The most valuable experiences we have in life often have to do with the connections we make with other people. Sometimes these special moments are enhanced by the outdoors and a connection to nature. Here is one such experience that we had to share. This comes from our site director Mickey who skillfully manages Monte Toyon Camp & Retreat Center in Aptos California. We hope you enjoy.
" Many years ago Monte Toyon was getting ready to host a youth group from the inner city of Oakland. For many of the youth, spending the week at a camp with their peers was the first time they had ever been out of their own environment.
I recall this group of campers clearly, because many of them were hesitant to get off the bus. Their leader, being sensitive to the newness of their situation, began to talk with them on the bus to put them at ease. Before long, they all proceeded off the bus and wandered out to the ball field where I was introduced to the group as the Site Director.
I gave a quick welcoming speech before we all headed off to the dining hall for lunch. As we walked a young man named approached me and introduced himself as Will. I quickly noticed a bit of fear in his eyes as he began to ask me a series of questions:
“Where do the bears live?”
“Are the lions close by?”
“Do raccoons attack?”
I answered his questions, and told him he was very safe at Monte Toyon Camp, that we did not have bears or lions and that racoons are just as scared of him as he is them. “Try to just enjoy the nature” I said. I saw him take a breath and he relaxed a bit before he sauntered off and joined his friends for lunch.
The rest of the week I made a point to check in with Will and see how he was getting along and adjusting to camp life. Each day he seemed to smile a bit bigger and by the end of the week Will did not want to leave. He had learned so much about nature and shared with me that it was so quiet he had never slept better.
On his last day I said goodbye to Will as he climbed on the bus, a bit sad to see him go. The last thing he said to me was “I’ll be back someday” to which I said, “We would love to see you again.”
Many years passed since young Will first set foot at camp, but I would occasionally think of him, his big smile, and how he seemed to ease into appreciating being out in nature. Then, one day, we had another youth group show up at camp. As I went to greet the group getting off the bus, much to my surprise, the group leader was Will. He was immediately recognizable and my surprise lit up his face. That’s when he told me he was so moved with his camp experience that he made it his goal to bring other inner city kids to enjoy all the things at camp he enjoyed.
Camp is an amazing place that can enhance our world view, reconnect us to nature, and ourselves. Thanks Will. Thanks for sharing your love of Monte Toyon Camp with the next generation."
~ Mickey Petrov