This summer is my 20th summer on year-round staff. It seems strange to be looking back on two decades of my evolving roll in this crazy fourth generation family business. Camp life is never dull or mundane. It is interesting, challenging, inspiring, sometimes heartbreaking and fulfilling. I am grateful to have this career and for my little family that has been right here with me on this journey-even the dog, Teddy, needs to be fluid and adaptable.
The transition into the summer season isn’t always pretty for me. There are the opposing pulls of eager, wonderful staff arriving at camp to open the facility coinciding with the crazy “100 days of May” calendar that is felt by involved parents today. I always feel a resistance to leaving my gym, yoga classes, organic food, city friends, pretty city clothes, and the blooming Spring of Denver. Then I unpack and settle into my beautiful summer home and it is as if I never left. I eagerly meet the new staff so that I can store their names in my head, and their stories in my heart.
On a daily basis, I am in awe of the 220 people that drive through the gate to give their summer to the Cheley experience. From age 19 to 85, they are dedicated, eager to learn new skills, excited and full of life. We pack our 10 days of staff training with information and they patiently listen and take it all in. Sometimes it hits me over the head that I get to experience this life. That we get to spend time with people where cell phones are expected to be put away, be truly present with people in a world that is constantly working against being present, we get to empower our staff by expecting more of them than possibly any previous job, we get to nudge them to be the best version of themselves this summer and hopefully beyond, we get to walk alongside them while they are invited to be goofy, free and campy. It is always our hope that their summers on staff will be a positive imprint in their lives. At times this process isn’t pretty either, there are always those that break your heart by the decisions they make and by the life lessons they still need to learn, or they leave a hole with their inability to keep their commitment.
We work the ENTIRE YEAR for tomorrow. We end the previous season, take a breath, celebrate and then dive-in to review accidents and incident reports, evaluate staff, plan the winter facility work list, look at situations we could improve on and start to market for new staff and campers, we hire and train the staff and then it’s go time. It is the moment where we all put our best foot forward and give the Cheley experience 27 days of excellence.
Excited and nervous campers arrive tomorrow! Two of those campers are my precious daughters, and I am that parent that is giving them extra squeezes knowing that I will be missing the next 26 nights of tucking them in. I send them to their cabins in Lower Chipeta and Chipeta knowing they are in fun, capable, loving hands. Their camp experience will be filled with dance parties, wonderful friendships, disappointments, some discomfort, engaging dinner conversations, beautiful experiences in nature and more. Camp will again fill with laughter, singing, little one on one chats and the staff will do their magic. We will begin our 98th season of impacting lives.
I continue to be grateful for my life’s work, with its many rewards and challenges, and for the people in my life that make it possible.