Camp Foley (noun): the happiest place in the world.
There is simply no better way to describe my family’s experience at this place. My uncle has a cabin on the lake over and my second cousin went to camp a long time back, so they decided to tell my parents about it. For this I owe a big thanks to both of them for starting the trend of my brothers and I coming to Camp Foley. We have always been drawn to MN, as we have some family here, but the magnet that kept pulling us back to Minnesota continued to grow stronger after our first year of camp. During our first year I was 13, Bennett (11), Carson (9), and Reis (7), everything was so new to us as we are from Denver and sadly do not have any beautiful lakes like MN does. Lower Whitefish soon became our new normal and the time we spent most of our days at. Bennett, Carson, and I have always come for three weeks and Reis started off as a two-week camper. Reis quickly changed into a three-week camper as he loved spending time with us, and he grew to love Foley just as much. Being all different ages groups (wolf – 13-16, coyotes 11-13, foxes 7-10) my siblings and I felt as though we got to have our experiences and different privileges than the other, but still got to experience so many things together, such as signing up for sailing 3 / 4 together and opening our mail on the benches together and sharing what different things our parents wrote to us. We are all very close and camp seemed to be the place where we continued to strengthen our bond, for this I am beyond thankful to Foley. There was never any fighting amongst us at Foley; I think it is the positive energy and loving culture that staff strive for here.
Oh, the staff!
Where do I even start. There are not enough positive words in the dictionary to express how I feel about all of them. The counselors become your rock instantly from the second you step off the bus or arrive by car and continue to support you when leave. My past counselors and brothers’ counselors have brought the energy, the passion for the activities that they taught, the empathy when it was needed, and the love always. Camp does a phenomenal job keeping friendly faces here from summer to summer while bringing in new staff with different perspectives. I remember that Reis’ first year he had Joe as his counselor and Ally was a counselor on the girls’ side when I was a camper. Joe and Ally are both now Assistant Directors and make campers feel at home and safe as many of the kids have had Ally or Joe in their cabin or were their instructors in their fencing or ski/wake classes. I seriously cannot think of anything more special and meaningful than this. When I was still a camper with my brothers’ our AD’s were Billy and Jordan. I swear I felt like they both knew everything about us, from the activities we enjoyed most to the smallest things such as the sports we played at home and our favorite colors. A long-lasting memory that rushes back to me every time I return to camp was when Billy took my brothers’ and I on an early morning bird watching boat ride because we registered for camp early. The best part is that we didn’t want to look for birds (oops haha) we just wanted to spend time with Billy. I strongly feel as though the Assistant Directors are continuing to do the same thing for new and returning campers. Finally, Alli and Marie. They are truly the greatest and the backbone of camp. The experiences that they have had and the knowledge that they have gained are used for the greatest good. Alli and Marie know every camper by full name, what a camper may struggle with and what may benefit them, and most importantly how to make every single camper feel loved. These virtues that they hold do not go unnoticed and the connections that they develop with campers from year to year that continue to grow are nothing but genuine.
Foley remains family.
I say this because everything is full circle. I am currently a counselor here and cannot imagine being anywhere else this summer. Camp Foley is the place to be from children to young adults to adults! Getting to be able to give back to Foley is something that I will cherish forever. As a camper I was taught to stand up for myself, become more confident, and simply be true self. Foley is a place where all walls are broken down instantly and everything true shines through. I know this sounds cliché and fake, but I could talk to anyone for hours on end about the smallest to the biggest things of how camp did this for me. Even as a counselor I am continuing to push my comfort zones, learn more about myself, and be adaptive. Now I get to be a person who can help kids reach these goals as well.
This summer I got to experience something new with Carson and Reis. I got to see through a different lens and notice how happy they are at Foley. They easily reached their happiest state and got to be their best self’s here this summer. I was fortunate enough to get to have Reis in one of my paddleboarding classes and spend time with him on the lake for a few mornings. Sometimes when I bet my canteen and lost it, Reis would come up to me and share his with me and read his letter from our parents to me. Carson was busy being independent and striving for as many of the hardest awards that camp offers but watching him made me feel like I was with him every second. During one of the sessions, I was given the opportunity to go on a canoe trip with some campers. While I was away, Carson and his friend got to sail in skipper winds (18 mph +), the whole marina staff were watching them complete a series of tasks to get their award. Though I was extremely bummed when I heard I missed this, I was so proud to hear about it. My peers came up to me immediately to tell me about it. I seriously felt as though they all had Carson’s back and where just as proud as I was.