First impressions matter, and the staff of LLYC work hard on opening day to set the right tone for parents and especially campers.
Last year, Dayton Whites, director of Singing Hills ran opening day with a four-month-old assistant. He and Rachel had their first baby with them, Daniel, strapped to dad’s chest.
“Moments before families arrive, I’m directing staff— ‘Get this table set up over there. Get the music going over here,’” Dayton said. He dove into the work as well, actively helping build a pop-up tent, “and he’s hanging there with his arms and legs dangling.”
Throughout the preparation, staff reported in for their next task, pausing to tickle Danny’s feet or talk to him until he smiled. When parents began driving into “the Hills,” the staff showed just as much attention to every camper who ran up to them. This is why campers pledge #llycforever.
Nearly fifteen years ago, Dayton remembers being in their shoes on opening day. Staff wore shorts that said, “I dance like it’s my job because it is.”
“It truly is the people and the relationships at camp that make Laity Lodge [Youth Camp] what it is. The people I meet are what continually bring me back and I cannot wait to do it again!”
Opening day means reunion hugs, camper squeals, parents meeting counselors, dads with their toolboxes and bungee cords, moms making a camper’s bed look the best it will look the entire session.
Although there are some logistics to take care of, hospitality defines Opening Day for parents and campers—from check in to lice check, from clinic to kitchen, from unloading the car to final goodbyes.
“Hospitality is vastly, deeply important in our thought process and planning,” Dayton said. More than that even, he considers it a theological conviction.
When kids feel accepted and welcomed and loved at camp, they will learn that they are also accepted and welcomed and loved by the Lord.
“I’m most excited for the first Roundup of the summer because the energy is always unmatched and hearing the kids’ voices sing out and echo through the Canyon during worship literally gives me chills every time because it’s so sweet and powerful!” Gracyn Freiling
Also, there’s dancing and snow cones and swim tests and box fans being hung just so in the cabin to produce maximum air flow on the campers.
The fun of camp creates opportunities for connection between campers and staff, and ultimately campers and God.
Dayton said, “When opening day goes well, that means our staff meet kids right where they are and help them feel comfortable and at home.” They say, “Peace, mom and dad,” then start holding forth in the gaga ball pit. Other campers are nervous that this whole camp thing might be a giant mistake.
“It’s really fun to mark opening day as the beginning of the journey,” Dayton said. Then two weeks of Roundup and cabin time and counselor conversations, making new friends and reconnecting with old friends. “Watching where they are on day one and where they are on day 12, they seem like totally different kids.”
OPENING DAYS ACROSS