Flat Stanley Visits Kanuga: A Gotbeter Family Story by LaClaire Atkins

06.15.2022 - Conference & Retreat, Giving to Kanuga, Guest Periods, Kanuga Stories, Staff Stories, Uncategorized

One of my favorite things about working at Kanuga is getting to know so many wonderful people. I first came to know Brittan Gotbeter and her family when I was the Baker building assistant director in 2008. Her son, Thomas (now 17), was a three-year-old in our summer guest period program that year. Brittan and I have kept in touch over the years and developed a friendship.

“My family attended Parish Retreats growing up and so when our family was considering new traditions for ourselves we decided to give Kanuga a try. Fourteen years ago now!,” says Brittan.

When Brittan’s nine-year-old daughter, Nana, found out that her class at Ashley River Creative Arts school in Charleston, S.C. was participating in the “Flat Stanley” project, she could think of no better location than her favorite place, Kanuga. Brittan reached out to me to see if I would be willing to help, and I was overjoyed to be asked.

But first, what is the Flat Stanley project? Created by a third-grade teacher in Canada in 1995, the Flat Stanley Project improves reading and writing skills, and teaches children about different places. It features paper cut-outs based on the title character of the 1964 children’s book, Flat Stanley. Students use their own decorated cut-outs of Flat Stanley to explore and learn about a specific location, taking photos along the way.

Flat Stanley arrived in my office and we set to work visiting some of our favorite places and people on campus. Aimee Bostwick, Kanuga’s coordinator of community spiritual life, took Flat Stanley to the chapel where he participated in our prayer ribbon activity and they stopped by our outdoor chapel, St. Francis. He visited the front desk and helped answer the phones with Kirk Ferguson, one of our longest serving staff members. He stopped and took a picture with our welcome sign and even took a moment to play a game of chess in the library of the main lodge!

The next day, Allie Pfeffer, rooming coordinator and group sales associate, took Flat Stanley on a walk by the Kanuga Lake and our bog which is an example of, “an Appalachian bog, the rarest type of wetland habitat in the southeastern United States,” according to a post on Kanuga’s blog.

The third and final day, Flat Stanley insisted on getting his picture taken with some of our hardest working staff. So, we stopped by the kitchen and got a picture of Flat Stanley learning how to fry chips, chatted with our maintenance crew and with Stratt Byars, Director of Camp Kanuga, and then we took a trip down to Foster Garden where Mary Kait Brown, Environmental Programs Specialist, showed us her strawberry plants that are starting to yield fruit! Finally, we stopped by Housekeeping where Flat Stanley helped Housekeeping Director Gia Santiago finalize paperwork and sort laundry.

We loved having Flat Stanley visit us here at Kanuga to learn more about our property and the people who serve its mission everyday. It truly is a special and beloved location. And Nana, if you are reading this: thank you for choosing Kanuga for your project. It means a lot to all of us!

LaClaire Atkins
Kanuga Hospitality