My Summer Camp Family

September 18, 2012

Thanks, Krista White, for sharing this summer story! Krista is a head counselor at Eagle's Nest Camp in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. Send your summer memory to

The moment that had the most impact for me this summer happened on my first day at camp. A group of five of us were starting a week of lifeguard training. Our instructor was a no-nonsense kind of guy, and we set straight to work. After basic introductions, it was down to the lake for the swim test. We spent the rest of the day doing laps, watching videos, and learning techniques. With about an hour left before dinner, we took a quick bathroom break before attempting to watch one last video. I took that chance to pull the cell phone that I had ignored all day out of my backpack and check if I had any messages. My only text message was from my husband — it read “Please call me as soon as you can.” I stepped outside to call him and that’s when he told me that my father-in-law had had a heart attack that morning at the finish line of a 10k race. My husband did not have much information other than that he had been defibrillated and taken in an ambulance to the ICU.

My knees gave way and I collapsed on the porch of the building in tears. When I got off the phone, not much explanation was needed as the entire class had seen my reaction and knew something big was wrong. I told them what had happened through sobs and felt like a trapped dear looking wildly around not really knowing what to do next. The lifeguard instructor started listing several percentages of heart attack survival rates in an attempt to reassure me, but it was the camp counselor who stepped forward and pulled me into a bear hug who did. This stranger who I had known for less than 24 hours was not afraid to hold me tight and hold me up until my world stopped spinning.

An hour later I was on the road to the hospital with my toothbrush and clean underwear packed. I realized later that I also brought with me the strength and compassion of my summer camp family. I spent some very scary days in the ICU with my family and I often found myself remembering that bear hug. I drew strength from the love and support I felt from my camp family who loved me even before they knew me. After a week sleeping in hospital chairs, my father-in-law was stable enough for me to return to camp — in time for all-staff orientation. It was a blessing for me after such a painful experience to be able to return to a place full of such loving and positive individuals. I truly believe that the best young people in the world work as summer camp counselors and I am privileged to get to work with them each summer.

Photo courtesy of Camp Robbinswold, Lilliwaup, Washington