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An excerpt form ‘An End to the Pretty Lake Tale’

By Cia Elder

This summer was particularly special due to it not only being my fourth year on staff, but also my tenth year at this camp overall. I truly felt that I not only made lasting connections with campers, but also with my staff as well. Camp continues to hold a special place in my heart just because I know what powers the camp has on people. For the staff, it gives the opportunity for growth, confidence in one’s ability, leadership and the opportunity to utilize empathy. For the kids, it gives a sense of belonging, social emotional development and an opportunity to feel free. Not just free to run and play, but free to let go of their problems to develop that resilience. Throughout the summer, you meet a multitude of campers and there are those certain ones that just stick with you. Each camper comes in with their own story, but it’s just a matter of you taking the time to pick up the book and find what chapter they are on.

            With all the sessions, I continuously felt a connection with each camper I had a talk with whether it was their first time at camp, or I had seen them grow throughout their years at Pretty Lake. It’s an astonishing thing to see campers continue to grow overtime and to see them out in the community. It’s always disheartening to have camp end knowing some of the situations the kids have to go back to, but I know that at least we did what we could to ensure that the campers could go home with a memorable experience or even a new insight about their ever-growing world. I can only hope that the tools they gain at camp can continue to help them in their futures.

            As hard as it is to say goodbye to campers, it was truly a challenge to say goodbye to the staff I had worked with. You don’t realize how close you become to people in a short period of time because we create our own Pretty Lake bubble that keeps us enclosed and connected with each other. Staff that come from a multitude of places and have a varied amount of personalities all came together with the mission to create an impactful summer for a child. They came in with the thoughts of kayaks and camp songs but left with so much more. That’s always the best thing to me because they recognize the magic that Pretty Lake has and the power it has to make a change in anyone’s life. They find a place that they can always call home and that’s honestly the best feeling.

            For the future, I plan to continue my work with youth in multiple avenues through the YMCA and the Boys and Girl Club for the greater Kalamazoo community. I am also in the midst of applying to graduate school to get my degree in Human Development and Family Studies, potentially my PHD. I hope to come back to Pretty Lake Camp for my final summer for 2020 and maybe we’ll see about taking a board role to ensure that camp continues to have its everlasting effect for generations to come. You never know, I might be the next CEO of Pretty Lake, but we’ll see what the future holds. I just know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without this place and the people who’ve gave me so much love while I’ve been at camp; That’s something I can’t and won’t ever forget. Pretty Lake continues to add to my story and I hope it continues to do the same for others. 

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