I am Sara Gage, Camp Royall Director and on this Valentine’s Day I wanted to share some thoughts about something that I truly love – Camp Royall.
Our office is a buzz right now with preparations for another summer camp season. It’s hard to believe this will be the 40th camping season for the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Summer Camp Program. I often wonder if the amazing families that started this all back in 1972 ever imagined just where we would be today, serving 320+ summer campers and running year-round programs at our own camp facility. I am so proud to be a part of this program and am looking forward to my 15th summer at Camp Royall and all the adventures it will bring!
Let me tell you a little bit about Camp Royall from my perspective……anytime someone asks me about camp I have a lot to say, so make sure you have a couple of minutes to read this. The first thing I typically say is that Camp Royall is the best place on earth, it is my second home and it is truly magical. When I started as a counselor back in 1997, our first summer here at this wonderful facility called Camp Royall, I was a rising college senior who had no idea what she was going to do once she graduated with a degree in Psychology. I needed to get away from home for the summer and be out on my own; I considered several different options and by chance found a flier for Camp Royall on a bulletin board in the psych dept at school and decided to apply. I was hired and when I arrived I fell in love with camp instantly. The amazing campers, the diverse staff, the open-minded and accepting atmosphere, the service, the pure joy and enthusiasm, all of these things had me hooked after the first week. I spent the next ten weeks having the most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life. When that first summer was over I couldn’t imagine that I had to leave, that I wouldn’t be around these wonderful people anymore. I experienced the worst homesickness I ever had in my life (and I attended college 5 states away from where I grew up).
I found my life’s passion at camp that summer and I knew they would not be able to keep me away. And now here I am 14 years later with 14 summers worth of memories and experiences under my belt. I still feel the same way about Camp Royall as I did then. It’s the greatest place on earth! For proof, just take a look at our camp chronicle and you can catch a glimpse of what this amazing place is like.
At this particular time of year the excitement for camp really starts to build as we prepare for another summer camp season. It is a busy time to prepare for what is to come but it’s so gratifying because I know another summer at camp will bring so many new families to us and I will get to see many old friends as well. Registration time can be a very nerve-wracking time for families as well, for those that have been here before it is the nerves of getting into the lottery and whether they will get to tell their camper that they get to come back again. For the families who are new to us the nerves are a bit different. I can hear the anxiety when we talk on the phone about the thought of leaving their child for a week with complete and total strangers who couldn’t possibly understand or take care of their child at an outdoor summer camp. I actually cherish these phone calls and the opportunity to talk with these families. I enjoy helping them learn more about what we do here and encouraging them to take the leap and to let them know how well cared for their campers will be when they are here. It is a leap of faith for so many but we feel so happy to have the chance to serve these families every year.
I feel very fortunate to experience the joy and enthusiasm of our camp program all year-long now. In the past, I only used to get the buzz for camp during the summer camp season, but since we have been able to create some awesome new year-round programs like family camping and mini-camp my excitement lasts throughout the year. These programs provide our families with more opportunities for recreation and leisure all year-long, not to mention respite.
I told you I could talk about camp…..truly I couldn’t ask for a better or more fulfilling job, I am a lucky girl who gets to do work that I love. I hope your family can come visit camp sometime soon and see all that we have to offer. Also, remember that camp registration for this summer closes at midnight on February 21.
Call me any time if you want to take a tour or learn more about camp, I am always happy to chat about it!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Camp Royall Program Director
250 Bill Ash Road
Moncure, NC 27559