Colorado will recover from floods

In 2006 our family moved right into the middle of post-Katrina New Orleans. At that time, New Orleans was literally in shambles and many people around the country were questioning whether the city should be rebuilt at all. Fortunately, nobody listened to them as the next seven years were nothing short of amazing.

Today, New Orleans is an outstanding example of what happens when a resilient population decides to roll up its sleeves and rebuild better than what was there before.

Ironically, our family just left New Orleans this summer to move to Colorado, as my wife’s family operates Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park.

Like New Orleans, the early days after the floods bring a range of emotions, suffering and even helplessness.

I write today to make a prediction for all of those mountain towns that may look beyond repair today. In time, all of them — that is right, all of them — will come back stronger than ever. In addition, the people of these communities will have a sense of accomplishment and victory that will be unlike anything they have experienced before.

Our family has been part of one amazing recovery and we are looking forward to seeing Colorado do the same.

Kurt Klebe and Brooke Cheley Klebe, Denver

This letter was published in the Sept. 19 edition.

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New Shoes

Ever wonder what it takes to get all of our 150 horses shod? Last week we hosted our annual Shoeing Camp and brought in 6 shoers from Colorado who stayed here and worked hard all day putting on the horses’ shoes. Our youngest official shoer just graduated from high school and our oldest shoer is in his mid-80s. The Clymer family has three generations represented with Dennis (grandfather), Clint (Son), and Jeremiah and Colton (grandsons, Colton at age 8. Photographed). Jeremiah was a camper at Cheley when he was younger.

It takes about half an hour to shoe each horse. Some are easier to shoe than others. They put shoes on our 150 horses in about 4 and half days. The shoes should stay on for 8-10 weeks. How long they stay on often depends on the type of ground conditions we have and how much the horse is used. It’s not uncommon towards the end of 2nd term to hear the shoes start clinking around a bit indicating that they are loose. If a horse still has shoes on once he is done being used for the summer, then we just pull them off before the horse is turned out to pasture for the winter.

By Kim Betts, HR manager Cheley Colorado Camps

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What’s Next

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Andy, The Office

I love this quote as I can relate. My dream of moving back to Denver is finally coming true. I am super excited for this next chapter in our lives.  I have missed the snow, my friends, my family, the city, and being more involved in the Denver Cheley Camp office. I have to confess that I regret not living more in the present during this last chapter.   In our final days of this life as we know it, I find that I am relishing in the moments.   It is a very strange feeling to be wrapping up the life you have known. I realize that it is human nature to appreciate things more when you know they are coming to an end.

Almost seven years ago Kurt’s work called us to New Orleans.   It was somewhat of a crazy time to move to this city a year after Katrina.  We were still pretty new at the parenting gig, with Ellie being only 9 months old.  The only person we knew was the President of Tulane.  Our families, friends and even strangers continuously asked us why we would move to a city that seemingly everyone was leaving. I recall the mover packing up our house in Black Mountain, NC.  He turned to me and said “You really want to leave this beautiful place to live in New Orleans?” New Orleans was still healing and recovering from the blow of Katrina but we were looking forward to the adventure of this new and exciting place.  I am, however, a mountain girl at heart. If a fortune teller would have told me that I would spend the greater part of my 30’s in New Orleans or anywhere outside of Colorado during the winter months, I would have asked for my money back.

Since 25k loan don’t involve a credit line, transferring debt from revolving credit card debt to the installment debt of a personal loan will lower your credit utilization amount, and that will have a favorable impact on your credit score.

We process Italian translations, everything from business correspondence, reports and brochures, through to legal documents and patents, technical manuals and websites.

When we arrived here the street cars were not running, the replacing Lake Worth auto locks team was trying to put them back on the streets, businesses were still operating with fewer employees or had not reopened. There was a slight feeling of emptiness, sadness, lackluster and the word Katrina floated around conversations daily.  I had never experienced a hurricane and it was hard for me to relate to the life changing experience Katrina had been for the people of New Orleans. We quickly fell into the category of “people who moved here post Katrina,” which at the time was a small crew.  It was just us, a few others and Drew and Brittany Brees, as Kurt always likes to point out.

In the beginning, I was far from comfortable in my new surroundings.  I believe that stepping out of my comfort zone has broadened my world.   I remember getting “lost” in the car in the middle of the day and frantically calling a friend to tell him where I was and for him to tell me how to get out of there. We quickly found my way and now I take the same route and there is nothing frantic about it.  I also remember constantly showing up to functions under-dressed.  It took me years to realize that every event was dressy.  Now with my southern closet I will probably be too dressy for Denver and freezing.

It has been interesting to watch the city rebuild. While living here, I have not picked up a hammer or a paint brush. I have not helped to rebuild a single home or volunteered anywhere outside of my little world.  I suppose I have been in the flurry of motherhood and other than being a wife and a mom, my life’s work is camp. But I have feel like I have contributed to this wonderful city by moving our little family here while those around us nervously cheered us on. We patiently waited for New Orleans little by little to heal and come back to a vibrant city.

Our family grew from three to five.  One of Ellie’s first words was “beads,” and both Kate and Sam were born during Saint Patty’s Day parades.  Kurt and I have expanded ourselves, our awareness and perspective.  We have come to better understand the beauty of racial differences. We have experienced what it feels like to be the “new kid” and what it feels like to not be a legacy in a community deeply rooted in legacy.  We immersed ourselves in a culture that likes to celebrate.  We look past the broken sidewalks and sunken streets.  We have expanded the view of others by opening up our home to out of state visitors.  We have fallen in love with New Orleans, an awesome city often misunderstood to those who have never visited and taken for granted to those who have never left.

I am grateful that my family has allowed me to contribute to camp’s winter work while not being in the Denver office. I will forever be grateful to the people that have so graciously come into our lives while we were here, for the friendship and the support. I thank the CT Lady Steppers for inviting me to march. Teaching me that smart, sassy, and daring can be wrapped up into one and of course how to apply fake eye lashes and a wig.  I am so grateful to Kurt, who at times had to gently push me to not take this amazing journey for granted.  I so appreciate, McGehee School for loving my girls and for being the first building block in their education.

There are many things that I will miss.  The canopy of the oaks that seem to tell a story with their long old limbs and enormous roots, the wonderful characters in the neighborhood that makes up a community, the people who have brightened my days with their friendship. I will dearly miss 1233 2nd Street, the 160 year old home that has embraced our growing family.  The marathons of Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras, I never could really keep up but still love it.

Peace out to the cockroaches, I will NOT miss you with your little play dead thing that you do and with poop large enough to belong to a rodent.  Lizards, I will miss you.

We are so lucky to have gotten to live here.  We close this wonderful chapter in gratitude for the good days, the not so good days, the life with three children crazy days and for the joy and the journey of life.

As a camp professional, I console campers that miss home, they can’t wait to sleep in their own beds and see their families. They are having fun but they have their moments of concentrating on what’s next.

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

Enjoy the chapter you are in, even if it sometimes seems hard, for when it is over you might think, hey, that was pretty cool.

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Four Cups of Kool-Aid and an Index Card

Guest Blog Post by Devin Riggs

At Cheley, near the end of each term the campers are asked to explain what camp means to them on a 3×5 inch index card. For the past four summers I’ve heard the same thing, “An index card doesn’t begin to cover the extent of what camp means to me.”

The transformation from that first weekend, to the last is truly incredible. Girls who were nervous at first end up crying on the last morning because they don’t want to leave. Even if it’s their ninth summer, the experience is uniquely incredible. It’s always different and it always leaves them a little bit speechless. Four weeks can hold an awful lot of breathtaking moments…and multiple that by nine or ten…

How do you put that on an index card?

And yet without fail, they manage to express it in simple terms and eloquent phrases. They relive taco nights, and All Camp skits, and epic hikes…using the Code of Living as the picture frame to capture all those memories.

The counselors don’t normally participate in this tradition, but it never stops me from reflecting on what camp means to me personally. I never went to camp when I was younger, but what did it mean as an adult? What does being a camp counselor mean to me?

It took a while for the experience to fully hit me. Every summer another puzzle piece fell into place. Every summer I got a little bit more than I expected. During my first summer at Girls’ Trail’s End, I finally felt like I was a part of something. Something really magical. I not only appreciated the experience the campers wrote about on those index cards, but I understood it in a way I couldn’t before.

Being a camp counselor…it means the world to me. It’s exciting, challenging, hilarious, exhausting, exhilarating, overwhelming, and life changing. There is no greater joy than arriving back at the unit after a day of program to hear the laughter and voices of girls eating their treats and sharing the highlights of the day.

I have never regretted not going to camp as a kid. My adolescence was pretty amazing, but I’m so grateful to be part of the camp experience now as a young adult. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to spend my summers getting to know these amazing young women, teaching them about the outdoors, watching them learn and grow. It’s something I would not trade for the world. And if I had to sum it all up on an index card, I would say only this:

“Camp has taught me the importance of a quiet moment, in the presence of a good friend, and the delight in laughing so hard you cry. It has taught me that not all triumphs involve arriving at the summit. Success is not always about achieving your goals; sometimes it’s about the mistakes you make and the unexpected obstacles that you face along the way. And it’s okay if you make mistakes. That’s the only way to grow. Camp allows me, at the age of 22, to still learn and grow, from my fellow counselors, from my directors, and from my campers. And that is the greatest gift I could ever receive.

And it’s the reason I am so excited to come back for my fifth year.

Devin will be returning to Cheley as a Sports/Mountain Biking counselor at Girls Trails End

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My Cheley Experience

Guest Blog Post by Sam Faktorow

Cheley has been the single most important force in my life up to this point. Its power over people has proven to be palpable. And I did not just type that sentence for the alliteration; the people that allow Cheley to become a profound and important aspect of their being reap almost unlimited benefits, ranging from things as simple as coming to appreciate warm water while showering, to developing the most intense and significant bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood that one can make in a lifetime. Its beauty, both physical and beyond, is sublime and profound. With the obvious exception of campers growing up and growing out of their camper years at camp, Cheley has remained almost completely unchanged since I first breathed its air and felt its quiet allure in July 2007.

Cheley is a constant, a shield, a blessing, a powerful force, an enigma, and so much more. It’s hard for me to describe what I really feel inside of myself about it to people who haven’t experienced it, partially because of their own lack of experience, but also because I still don’t fully know the extent of what it means to me or what lessons it has taught me. One thing I know for sure is that my years with Cheley have instilled in me a sense of adventure, an undying bold spirit that finds pleasure in pushing my own boundaries.

The Cheley Experience transcends time and place, as the people I have met and encountered there have shown me that no matter how much time we spend away from one another, we will always return to each other. And even if we don’t as soon as we would hope or like, we carry each other and our experiences within ourselves, and for that I will always, always be grateful.

Sam Faktorow is a Senior at Colorado College with a double major in English Literature and Drama and will be a Sports Counselor in Haiyaha this summer.

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A New Experience

Guest blog written by Shelbie Loonam-Hesser

I’m just about to finish nine months of studying abroad in Athens, Greece. Nine months of new discoveries. Nine months of new friends. Nine months of new favorite places like Fhats Casino, I’m actually trying to learn how to bet because I’m not that good right now . Nine months of overcoming fears. Nine months of reshaping who I am. Like all first-time world travelers, I am overcome with the incredible conviction that there are more important things then the hub that was my life back in the States. I believe that you really discover who you are when you are in places you have never been before. The amounts of realizations were limitless. Within every experience of studying abroad, there was something new yet familiar… similar to a summer spent at camp.

For Cheley returners some things are “familiar”: Reuniting with old friends, children’s laughter echoing through the mountainside, the sound of pounding feet as campers run along the paths between the cabins, dust picking up in the wake of footsteps during a particularly dry summer, the bubbling noise of the cool mountain stream, the horses in the stables whose hooves clash against the wood, wind whistling through the trees, the view, gosh the view, of the mummy range from the Chapel or Twin Sisters and even further Longs Peak from the top of Cathedral. The Rockies are our playground. The Rockies are our home.

However for a first time camper, a summer at Cheley could be a completely “new” and overwhelming, yet life-changing experience. For example, some first time campers can develop homesickness or have a fear of trying new things such as hiking or horseback riding. It’s not uncommon. For someone who is so invested in traveling and adventure, I even became homesick. I had a complete mental breakdown, tears and all, the first week I was in Greece. I even questioned why on earth I decided to study abroad in the first place. It doesn’t matter what age you are.

New experiences can be overwhelming and even scary, but that’s the beauty of it. The beauty industry is flooded with a variety of breast enlargement options ranging from creams, pills and hormonal injections to expensive surgical options. If you want to go the natural way, are some natural remedies that can give you good results.

Once you overcome these fears, you discover that you can take on anything else that comes along your way. There’s nothing greater than seeing a first time camper persevere, while finding their voice and trying new things during a summer at camp. We are all challenged in our lives, whether one is studying abroad or spending a summer at camp, growth and resiliency can take place.

From what I’ve experienced, children are the same all over the world. They may be brought up in completely different cultures, but they all want similar things. Children want to have fun, to play, to laugh, to dream, to create, to be noticed and to be important. There’s no denying the innocent gleam in their eye and the smirk on their face when a good ol’ game of tag is taking place. Unstructured fun is universal.

So whether you are traveling the world or attending camp for the first time, you’ll always discover that life is an adventure and all you ever dreamed of is on the other side of fear.

It’s a big and beautiful world out there. I implore you to go and explore.

Shelbie Loonam-Hesser will be returning to Cheley this summer as a backpacking counselor in Chipeta.

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The Simple Pleasures of Summer Camp

Guest blog post by Debbie Leibold

I rented a great reliable camper hire and took my son to sleep-away camp for the first time this week.  He will be gone for a month at a traditional summer camp in Colorado.  I attended this camp as a child and worked there during my college summers, but it’s still a little nerve-wracking to leave your ten-year-old in the hands of a bunch of young “twenty-somethings” you’ve never met before.  Even though I used to be one of those “twenty-somethings” with whom parents left their children, for some reason, it feels a little different when it is your own child you are leaving.

I was comforted by knowing my son would be enjoying the simple pleasures of living in the great outdoors, cooking over a campfire, riding horses, climbing mountains, encountering wild animals, experiencing Mother Nature’s unpredictability, and basically having the time of his life.  I have read lately that many traditional summer camps are going by the wayside, as parents see “more value” in a specialty camp that emphasizes one highly intensive program.  That “value” parents seek includes more tangible takeaways for campers, like awards, improved targeted skills, higher competition levels, increased academic achievement, and even experiences and honors to bolster a college application resume.  I am looking for just the opposite for my son.

My son spends the entire school year being pushed to achieve at a higher level.  He plays competitive sports, takes music lessons, and works hard to get good grades.  His older brother does all of those things too, but is already thinking about adding community service projects, part-time jobs, or other leadership roles so that he has something to feature on his college application . . . and he’s only thirteen.  Today’s children are constantly bombarded with messages that they must get better grades, earn higher test scores, play on a more competitive team, get into a more prestigious university, and just do more with less time to do it.  My children don’t need a summer camp to reinforce all of those messages, you can read more about it at the website.

The technology-driven and competitive world our children live in is forcing them to grow up too fast.  Unstructured playtime and “exploring” have been replaced by tutoring sessions, professional coaching sessions, community service projects, standardized test preparation classes, extensive homework, and increasing family responsibilities. Unfortunately, that fast-paced world is a reality; however, those children who are lucky enough to “take the summer off” and go to a traditional sleep-away camp, will undoubtedly return to school, their families, and their increasingly pressure-filled world better equipped to manage the challenges that await them.

A traditional summer camp provides all kinds of opportunities that demonstrate “fun with a purpose,” not just more drills or training in one particular activity, like the sports practices and coaching sessions many children (including my son) attend at home.  When children are offered chances to try challenging activities they’ve never done before, live with others they’ve never met before, or play in ways they’ve never played before, they become people they’ve never been before.  They learn how to build relationships, become more self-reliant, and explore their leadership potential.  They learn to set goals and work hard to achieve them.  They value a strong sense of community and learn to be compassionate toward others.  They also discover that honesty, loyalty, patience, and perseverance will help them through any situation.

I learned those lessons at camp in the 1980’s and watched my campers discover the same lessons when I was a camp counselor in the early 1990’s.  I can’t wait to hear stories about my son’s adventures, the camp food, and his new friends.  More importantly, I look forward to witnessing the changes in his character.  Of course, he’ll be the same boy I know and love, but he’ll also have a better-defined sense of self.  He’ll feel more confident when he faces challenges and will know that he can achieve anything with some hard work and dedication.

I am passionate about the life-changing impact a traditional sleep-away summer camp experience can have on a child.  But multi-week camps may cost more than $1,000 a week, $5,000 a month, or even $10,000 a summer – fees that quickly limit the number of children who can afford to attend.  I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to provide this kind of camp experience for my own children, but I also feel called to help send other children to camp.  I serve on a non-profit board that recognizes the value of a summer camp experience in a child’s development and raises money to make a summer mountain camping experience available to deserving youth who could not otherwise afford it.  The John Austin Cheley Foundation believes that all children, regardless of family income, should have the opportunity to experience the value of camp… and I’d suggest that value lies not in achievement, but in discovery.

As adults, we would do ourselves a favor if we could just go back in time and remember how it felt to sit around the campfire with our closest friends, singing songs, and roasting marshmallows.  Nothing else in the world mattered except what we were doing at that very moment.  The pressures and worries all disappeared and we were completely free to be ourselves and truly enjoy the company of others.

In such a complicated world, I am refreshed by that simple vision.  I am also personally challenged to live in the moment and make the most of my opportunities.  But perhaps more than anything else, I feel inspired to create more “camp-like” times for my son when he returns home from camp.  Rather than racing to the next activity, driving through the fast food window, rushing through the homework, and going to bed way too late, maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a camp moment of our own.  We’ll take the time to listen to one another as we share our stories.  We’ll laugh out loud.  We’ll celebrate the sunset.  We’ll talk about our dreams.  We’ll value our time together.  We’ll throw another log on the fire and roast another S’more – for it is often the little moments that make the greatest difference.

Debbie Leibold

Trustee, John Austin Cheley Foundation

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Giving Back

Guest Blog by Emily Moss

There are so many things that I am excited about when I think about returning to Cheley for my ninth summer. First of all, I cannot wait to return to Lower Chipeta, where my Cheley experience began ten years ago. I know that I will have a blast with the girls in Lower, but I also hope I can be a role model to these young ladies and can share what I have learned during my years at camp. During my seven years as a camper at Cheley, I encountered so many wonderful people; from fellow campers to counselors to cooks and everywhere in between.  Those experiences have meant so much to me, and I love the idea of passing the Cheley experience on to a new group of young ladies.

A huge part of the Cheley experience is the self-confidence that comes from being away from home and in the mountains. I am excited to see the young ladies of Lower grow to emerge as kids who know that they can excel at camp and to develop the love for the mountains and camp that has meant so much to me. As an outcamping counselor, I will be taking the girls on overnight camping trips to some spectacular Cheley properties. I know that we will have so much fun, but I also know that outcamping can be a bit scary for someone who does not have camping experience. I can remember being nervous before my first outcamping experience at Cheley (a trip to Rockstock, where we got to be creative and make our own tents with tarps and strings). The idea of sleeping in the wilderness was pretty new and a little scary for me, but I challenged myself, and I ended up having a great time. I am so excited to teach campers that challenging themselves to do something that may be new can end up being a really cool and fun experience. My goal is to teach the girls that the benefits of trying something new also extends to life outside of camp. For example, I am from Bethesda, Maryland, but I go to school at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. If it weren’t for my experiences at Cheley, I may not have had the courage to go to school somewhere as far from home as Madison. The fact that I learned to challenge myself at camp has made a big difference to my life, from where I go to school to the way I approach new friendships.

On a lighter note, I also cannot wait to make delicious meals and sing lots of songs on outcamps. It is so much fun to be creative while cooking meals on an out camp (banana boats and pita pizza are some of my all time favorite meals) and there is nothing I love more than singing camp songs with good friends under the beautiful Colorado stars. I simply cannot wait to return to Estes Park, Colorado for another fantastic summer!

Emily was one of our wonderful Swing Crew staff members last summer and is returning to be an Outcamping counselor in Lower Chipeta.

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A Summer Break

“Those on the outside don’t understand it and those on the inside can’t explain it.” This is the expression I use when trying to explain camp to my family and friends. It’s hard to put into words what camp means to me.

As a child I spent my summers at a day camp not far from where I live in Michigan. Those early summers taught me what patience, teamwork, love, friendship, and life were really all about. My life was scheduled out from the time I was a youngster. The sport of choice for me was hockey. Growing up I played on several travel hockey teams. That meant from August until May I was traveling all over Michigan playing hockey. My life was scheduled to school-hockey-sleep. It was nice, but I didn’t have any time to just be a kid. I wanted to play in the dirt and play games outside.

Camp became that outlet for me. Summer was the time that I was able to be a kid. I was able to play games and make friends. I had a blast and I didn’t even know all of the lessons I was picking up along the way.

Fast forward to the present and I have been working summer camps for the last seven years and I’m still growing. I owe who I am today to camp. My outgoing, smiley personality is because of all the wonderful kids and friends I have met along the way.  My best of friends are all camp people. I love that I get to be a big brother to so many kids at camp. It’s great to get to know them and be there for them during the summer. As an adult it’s easy to live a stressful life. You tend to let life pass you by and worry a lot. Camp is the perfect time to slow your life down a bit and enjoy the ride! It’s a magical place where in a few short weeks strangers become family.

I cannot wait to start this brand new journey at Cheley Colorado Camps this summer. “Camps- where family and true friendships begin.”

Stephen Smith is a first year Campfire counselor in Lower Ski Hi this summer. He is from Midland, Michigan and attends Central Michigan University. He enjoys anything outdoors- especially wake-boarding, tubing, boating and hiking.

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Inside the Bubble

Summer. Children giggling, horses trotting, fires blazing, tie dye splattering, bikes whizzing by, sneaky whispers at rest period, and chants of encouragement are all too-familiar sounds during my summer.

For the past five years, I’ve dedicated myself to working at summer camp. Before becoming an employee in the camping industry, I didn’t even know that summer camp really existed. I thought the only way that kind of place occurred was in the movies, and the majority of my thoughts and feelings about the whole concept were influenced by the movie “Parent Trap.” I didn’t know it at the time, but being a counselor that summer completely reshaped who I was, and who I was to become.

Through my years in school, I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. Sure, I played sports, got good grades, had some friends, and tried to get involved as much as possible, but it never really fulfilled me. I still always had this thirst for doing something more, lurking in the back of my mind. Thankfully, camp quenched that for me. I was finally in a place where I was accepted for just being me. I didn’t have to hide behind my insecurities anymore. It was a whole other world for me. People in the camping industry that are familiar with this concept like to refer to it as being in “The Camp Bubble.” It’s a strange thing you know, being apart of this bubble. If you think about it, camp is kind of just like any other place. There’s some grass, trees, dirt, and a few buildings. Of course, there’s all the fun activities, but doesn’t an amusement offer just as much thrill? I guess we could say it’s the people, but what are the chances that everyone who comes through camp are any different than the people who work at the mall? No, I think it’s something different. There’s something magical about connecting with complete strangers, outdoors, back to our roots where we’re not influenced by any form of technology, media, or everyday struggles. Without these forces clouding our mind and perceptions, were able to actually think, wonder, ponder, and re-connect with our lost imaginations. Of course, the kids have a lot to do with it as well. I think as adults, we take joy in finding a piece of ourselves in every child, because we can look into those bright eyes and it’s just like looking into a mirror. We see purity, amazement, bewilderment, laughter, honesty. And just like that, our inner child is re-born.

Camp has not only changed my life, it has given me my life.

Maggie Mitchell is from Fenton, Michigan and will be the Campfire Counselor in Senior Chipeta this summer.

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