“TLW – To Me You Made A Difference” – Mo O’Neill
Every year, when I am interviewing staff, invariably, the applicants talk about how they want to make a difference in the lives of our campers. I always think to myself “you have no idea how much you are going to grow and learn at Camp, as well” Take a look at what Mo has to say about her four summers with us. Her email gave me goose bumps and it is one of the reasons we do what we do.
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you to confirm I will not be able to come back next summer. I have avoided saying the words for quite some time, but as 2017 looms, I knew it couldn’t wait any longer. I thought I would just share a few paragraphs with you about how much camp has meant to me. It’s finally become real now that I’m writing it down.
Back in 2013, I remember thinking that three months outside of Ireland and away from home was too long. Now I’ve spent just under two years living in the States. That’s because TLW redefined ‘home’ to me. It’s not just a place you live or were born. It’s where you feel like you belong. It’s the people that make a place a home. And TLW has no shortage of unique people.
Each year was special. Sometimes I’m able to define them by the counselors that were there, or the role I had, or even the color war teams that year. But mostly, I’ve been able to define each year by my campers. The crazy things they did, the heart-to-hearts we shared, the stories of how their year at school went, the trips, the Girls Sing songs, camper captains, culture night dances, when they started working, when they got their little sisters, the boys they liked, the sports they hated and what they were most looking forward to that summer. The laughs, the tears, the “go to sleep girls” all down to that final camper alma mater. We were supposed to make their summer but they made mine.
I learned more about myself at TLW than I ever have in a lecture. Every year professors and my parents told me how important an internship would be to get a graduate job. Every year I wondered if I was making a mistake going back, and putting off the real world. But I didn’t. Every interviewer was more interested in my time at camp than any work related activity. It made me different. All those posts on Facebook about how being a counselor teaches you more – they were right. And I still got my big bad world job.
I’m incredibly lucky that I have four years worth of friendships from TLW. Those people are my go-to. Multiple group chats, reunions, random snapchats – camp friends really do make the best real life friends. And for those I don’t get to see or chat to during the year, I always knew that when we would stand outside the Main House again, it’d be like nothing changed, because we’d all be back in our favorite place.
Lower, middle and upper camp experiences, from specialist ropes life to Group Leader, from pre-camp to Indian summer, from coaching my heart out to winning my one and only color war as a General – I feel there is some closure in ending the way it has. I get to end my counselor journey as my campers begin to embark on theirs. I can only hope that something in those four summers that the random Irish girl said or did, will be in their minds this summer as they shape themselves as a counselor. And I’ll be incredibly proud from afar.
This email has turned out to be a lot longer than expected, but no words will ever be enough. Hopefully I’ll be back to visit, and maybe even send over a camper of my own one day, the first Irish maybe? Have to keep the ‘shower hour’ tradition alive. Haha. Thank you for absolutely everything. The guidance, the opportunity to progress in those four summers, and for making TLW feel like home.
TLW – To me, you made a difference and for that, I will forever be grateful.