Milestones Marked at T Bar M Camp
Stepping into the cabin, she placed her pillow a top the bunk to the left of the door, staking her claim. With a stomach full to the brim of butterflies, she braves an introduction of herself to the girls staring back at her. “Hi, I’m Annie”, she waved with a squeamish smile.
Her sister had been a camper at T Bar M Camps before, but this was Annie’s first year. A couple summers prior, she spent a week away from home resulting in an inconsolable fear of being separated from her parents. Since then, any mention of spending a night away, launched Annie into a perpetual tailspin of ‘that homesick feeling’. This fear kept Annie from taking the step towards overnight camp.
This summer, however, a last minute scholarship became available for Annie to attend the first session of camp. For her parents, the reward for Annie outweighed the risk, and despite her fits and fears, they knew, through camp, she could overcome homesickness. So, regardless of Annie’s resistance, they packed her trunk, loaded up the car and said their goodbye’s as they dropped Annie off for a week away at T Bar M Camps.
After the initial day’s ‘ice-breaking’ activities, it was time for dinner. Annie was so engaged in the wonder of camp, she forgot about her parents leaving. Already proud, she reassured herself, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m going to be okay.” But as she sat down for dinner, the simple familiarity of eating a meal triggered the feeling she knew all too well: a heart twinge and tummy twist stirred tears in her eyes. Her secret was out. She missed home.
‘That homesick feeling’ propelled into motion with more momentum than ever before, and this time, there was no calling mom to pick her up and little relief for her fears and tears. The next six days were some of the hardest Annie had ever experienced. She didn’t want to feel scared. Annie wanted to be brave. She fought the feeling every time it tempted her heart to worry. And, when she could not bare it alone, she learned to ask for help. Annie’s cabin became a safe place to express her feelings. Her coaches comforted her with hugs and prayers, and the girls in her cabin made her laugh. Annie noticed the more she engaged with the fun and play of camp, the less her mind wandered about home.
While the last day of camp came slow and fast all at once, Annie was filled with anticipation to see her parents. She opened the cabin door, and stepped outside, spotting a mass of parents clumped together on the sports field in the distance. Scanning the crowd, her parents’ faces caught her attention, and letting go of all logic, she flung herself up the path into their arms. She made it. Through the hardest and best week of her life, she made it.
The car ride home was filled with Annie’s stories about camp, and when her parents asked if she would do it again, Annie responded with exclamation, “Yes!! Every summer for the rest of my life!” Over the next year, Annie gained distance from ‘that homesick feeling’, and after one more summer at camp, her level of confidence made the fear-filled girl she once knew, a stranger.
Today, Annie and her mom sit down and look back on the past nineteen years since that first summer. As they reflect on each significant milestone of Annie’s life, from overcoming homesickness, to the engagement of her, now, husband, each moment is marked with a common thread, T Bar M Camps. Her mom laughs in awe, “Can you imagine who you would be, without camp?” Annie cannot.
Walking from my office, past the sports field and down the path, I step into the same cabin where it all began. I place my hand on the bunk bed to the left of the door, and the flood of memories moves me to tears as I remember Annie’s story, my story, and thank God for a place like T Bar M Camps.
Camp is one of the most lasting, rewarding experiences parents can give their children. T Bar M Camps builds self-esteem and gives kids a sense of independence all while growing their faith.