise that has been upheld in my lifetime more times than I can count.
I grew up moving frequently because of my Dad’s job. My camp friends are my oldest friends in the world, some I have known since the age of 7. For a girl who grew up moving, having friends since the age of 7 are a really big deal! The Heart hasn’t changed drastically since my first year, Christy Lee and Jane Ragsdale legitimately look the exact same as they did when I first toured in 1999 (maybe it’s the water?), The river is just as peaceful, the traditions are the same, the songs are the same, as is the promise camp makes to campers at the end of every summer (see above).
As a kid camp was my consistency. It was a place that no matter where we were living, I got to come back to. It’s a place full of people who have known and loved me since I was 7 years old and can laugh about it all. Its where my cool & silly role models became my bosses, then my colleagues, and then my friends. While I was growing-up and all through college camp was always my Homebase. My return back to factory settings. It was grounding and necessary and quite frankly home.
For me camp was not only a place to come back to in my childhood but a community that has acted as a beacon to anchor in my adulthood.
When I went away to college out-of-state, I had mentioned my plans to Jane Ragsdale who quickly told me of two Heart Girls she knew of at Auburn University (War Eagle!). Since then, in my adult life I have moved around quite a bit, living in 4 states, 3 countries, and a couple of oceans. With this being said, never in my adult life have I moved anywhere where I was not able to connect with someone from camp. I have spent my life saying that camp people are the best people, and it is so true.
Reaching out to someone from camp is like reaching out to a family member, there is this instant connection that occurs between Heart Girls. Move to China NBD another heart girl is there, get a job on a cruise ship NBD another heart girl was there before you and tells her friends to look out for you, move to London NBD counselors and peers from your lifetime of camp summers message you in mass to touch base, a global pandemic hits and you are living abroad and you’re not feeling too hot -kind of a big deal – BUT NO WORRIES, one phone call and you’re back in your favorite place for the best summer of your life ( and guess what? They are waiting for you with open arms… just like they said).
My mom has said on multiple occasions camp was the best thing she has ever given to my siblings and I. She is right. Camp is not just a month away when you’re a kid, it’s a community, a home, and a family for life and every day I am so thankful for my place in it.
<3 Jessica Cohen