Letting Families Be

After working as a counselor at Laity Lodge Family Camp for the past two summers, I’ve come to understand what’s so special about this place.

IT JUST LETS FAMILIES BE.

On a recent off day, my friends and I went to the beloved Pint & Plow in Kerrville. We ran into a family who had just left camp. Their sweet three-year-old girl was running around the restaurant trying to make friends with everyone she saw. Her parents chased her down and had to remind her: We’re not at Family Camp anymore, and not every college-aged person wants to be your best friend!

Several times during Roundup this summer, I’ve watched a newly crawling baby inch their way across the floor. The moms hover close by early in the week, until they realize that help is all around—basically everyone in the pavilion is looking out for the baby. Lots of hands are at the ready to catch wayward crawlers and stumbling toddlers.

Family Camp stretches for families every day. We do whatever it takes to let families be, whether that means making a brownie in the kitchen for just one child who never before could have a brownie because of intense food allergies, or cheering a kid on in a talent show who would never go up in front of people at home, or sitting in the pavilion as a camp and praying for one family’s new foster placement, or anything else we can do. Family Camp stretches to make sure that every single person feels welcomed.

ONLY AT FAMILY CAMP, “STRETCHING” ISN’T REALLY A STRETCH. IT’S JUST WHAT WE DO.

Family Camp allows every family to reconnect and spend time together, but for some families these opportunities are rare. Take the Boone family. Lucia and her husband David love how easy it is for them to find rest here with little to no planning—a rare luxury in their life since Lucia was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) five years ago. The disease has left her paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak.

Lucia now navigates the world mostly from her wheelchair. Each year, the Boones stay in the same cabin that camp sets up for them in the same way so that they are already familiar with the layout. Our staff also leaves a golf cart on their porch to ensure Lucia can participate in any activity and go wherever she needs to go.

Family Camp allows every family to reconnect and spend time together, but for some families these opportunities are rare. Take the Boone family. Lucia and her husband David love how easy it is for them to find rest here with little to no planning—a rare luxury in their life since Lucia was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) five years ago. The disease has left her paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak.

Lucia now navigates the world mostly from her wheelchair. Each year, the Boones stay in the same cabin that camp sets up for them in the same way so that they are already familiar with the layout. Our staff also leaves a golf cart on their porch to ensure Lucia can participate in any activity and go wherever she needs to go. “Not having to … wonder about ADA accommodations relieves a lot of stress,” said David. “Here, we know what to expect and we know the kids will be taken care of.”

Lucia says the main reason they keep coming back is for their kids. When I asked her to explain why, her iPad followed her eyes to allow her to communicate. Through the device, she said,

“Camp is the perfect mix of a spiritual aspect and fun. The kids look forward to this week more than Christmas. We kept trying to figure out why, but a big part of it is the freedom they have here.”

I’m grateful I’ve had a chance to help make a home for families the last two summers. But I must confess—working at camp is not an easy summer job. It stretched me physically and emotionally in surprising ways, and the constant socializing can be exhausting even for the most extreme of extroverts.

But the stretch is worth it for these families. I’ve come to believe that the work we do out here is necessary so that families can show up exactly as they are, so that kids can run around and play in the dirt, so that parents can reconnect as couples, and so that all these moms and dads and kids and grandparents can unplug from the world and plug into each other and God.

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