Hey there Camp Kanuga folks! My name is Jennifer Pharr Davis and I was grown local in Hendersonville, NC. Now I live in the big city—aka Asheville—and I am a hiker, author and speaker.
Did I mention hiker? Hmm…that might be an understatement.
I actually have covered over 12,000 miles of trails on 6 continents. Oh, and have you heard of the Appalachian Trail? Believe it or not, I have completed the entire path three times. Most folks know me for my 2011 A.T. hike when I finished the trail in 46 days and set a new record for men and women. But don’t think that I just like to go fast. No! I have also hiked really, really slowly with my husband and two year-old daughter in all 50 states.
So what does all this have to do with Camp Kanuga?
First of all, I should go ahead and mention that Camp Director David Schnitzer and I are pretty good friends. Yes, I’ll claim him. AND we also have a lot in common. I am pretty sure that hiking 47 miles a day for 46 straight days is NOT something David wants to do. But I know that we both love coffee, we both have super awesome supportive families, we share a common faith and we also share a passion for getting other people outdoors. Oh, and basically we’re both camp nerds!
David and I can geek out over how awesome camp is and how it is such an amazing experience for kids and how if everyone went to camp then most of the worlds’ problems would be solved—at least that’s our theory.
But why? What is it about camp that makes it such a life changing experience? With all the other things that kids can do during the summer nowadays, what makes camp worth the cost and time away from home?
Well, as someone who spent 10 years as a camper at summer camp, I can tell you that it was the biggest and most positive influence on my life apart from my immediate family. Camp completely fostered my faith, it gave me a love for the outdoors, and it helped connect me with people from all over the United States and all over the world.
Since I’m a hiker and speaker, I travel quite a bit to different trails and events. It amazes me how almost everywhere I travel I am able to connect with an old camp friend. In most cases, we haven’t seen or spoken to each other in five, 10 or sometimes 20 years, but the connection is always there.
I often wonder what creates this bond and I think it points back to the quality of our connection at camp. When you get away from technology, distractions and all the pressures (good and bad) that come with growing up these days, it is easier to get to know people—like, really get to know them. And I promise, it is far more rewarding to share in a laugh than an “LOL” or give someone an actual smile instead of placing a grinning yellow circle at the end of a text.
I also found these deep relationships at summer camp made me feel safe and confident. It is easier to be yourself if you feel accepted for who you are. I often think back on the silly skits and lip-syncs that we performed as a cabin. Those ridiculous performances gave me the ability to stand up in front of an audience and stand out from a crowd.
Camp also gave me a connection to the outdoors. And that was important, because I spent most of my youth indoors: in classrooms, in cars, in the gym and in my room. That’s not natural—literally! We allneed to spend more time outside, and camp introduces kids to a natural setting in a fun, safe and positive manner. It is clear to me that I didn’t really know who I was until I got outside the box and into the great outdoors!
Spending time in nature also helped strengthen and redefine my relationship with God. All of a sudden God wasn’t just for Sundays or found at church. He was an everywhere, all the time, loving Father. At camp, my faith grew because of sunsets and lightning bugs. It also increased because of quality relationships and counselors who were Christian role models. But maybe most importantly camp allowed my faith to become just that…MY faith.
My communication, my confidence, my love of creation and my faith in Christ were all strengthened because of camp. Best of all, I didn’t even know it was happening.
All I knew was that I was having the best summer of my life.
By Jennifer Pharr Davis