What Camp Means to Me

August 19, 2022

Dear campers, counselors, specialists and directors,

As I write this letter, it is currently one week before camp. Since 2010 I have attended Genesee Valley Rotary Camp, and it has been a big part of my life for the last twelve years. So much has changed in my life since I first walked into that camp. I’ve grown so much, and so much of that is thanks in no small part to the people who attend GVRC. When I first attended camp twelve years ago, I was placed in Wiscoy, and all I wanted was to be somewhere else. So together my roommate and I planned a daring escape. Using a metal tin, some rocks and other materials we found, we crafted a sound device to distract the counselors. Tossing the device out of our tent, which didn’t work by the way, we made the decision to stay instead of running. Soon after my co-conspirator William Versluis, and I became the best of friends and made the best of our time at camp.

Over the years I became infatuated with the camp, as I learned so much about the people in our tribe. Slowly but surely we became a family. Names like Broaden Donovan, Kevin Hooks, Jesse Cronk, Connor Markel, Robert Hughes, Jackson Breen, Ethan Amann, and Alan Andrews became integral parts of the camp. Twelve years is a very long time and in that time so much happened. Will always managed to get himself in trouble, leading me to always try to get him out of it, to almost always little or no success. Broaden became a bit of a wild card, always finding ways to be chaotic but fun. Connor became infamous for his morphsuits, and he always packed them in variety. Jesse and I would tell scary stories in the few years we bunked together keeping him up all night on more than one occasion. Robert was always something new every year, but nothing will ever top his Michael Jackson. Even going so far as challenging Kevin Frank, our counselor at the time, to a dance off. And Jackson, my dear Jackson became the centerpiece of the clothes tent preview. But they weren’t the only ones who I learned to consider family.

The people who run this camp are as much as family as the campers. I don’t know how after all this time how Mrs. Angie considered me a delightful camper to have, honestly I was a total nightmare in Wiscoy, especially after trying to escape. In Swanasote, Mr. Russ and I spent time together to finish up our sign for the Wonderland year, creating a “abdominal” snowman, we also so got stuck in the woods one time slowly sinking into the mud searching for a pine cone that didn’t exist. This letter would be incomplete without mentioning Mr. Aidan, over the years he and I developed a love-hate relationship constantly pushing each other’s buttons, I’ll admit, and undoubtedly raise my friend’s ever increasing ego, he’s one of my favorite parts of camp. Mr. Jake “Adolfi” became family later in the game but he is still a solid member, and even helped us stay together during the leap year through zoom calls, also if I didn’t mention him he’d hold it against me for the next three years. In the specialist department Mr. Jim was always a source of comic relief and always found a way to brighten someone’s day, he even brought a lot of us together to have dinner every now and then after camp. He never quite let Jesse off the hook for a shoddy excuse for almost not coming that one time. Ms. Bonnie has to be the most influential specialist in my life at GVRC, she helped me in a time when I desperately needed it and became a beacon of light in my life. She showed me a part of myself that I didn’t even know existed. I owe her so much more than she knows and she is beyond important to me. There are so many more names that I want to put in this letter so many people that made an impact in my life but if I did this letter would probably be five pages long.

When I came to GVRC I was little more than a lost unenthused child who had no direction in life, I was an outcast. GVRC was the first place to teach me that being different wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. For the first time in my life I felt truly home. Together we are a camp of anomalies and oddities, something that makes this camp something special, and by the camp’s own words a miracle. It is a place where people can come together and simply be themselves. It is a place where I don’t have to hide who I really am, most of my life has been spent running from a part of myself that the world could never accept, and never really understand. You, all of you, inspired me to accept that part of myself, to not shut it out. It is because of you I’m no longer afraid of myself. For everything you all have done I want to say thank you. Thank you to the counselors of Wiscoy for putting up with me even though I really didn’t deserve it. Thank you to the counselors of Swanasote for dealing with me through my formative and emo teen years. Thank you to the counselors of what was the all boys Outpost campsite, for becoming my brothers and people who I’d always want at my back if something went wrong. Thank you to Genesee for welcoming me with open arms into their camp. Thank you to the specialists who truly make GVRC special. Thank you to Mrs. Sue for always being an extremely energetic and a warm compassionate person. Thank you Mrs. Janet for always patching us up when we get hurt. Thank you to the kitchen staff who always work hard to make the very best food for us. Thank you to former assistant director Mr. Mark for being one of the coolest people at camp who honestly I don’t know that much about. Thank you to Mr. Bart for being the best camp director we could ask for, who I hate to admit I’m still intimidated by. Thank you GVRC for helping me turn from an uncaring child, into a compassionate adult. I end this letter with a solemn vow. I will return to GVRC in a few years to help with the camp, to pay the debt that I owe, and to come home one more time. In this way this is not goodbye, it is simply see you later.

And always remember HIL

A proud camper of GVRC, James “Peasy” Pease