Summer Camp Love

From “camp crush” to “I do,”
people have been falling in love at camp for years.

When Ted met Missy, it was 1967
at Laity Lodge Youth Camp.

“I was 10 and he walked up to me and introduced himself,” says Missy. “He was real polite and mannerly, and very sweet.”

The two became close friends over their camp years. They’d planned to stay that way, “more like brother and sister than romantic partners,” according to Missy. The friendship went on to college, when Ted platonically asked Missy to be his date to a social event for his fraternity (“Missy was my ‘safe date.’ Watch out if you think a date is safe!”). One day, when walking down San Antonio’s River Walk together, Ted says she gave a little squeeze of his hand, and ”something sparked. That was it.”

They got married a year later.

Ted and Missy aren’t the only ones who accidentally fell in love because of their time at camp. At least 75 couples have roots at LLYC with family trees that have grown in and out of the Frio River Canyon through the years. Today’s LLYC campers include many children of those couples, making them second-generation campers or staff, like Caleb and Sarah Wheeler.

“We didn’t know it at the time, but all the laughs and fun we had together drinking root beer in a ‘redneck hot tub’ in the back of a pickup truck started our lifelong friendship. She was always the girl I’d strategically plan to dance with whenever ‘Deep in the West’ came on as the last slow dance song of the night. 9+ years later, we are now very happily married in San Antonio!”

— BEN McSWEEN
“Myles and I met in 2015 [and] became good friends super fast … serving families together. It was the sweetest way to learn more about each other and watch our friendship grow. Now we are married, and the Canyon is still one of our favorite places on earth.”

— MEGAN AMADOR

Caleb and Sarah met as counselors in 2017
and began falling for each other in 2018.

In 2019, after a year of dating long-distance, Caleb was the Singing Hills guys’ director and Sarah was a work crew boss: the same jobs Caleb’s parents had when they met at LLYC. Caleb and Sarah got married just last year.

For Sarah, camp was always a place of honesty and connection. “It was the only place in the world where I felt like I could be totally free and totally myself,” she says, reflecting on her camper-staff tenure. “I could finally be honest and open up about things I had never talked about before.” Even though Caleb was only on staff, he felt the same.

“At that time of my life, I didn’t have a lot of direction,” he says, “but I found a lot of encouragement from so many people. And there were guys a little older than me I really looked up to. I felt really free.”

Sarah says, “It’s amazing to be with someone who understands such an important and formative part of your life.”

“My husband and I met at camp in the early nineties, got engaged at Antenna and just celebrated our 25th anniversary! Our three kids were also out there this summer.”

— JENNIFER RANDALL
“My husband, Bailey Smith, and I met during staff week the summer of 2016 when we were counselors at Echo Valley. We remained friends through the summer and started dating in January of 2017. We went back to camp and both worked that summer. Got engaged in 2018 and married in 2019! We’ve been married a little over 3 years and just welcomed a sweet baby boy in February!”

— BETH SMITH
“We were both in the all-camp photo taken at Echo Valley in 1998 but didn’t meet until 7 years later in the Echo kitchen! We got married in October 2006.”

— KIMBERLY HILL

Those formative moments are still
happening at camp.

LLYC Singing Hills Director Dayton Whites knows the power that shared experiences in the Canyon have in building relationships.

“We’re just a relational place,” he shrugs.

Dayton is the son of a camp couple and part of one himself. He met his wife, Rachel, in 2009 when she was an intern at LLYC, and they started dating in 2012. A year and a half later at the Singing Hills Rock Bridge, they got engaged at the same spot where Dayton first professed his feelings for her.

They married later that year and have spent most of their time since then still working in the Canyon. “I still tag along on his errands in the Canyon and he still asks me to take walks with him through the river,” Rachel says. “We still look for any excuse to be together, but it looks a bit different now.”

This year, they became parents to Danny Whites, a third-generation camper-to-be.

“You’re not a parent when you’re a counselor, but you can kinda see parenthood if you squint,” Dayton says. He and Rachel can already picture Danny as a camper—running around the cabins, jumping in the river, singing at Roundup, making friends with campers and counselors alike.

One day, years from now, Danny might even fall in love with someone at camp.

“When you live out here in close proximity with people who have such a strong common purpose, it’s bound to happen,” he says. He sees those couples differently than he used to. They’re not camp gossip for him as they are for many campers and summer staff. They’re people falling in love, and maybe starting their own Canyon love story just like his.

“When you see what this place has done for so many people and their relationships, how can you not cheer for them?”

“My wife, Klare, and I met at Laity Lodge Youth Camp during WC/PC 2011. Started dating after that and then got married on September 3, 2017. Ours is one of four marriages that came out of that same year of WC/PC!”

— COLTON TUCKER

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