By Olivia Tennefoss

In the steps I took as a camper, I shaped friends, I created a link that tied my life in Delaware to people from Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. It started my growth of personality ‘away from home.’ What I mean by this is that it forced the gears in my head to operate in an environment that was out of my comfort zone. Of course, I didn’t realize all of this back then– but I see the tie now. I interacted with people of different backgrounds, personalities, and ethnicities, and I can’t thank summer camp enough. I enjoyed digging into the daily grind. I enjoyed going through the daily grind. Getting up early (which usually makes me groan), playing carpet ball (a personal favorite), not actually sleeping during nesting time, and of course all the fun we have on Sunset Hill. Camp is a built structure set up in a way that makes everything flow cohesively. After my brother became a counselor, I knew that I wanted to be one too, not only because him being one made it extra cool, but because it made me realize that I could become one of these active people that I looked up to also.

I now have finished my first year of being a camp counselor, a junior camp counselor that is. When I heard the news that I could start being a camp counselor, I couldn’t ignore the feeling of ‘this is what I want to do’, and I believe that it is what God wanted me to do. So, I took many new steps in a life on the other side of camp. I’ll admit that I was nervous, and I know my parents were as well– It was going to be the longest I had ever been away from home! But I was welcomed with open arms and many familiar faces; I was with my camp family. That is one of the best ways to describe being on summer staff. You live with these people for more than a month, and sure you get paid, but it becomes so much more than than. You create memories and share your emotions with all of these people. You see each other having good days and bad days, good hair days and bad hair days. This was very intimidating for me at first, but it eventually gave me peace. An understanding settled in me that these people would get to know me. We created one of the truest forms of a family– through disagreements, weekend shenanigans, and interacting with our campers. It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but we made it through it all.

I wish I could describe the feeling you get when one of your campers runs up to you and gives you a big hug, just because they want to. Such a simple gesture can warm your heart, and perhaps that is just what you needed to push you through the day. I remember during one of the weeks the Bible teacher had instructed each of the cabins to come up with a skit or song displaying worship in times of praise, sorrow, joy, pain, and a few others. Some of the skits made your sides hurt from laughing, but some threatened to make tears fall. They held emotions that surprised me for the age range. The reason I bring up this story is because it illustrates the cord that plays between the counselors and the campers. The skit that showed worshiping in times of pain touched home with me. But, I had co-counselors and support staff behind my back. And as if that wasn’t enough, I had my campers. They comforted me in my time of need, and they showed love. That is why I had to tell this particular story. I could tell you a handful of stories of great times with my campers, but this is one that will be forever etched in my mind.

Counselors are there for campers, but sometimes campers are there for counselors. I’ve realized that it’s a growing experience for both sides. It is a time for steps to be taken and seeds to be planted. I don’t know what I would do without Laurelville and summer camp, but I do know that I can thank them for the steps and seeds.


Olivia Tennefoss is a summer camp counselor at Laurelville.


Registration is now open for Summer Camp, and if you’re interested in being a part of summer staff, you can click here for more information.  We’d love to have you be a part of Summer 2017!


Laurelville is a Christian Retreat Center in the Laurel Highlands in Southwestern Pennsylvania.