Lulu’s Last First Day

Blindfolded, Lulu Stebbins takes one more sip of the mystery drink placed in front of her. It’s 2022 in Echo Valley, and Lulu has been selected to compete in a Roundup game against one of the campers from her brother cabin. But she is at a disadvantage.

She can’t see the green tint of the Sugar Shack drink she is trying to guess, the drink that had been popular with the boy cabins all summer. Anticipation mounts, until one of the Sugar Shack girls discreetly whispers something.

“THE HULK!” Lulu shouts, and a triumphant cheer erupts from the girls in her cabin.

Lulu and her secret Sugar Shack informants won the game and the glory that night by mischievous means, but some playful conspiring is half the fun of Roundup games. No one understands the silliness and high energy of camp better than Lulu, who has been coming to LLYC since she was just seven years old.

Now going into her junior year at Tivy High School, Lulu is chock-full of camper wisdom to pass on to the next generation of campers. The bottom bunk is better. Bring card games. Grilled cheese and tomato soup day is the best day. Don’t forget your books. (This year Lulu brought The Hunger Games.) Always bring snacks, the kind good enough to entice a swap while sitting on your cabin’s front porch.

This is exactly the type of wisdom she passed on to her younger sister, Story Stebbins, who attended camp at LLYC for the first time this year. “It hadn’t really hit me that it was going to be my last time as a camper until I was driving through the river to drop off my little sister” at Singing Hills, Lulu said. “We had always talked about how her first year was going to be my last year.”

Lulu herself has many fond memories of Singing Hills before she graduated to Echo Valley. She was a JAM session camper back then. “Every year I got to meet new girls and make new friends.”

The same girls have been in her cabin since the sixth grade—doing Cabin Time together, dancing during group games, and coming up with their cabin cheer. Knowing they would see the same friends at camp every summer allowed for some fun outfit pre-planning as well.

“Before coming to camp, we will buy matching swimsuits and rave outfits for at night, things like that,” Lulu explained.

The cabin mates often spent their downtimes on the banks of the Frio in their matching swim wear. “We lay out in the grass at the waterfront and just bring books or write letters. We enjoy each other’s company in silence,” said Lulu.

Those times of reflection, whether during Cabin Time or just sitting down by the Frio, led to the personal and spiritual growth Lulu experienced at camp. “Camp has made my relationship with the Lord more of a comfort to me,” she said. “I see God as my friend now … and I can put all my trust in Him.”

She also gave credit to the counselors at LLYC, who not only run the fun games and activities, but help facilitate those spiritual development opportunities. Counselors like Audrey Blair.

“She was my Cabin F counselor and changed my life,” said Lulu. “I was in middle school and didn’t feel very comfortable talking to adults about the stuff I had going on, but Audrey saw that in me and tried to love me. She let me talk to her about things I was struggling with, and I felt really heard.”

Audrey and Lulu formed a sweet bond as camper and counselor that summer. “Lulu had such a mature sense of humor for her age. She would leave me gasping for air with her one-liners and quick wit,” said Audrey. “And she was such a perceptive and observant kid.”

Lulu still remembers observing the way Audrey prayed, as if she was having a normal, everyday conversation with God. “She was the first person I had ever seen pray to God like she was just on a phone call with her friend,” recalled Lulu. “It really allowed me to become more comfortable with talking to God and confiding in Him.”

“She (Audrey) was the first person I had ever seen pray to God like she was just on a phone call with her friend.”

Lulu and Audrey loved seeing each other back at LLYC this year, with Audrey now working as a full-time associate for LLYC. “It’s really cool that she gets to be at camp again,” said Lulu. “She is someone I would still go to if I had anything going on in my life.”

Lulu plans on applying for the Crew program next summer. While she would love to be at Echo Valley again, she also sees the beauty of working at Singing Hills with the younger kids. “For a lot of them it’s their first year, and I think that’s really special to get to witness.” She may have experienced her own last first day as a camper, but now Lulu hopes she will have the opportunity to guide many other campers on their first days, just like her younger sister.

“I want to be part of it. It’s kind of sad, like I’m losing a little bit of my childhood. But also joyful, because hopefully I’ll get to give back to camp that has been giving to me for so long.”

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