Memories of a place that changed my life
Angela D. Nida
You will forever be in our hearts, and your legacy will live on through our lives. The world is truly a smaller place without you in it.
1 Taking a New
Chapter 2 A second round…
Chapter 3 Nit Pickin’…
Chapter 4 Holy Cheese Balls…
Chapter 5 The Third Time is Always a Charm?…
Chapter 6 The Best for Last…
Chapter 7 My Moment in Time…
Chapter 8 Work it baby Work it!…
Chapter 9 A Wake up Call…
Chapter 10 The Weeks to Come…
Chapter 11 Waxing the Floor…
Chapter 13 Where I was meant to be…
Chapter 14 My Worst Nightmare…
The Summer Staff of 1998
The Summer Staff of 1999
The Summer Staff of 2000
The Summer Staff of 2001
Year round Staff from 1998-2003
All the campers and volunteers 1999-2002
My fellow staff members of the 2002 Summer
All my true friends I made throughout the years you know who you are...
And Jessica Ryan Adkins for supporting me while I did this.
In this world we are all connected. The opportunities that we have are because someone else was there to give them to us, and for those people who come after us… because we gave them there’s. Each thing we do has an effect on someone whether it is big or small… and the gifts that come from that cannot be measured. Where I am in life is due to those who helped me along the way by giving me opportunities. I took advantage of all that was offered to me, and that made the difference. Those few people who decided to give me a break had no idea, I am sure, that I would grow as much as I did. To them... I owe a million thanks. You all know who you are!
There is a place in this world that connects people. It connects people in that they are all passionate about the same things. They all have the same goal at heart even if they all have different routes to get there. It is a place that connected me to people in a way that I cannot describe. It is a place that allowed me to be myself, without any fear of judgment. It let me think for myself. It gave me the courage to travel to someone’s house that was over 300 miles away only knowing what I saw of them at camp, but knowing they were attached to my soul, and could not be wrong. That place, which I hold so close to my heart, even though it has tested the love many times, is YMCA Camp Horseshoe.
Chapter 1 Taking a new
I found myself gasping this morning as I watched a group of campers almost drop the flag on the ground. I then began to wonder just how I got here to this moment in time. Pondering the idea I started to reflect upon my first days at horseshoe. It seems so hard to believe that it was over five years ago...
I guess to truly start from the beginning I would have to go back to a few weeks before my first camp. Angie Domico- Cox, my previous Hi-y Advisor and at that time my sisters hi-y advisor, called my house. “Hey Ang,” she said, “How would you like to go to Hi-Y Camp.” I replied, “me?” in a voice implying whom in the world would ask me to do something such a task. She then asked, “well, are you planning to be in Hi-Y next year?” and I told her honestly I wasn’t sure. Mrs. Domico- Cox, hereafter Mrs. D that is what I called her, mentioned that they were just looking for someone to go and represent our delegation, so I said, “OK.” Well as the weeks went on I started to get a bit nervous. I had never gone to a camp before and I was afraid of what it would be like. I had low self-esteem, and had no confidence what so ever. I truly wasn’t sure what to expect. I had taken an opportunity and was beginning to question how intelligent I was to do so.
The day it was time to go, my father and I got up at . It was a very foggy morning, the kind that you can barely see through, but turns out to be a beautiful day. We ate at our normal 79’er diner for breakfast and headed on up to horseshoe. We ended up getting lost, well not really lost, we ended up at the recreation area instead of horseshoe, but we found our way back. I remember walking into the lodge so scared, shaking, and seeing for the first time Lois, Coop, and at that time the program director Jeff. They all smiled and helped me through. They put me in a cabin, which I ended up in every year after that. We began our cabin orientation and I met my very first camp horseshoe counselors, Danielle Jackson and Coyne Bedford. Coyne worked in the kitchen. I, now having worked in the kitchen as an adult, have a better appreciation and understanding of why she stood on the rock with her eyes half shut that day. I remember after my first week in the kitchen, I stood in the exact same spot during orientation at a camp thinking… “This had to be how Coyne felt.” It was a definite awakening.
The odd thing is, looking back, everything seems so clear. The girls in my wing started mocking me the second my dad left. However, rather than returning to the shell I had made my own so many times back in Wirt County I just laughed along with them. They became my group at camp. They were who I was with the entire time, the Keyser gals. I owe them so much, because I opened up to them, which let me into a whole new world. They were my icebreaker to camp horseshoe.
I will admit it to
everyone now for the first time… my first year at camp I did have a “camp
relationship” with this guy from
About midweek I had a life altering moment. Everyone has asked me this story, and here it is on paper for all to see. I got my nickname Spiffy at that very camp on Wednesday morning. I woke up screaming “SPIFFY, SPIFFY” in my sleep and I looked around and what do I see. Here is my entire wing awake looking at me and giggling, apparently I had been screaming the name for quite some time. So the whole day they were all like “hey spiffy” and it just stuck after that. Coyne told me once that she didn’t really know my true name, that she thought it was Spiffy. Before I knew it Coop, Jeff, the rest of the staff at Horseshoe was referring to me as Spiffy. However, there was one person who to this day has never called me Spiffy. That is Lois, I don’t know why, but she has always called me Angie. That is the story of my nickname and when it occurred.
That week of my first camp was unforgettable. Our cabin had a big dramatic attack one night over people touching other people’s stuff. Danielle called us all in to one wing and set us down. Now let me paint you a picture. Imagine this girl, a woman who is no taller than 5 feet calling all these girls who were taller than her into the wing to reprimand them. She has to stand up on a bed just to see all of us, and her face is glowing bright red. There were several of us who didn’t really have a clue of what was going on, and then there was a few that definitely knew they were in trouble. She set us all down and started talking about how we were a cabin, and we all needed to work together and make the week great. Somewhere in between Coyne had walked in. (I don’t know how to describe Coyne to you but she looks like a hippie but her personality is the complete opposite.) Well after Danielle’s rip, and believe me she ripped us good. Coyne follows with “yeah guys, I just don’t feel the love in here.” I will never forget that line, because as soon as she was through the entire cabin gave her the hugest group hug. That was a moment right there that I will never forget.
We went on a hike up to Maxwell’s Run that year. We went all the way up to the meadow and camped out underneath the stars, little did I know this would be the first and last time I would ever be there to camp out but it was. It was my first over night expedition ever. My pals from Keyser plus a gal that I got really close to named “Emily Palmer” all stuck together. We sang so many songs that night, but about half way through the Keyser gals and I decided to go lay down, their names were Raphael and Nicki we were so close then. The stars were so bright that night. I cannot truly describe them to you except in it was one of those clear, crisp nights where the stars glowed so brightly you would get goose bumps just by looking at them. There were just little trickles of bright waves seeping down onto us, as we boundary broke. We bonded that night, and I will never forget them as long as I live.
If I had to say what was the first mile marker in coming to be who I am today it would be that week. I learned so much about myself, and the world. I didn’t come to believe in myself, yet I believed that I had the power to change my environment around me. Go figure that I would think I could change the world before I could change myself. I left there that year being more confident in going back to my community in that I had a voice even if I didn’t always use it. It was also the time that I first decided that one day I would work at camp horseshoe. I guess to be more specific I said, “I am going to be like that lady Lois some day.” I had experienced the “Horseshoe Magic” as I call it, and was hooked on it for life.
I went home with the convention high, and camp was all I talked about to everyone. I know without a doubt in my mind my family was so tired of hearing the stories, but there were so many good times I didn’t care. I did join Hi-Y and honestly do not think I would have done so if I hadn’t gone to camp. I was so always outspoken in our meetings. I am sure I got very annoying being so young compared to the officers and coming up with all these ideas. It was good for me though, and we started several new things. Bit by bit, Hi-y continued to help me to grow.
I went to many
more hi-y functions after that and they all altered my life in some form or
another. I went to fall conference, and learned about the “Judicial Program” at
YG. The other girls and I were so enthused about the idea we got home and I was
like we have to do that. We got together the first Judicial team
That was the moment I discovered another dream, something I couldn’t wait to do. The new Chief Justice for Youth in Government that year was Miss Bobbie Godbey. She was who first inspired me to be Chief Justice. She had so much poise and elegance, I looked up to her so much. When she gave me a compliment I was always running to my friends like “she said I did good.” She helped me believe that I could be an officer, and encouraged me to do so. I don’t know if I would have if it weren’t for her.
Chapter 2 The second round
Well, with another year passing it was time to go back to camp, and I was packed a week in advance I was so excited. We followed the same schedule as we did the first time I went to camp; I had made it my own tradition. I arrived at camp to rush through registration so I could see all of my friends, of course I made sure to speak to Lois, Coop, and Jeff, and then I practically ran down to my cabin. My counselors that year were Brandy Hipp (kitchen staff) and Stephanie Cooper. I dropped off my stuff and said a quick good-bye to my parents and ran to find my friends. The first person I ran into was a girl that I never really got to know my first year, but was undoubtedly excited to see. Her name, Elizabeth Rhodes, but “Izzy” is what we called her. We became good friends that year. It was another week of growth for me at horseshoe.
Cabin Orientation was held on the porch as always. Stephanie started by passing out a pixie stick to all of us, which I still have. I met a girl who has become one of my life long friends, Kara Love. She slept in the same wing as me. As well in my cabin was Shentel Ingram who was in the same cabin with me as the year before. We were all so excited to see each other that year. We all knew it was sure to be an exceptional week full of great memories.
My staff was interesting. Brandy was very religious, and read her Bible every night. I admired her so much for that. Stephanie, I thought was cool at first, but looking back she really took advantage of me. There was one point during free time when she said she needed to go out to the field to be with the campers but was so tired and needed so badly to lie down. She asked me to watch the cabin for her while she took a nap and to wake her up if any other staff member came in. I looked up to her a lot then, and I did so because I truly believed she needed me. I guess that is the beauty of hindsight; see all the things you could have avoided.
It was another
experience that I would never forget that year. It rained so we couldn’t spend
the night up at the meadow, however we did hike up one afternoon. We sang
singing in the rain and we got this guy who at first was “too cool” to do
anything to actually break his shell and have fun. His name was Brandon West.
He was hilarious, and I still see him every now and then. He opened up to
everyone and even participated in my counselor skit. Speaking of the counselor’s
skit we did something called the “counselor smash” where we made fun of each
and every summer staff that year. We had two
Chapter 3 Nit Pickin’
I will never forget my first experience at Youth Opportunity Camp let alone any other year after that. I remember pulling into horseshoe, and there was no staff around at all. It was so odd to hear horseshoe so quiet, but it was beautiful. The mist was just rising off the mountain. There was no one in sight, and then out of nowhere a vehicle pulls up. Inside is a girl named Laura Runkle; it was her first time volunteering, too. Her dad was a counselor with Mrs. D when she worked there, and he was known as the “Runk.” Laura and I got very close, I think because we had that first time experience bond. We walked down to the pavilion together for our volunteer meeting. I remember Brandy came with a bucket of Strawberries and shared as we learned about our tasks for the week. It was very interesting.
When we finally joined up with the rest of the group we had a bit more of training than what they do now. We sat down in the dining hall and watched the good lice video, the one that showed you real lice and nits on hair. Then we had our staff development. Erin Prosser did staff development that year, and I still have it, too. She gave us all tea bottles and told us to go fill it with rocks, dirt, and water. Then told us to look how messy it was. The point to her story was that we are all different people, but when we come together (after everything settled in the water.) We work very well together. Then we went and ate and went off to start our first day with the kids, or should I say my first day.
I was in a cabin with Stephanie Cooper and Courtney Grimes. I have already told you about Stephanie, but not about Courtney. Courtney was interesting. She loved the Indigo Girls, was really sporty, and once shaved her head. She was very nice, and goofy. I remember she was really good with the kids. She never wore underwear either, which made it quite interesting when it came time to change in the counselor’s quarters. That week we were in Cabin 2 with the oldest girls. We all worked very well together.
When the kids
finally arrived I started my growing process again. Courtney did the lice
checks behind the cabin, Stephanie signed up for activities and marked clothes,
and I took kids to the bathroom to start on treatment. I remember we called it
the “horseshoe salon” Laura and I both started on girls at , and she finished at
and I finished with a girl named Keila Dye from
That week made me who I am today. The kids made me be a better person, and showed me what I should be thankful for. I know without a doubt even though we were doing a lot for them, they do just as much for our hearts and minds. Being there that one week hooked me for life, and I knew without a doubt in the world that one day I would be a camp horseshoe counselor. It was my way of giving back to a place that gave me so much more.
Well word gets around fast at camp horseshoe, and they were up for one very big week. The final number was 175 and they were going to be short on staff, and Jeff asked me to stay another week, so I talked to my parents, and band director. The word was go right ahead. We had 16 tables in the dining hall, and volunteers had to set at the head. I was in Courtney and Fern’s cabin. Fern was the secretary that year, she was awesome, and she had been a camper at horseshoe since she was 8 years old, or that was what I was told anyways. We were excited to have a great week.
I was a Pro now, and was ready to go for our volunteer meeting. This time I met a girl who I was very good friend with up until this very summer, Leslie Shaffer.
She was the other volunteer in with us at in my cabin. We got along so well together, and she helped me out so much that week. The camp was flooded with so many kids it was almost impossible for one to know all of them. That was the most upsetting part for me I think, because the week before had about 80 kids and I knew everyone’s name. Overall though, the entire week made me a stronger person.
I have many
memories from that camp that stand out in my mind. One, a single girl who was
not in my cabin, but I became very close to. Her name was Kelly Sharp; she
My low for the summer came in the same week. All right, here goes some disclosure. The staff has to vent to survive, it’s an obvious thing, but for some odd reason the staff, all of them that year, just loved to vent to me. Of course, me not being as smart as I am now let them tell me all those gossipy details about these people around me. Well at one point it got to me so bad I had to vent to my dear friend Sharon Green. A counselor who had been there for me every year at camp, we were very close. She was pretty upset about people telling me the stuff they were. Well, I am not sure if she went to Jeff about it or what, but someone did, and it got back to the counselor who was venting to me the most, that’s horseshoe news travels very fast. She started treating me like crap in our activities together, everything. As a volunteer dealing with lice, pee laundry, kids, venting counselors, it was so hard to deal with a counselor mad at me, let alone the fact our cabin was getting special treats at night from someone. Well, Friday night I had just put a load of laundry in and walked around and that one counselor said something, and I am not even sure what she said, but it hurt pretty badly. So I lost it, my only time losing it at horseshoe. I sent my kids to my cabin with Courtney and set down on the bathroom step and cried. My once dear friend Leslie came around the corner saw me there, and she comforted me. She was so great. She helped me through that rough time.
To lighten the mood a little I am going to tell you a story that happened that week that I am sure few know. It all started when Fern and Jeff were coming around for rounds, and Fern of course being in our cabin was talking to us about our day setting on our floor when she noticed an abundance of maggots. Let me tell you there was a trail of white baby maggots from the door in the counselor’s quarters to the door in the lobby. It was one of the grossest things I had to deal with in my life. Well that night for some odd reason Courtney, Fern, and I stayed up talking and hoarding ourselves with food. It was about when we went to bed and Courtney and Fern were like “We have to pee.” Keep in mind back in those days most of the girl counselors peed behind the cabins rather than walk clear to the restrooms in the dark, creepy, animal filled woods. Well I hopped into bed and dozed off not putting my food away. The next thing I know I am awakened by Fern’s voice going, “ANGIE, ANGIE, get a light, do you hear that!” In a half conscious state, I started looking for my flashlight across the room in the dark. I then hear Courtney go “WHAT WAS THAT!” then you hear a Pringles can drop, Fern turns on a flashlight she found, Courtney jumped up on Fern’s back, Fern jumps because whatever had the Pringles can brushed by her leg, and Courtney then yells “ I just peed.” To explain the incident, when they left to go pee they left the cabin door open, a raccoon crawled in grabbed my Pringles can and on its way out ran into Courtney and Fern, it dropped the can as it zoomed by both of them scaring them almost to death because they feel something furry against there ankles, which resulted Courtney jumping on Ferns back and being so scared she peed. Keep in mind she was still on Fern’s back when she did so. There was one life, um, altering memory/ volunteer experience from horseshoe.
It was a good week over all. I will not lie in saying that it was, at that time, the hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life, but I did it. I survived, too. I grew a lot in that one week, and took back with me many life lessons, lessons about children, and about people. The staff did tell me that they thought I was an excellent volunteer and wished they had more volunteers like me. That was so nice, that really boosted my esteem. It was that last moment when Erin Prosser was walking to the pavilion for the staff meeting and gave me a hug and said, “Angie, thanks so much for volunteering, you are a great gal,” that I gained my true confidence at horseshoe. I knew that it would always be great there.
Chapter 4 Holy Cheese balls
Later on that year
I was invited to do something that would end up changing my life. I got a
letter from horseshoe inviting me to do Youth Action Council. I went and missed
a band competition to do so, and never regretted it once. I met so many great
people, and had so many great stories. Erin Bolyard stuck pixie sticks in
little Blair witch symbols all over our bed, and blamed it on Meghan Elkins. We
all thought that Meghan did it, but then we got home and had an email from
Again I went to the various hi-y activities at the state level. At fall conference I met Bobbie’s associate justices Nichole and Jill. I didn’t really know them then, but when we came to YG that year I got to them a bit better. They actually made me feel really good. Bobbie, Jill, and Nichole all were encouraging me to run for Chief Justice, and I was just like, “Wow, they think that I can do such a thing?!?” It made me feel good to think that they believed in me. I did run, but I didn’t get it. In all honesty I voted for the other girl, I thought she was more qualified for the job. I was still young, and I thought I needed more experience. Jennifer Stewart was the newly elected Chief Justice, but I applied to be her associate and got it. She and her other associate Brad Dixon became two of my very close friends. It was a year with a lot of growth.
On the local level
I had some disappointment. I ran for Vice President, and I didn’t get it. Of
Chapter 5 The third time is always a charm?
So here we are at my third year at camp. I bet you are thinking that it is going to be an even greater week ever right? Well, it was interesting, complicated, and just ups and downs. I was at the point at horseshoe that I actually wasn’t afraid to finally be confident, and well I was knocked down for it. My cabin counselors, they were a total twist to my previous years. It was a transition year all around. Jeff had “left” and there were barely any returning staff. My D- group counselor knocked me down “emotionally.” We were talking during boundary breaking, My D-group counselor that year pulled me a side afterwards and basically crushed all confidence I had in being myself at horseshoe for a long time. She told me and I quote “Spiffy I think you are being to overbearing with your opinions and making the others in the group afraid to speak their mind.” I second-guessed myself every minute after that and couldn’t figure out how my comment was making the others feel offended. It was somewhat upsetting, but I grew from it.
The greatest thing
that week was growing closer to Izzy and the other
the connection I have made with her
is so incredible I would be in debt to horseshoe forever if it was a measurable
thing. Meg was supposed to be in my cabin but something occurred that summer
and she couldn’t be there. At the talent show Brad Dixon and I sang a song, a
parody, to “
I applied to come back to YOC. I was so excited and sure I would be there because the staff the last year told me what a good job that I did. I bought so much stuff stickers and candy. Then I waited, and waited, and waited for a call. It never came; so then it was time for vacation. I went to my aunts and let horseshoe know the number I would be at, still no call. So it comes to the day before I was suppose to be there and I call up horseshoe and Lois told me that they didn’t need any help the first week I said “Alright, what about next week,” she said She wasn’t sure yet. I was so upset I cried, but got over it because there was still another week. It came time for the next week and still no phone call and I was just in total chaos, I called horseshoe and talked to Lois. Lois told me this time when they did the volunteer evaluation and the staff decided they didn’t want me to come back. I was crushed. I know I was short with Lois in saying good-bye even though I really appreciated her being honest with me, but I just had to get off the phone. I cried so hard, I called my mom and cried even more. I love YOC and the fact that they would rather not have me there was just tearing my heart out. I couldn’t understand some of the staff not liking me, but I was good with the kids, and I thought that was what’s most important. This knocked my confidence down another notch. This was the point when I developed a fear of horseshoe and whether or not the staff liked me or not. It was a bad summer for me at horseshoe and that devastated me.
On the entire state level I just was very reserved. Of course I was an associate justice so I was still out in front of everyone, but I just wasn’t as confident as before. It came time for YG and I was still a bit scared to be in front of people. Then it came time for elections, and all were encouraging me to run for Chief. I almost didn’t, but then for some reason I turned around and did. I just stood up and instead of preparing a speech like what was recommended I just spoke from the heart. I told people how I felt about the program and my work ethic. You know what, they voted for me too. I got it, and I was never more shocked, happy, wanted to cry out of movement in my life. They chose me to be their leader, to run a program they are involved with. I just couldn’t contain my happiness.
Chapter 6 The best for last
The summer was beginning and I had so much to do. It was my last year at camp horseshoe and it was just incredibly hard to deal with. I knew that all my friends would be there and that I was leaving a lot of my friends that were younger. I had picked one of my associates Erica Brannon who I had attended my first horseshoe camp with. She was an excellent associate, actually the only girl who ran against me at YG. It was a fantastic week. I went in with a positive attitude, and it worked out for me.
I had one of my greatest D-group leaders of all time that week Anne Schoolcraft. She says now that she was unprepared and wasn’t a very good one, but I know with previous experiences she was good. She kept the group in line and was such a facilitator always encouraging. I loved her to death. She took us through the low ropes course helping us build our bond so we could venture on to the next course. Our last trial was at the all mighty Mohawk Walk. Anne was not pushing us to complete the course but rather to attempt it. We did so, and we didn’t succeed in going through the entire course; however, we grew so much closer, and that was all do to our dear facilitator. Who knew that a year later I would be working with her at the same camp she helped me grow-up.
That year we went on the Garden Hike to camp out over night. It is a grueling 3.5-mile hike up the mountain and I was extremely excited, talking it up to all that was there. Well it started out with me in the front group with Meg, Jill (note Jill and Cara Gracie, two very awesome people, incredibly beautiful inside as well as out, sisters that changed my life.) We all were singing songs and having a blast, and as the trail ventured on, I got slower, and slower until I was in the middle of everyone but had no one around me. I was in the line gap for a long time. It wasn’t bad though, very peaceful walking through the woods by yourself. I remember gazing at how beautiful the sun broke through the trees to leave a thousand shadows to flow over my path. I got to the end, and wasn’t quite sure it was the end because I hadn’t seen people for about an hour. I broke through into the meadow and thought I was lost. At first I saw no one, and then saw someone up over the hill. I was so excited, even though I was extremely tired and sweaty, I ran to the top. When I got to its crest I dropped to my knees in exaltation. I had developed some lovely full heel covering blisters, got them doctored up and went to settle down with my pals.
Around Coop got the word out that the sun
was going to be setting for anyone who wanted to see it. The sight I viewed
that day is something right out of heaven. My
The next morning came so quickly, and I being the PRO, slept under my cover so I wouldn’t wake up with dew all over my face. I laughed so much hearing some of them complain about it. The hike down was excruciating for me as I still had the enormous blisters rubbed raw on my heals. Each step I took ended in agony, as I trailed the entire group and at times even Coop who followed. When we all finally arrived back at camp it was so late it was time to go in for breakfast, I left my stuff next to the dining hall like I was suppose to but left to go change my shoes. Now let me paint you a picture… my heels were so raw that I had started bleeding, my socks were soak not only from the creek we crossed to get back to camp, but by the blood oozing from my wound. The sandals I wore to breakfast was like heaven compared to the boots I hiked down the mountain in. I saw Lois a lot for help with that. She has always been my doc, not just for my physical wounds either. That’s why I owe her a lot. She is a very wise person, and I hope she finds her eternal happiness in this world.
The talent show that
year was, as always, incredible. So many acts, all on videotape, I am so
thankful for that. I have Meg’s “WHOOOPIE,” and several others that are just
unforgettable. The one that stands out in my mind most though is the one I was
so proud to be the organizer of. The “Senior Farewell” was for all the girl
seniors at camp, the ones we grew with all the years to get up as the very last
act and sing, “I Will Remember You.” Another moment made there that night, as
we all ventured up and the curtain pulled completely back for us all to fit.
Each of us rookies and veterans alike putting our arms around each other
letting the lyrics flow from our souls and hearts as we reminisced about the
many days at horseshoe that were about to come to an end. It was one of the
most petrifying thoughts of my life. The song was over and the curtain was
pulled as most of the seniors dispersed to hug another as the whole audience
was in tears; however, there was just two left behind the curtain in each
other’s arms. Meghan and I stood back there hugging each other as the tears
flowed like a river from our eyes; I believe there was one for every memory and
person that touched our lives there. Letting go of each other that night was
one of the hardest things I ever did, because I felt like I was partly letting
go of all those things at horseshoe, and my friend… Meg who has forever changed
my life. Through the whole show I laid on blankets with all my friends from
Leaving this last time was so much harder to do. As I packed I cried, but at least my last night I had my good pal Izzy, who had been with me since the beginning to share it with. We reminisced in my bed just chatting about the good times and the rough ones. The next morning saying goodbye to a place that molded me into this person I was now sort of proud to be, was so hard for me to do. So many faces I knew would fade from my memory because I would never see them again. I left a piece of my heart there that day, and knew that my life would never be the same without horseshoe.
With the coaxing of Meghan, I turned in my application for YOC. I am telling you it was one of the hardest things to do in my life. I was so scared of getting my heart torn out again, and for me to double guess the week over and over if they didn’t want me. But before I left I walked back into the office and handed them my application and walked out.
As the days grew nearer I was scared. When I hadn’t heard from them I started going into my shell and Meghan kept encouraging me and supporting me telling me things were going to be all right. Finally, she just outright asked the camp for me, well, the secretary at the time, and I had got invited back, but they hadn’t had the opportunity to inform me yet. I was so tremendously relieved.
When I went back I felt so happy, I was enthused in every single thing I did. The staff was excellent as well. Everyone was supportive, and the kids were great as always. When I left there that weekend I felt better about myself, and the past. It was a resolution for me, by getting to volunteer that one last time it was my way of letting go of the pain from the previous years.
It was the start
of my senior year, and my lasts. I had many others to come, and wasn’t ready
for any of them. My last fall conference, I had picked my other associate, but
only after taking many applications. It was announced to be Dollie Rollins. A
Chapter 7 My moment in Time
The time had come
for my very last Youth in Government ever. I actually drove myself that year
because we had the fundraising luncheon the day before YG and I had to be
there. The night before Jill and I went out and ate with Taylor and Joe, then
we shopped and got my hair cut. My cut was a drastic move, but I was happy with
it. Well the least I could say about that night was I think the whole
I was wanting to savor each and every moment at YG. I got up the next morning, and wanted to wear my new “white” suite. So here I am strutting my stuff walking down to the lobby in my sky blue blouse with my stylish suite and you can’t forget the sunglasses because they were definitely a necessity that morning. I entered the part with all the couches near registration and saw none other than the Ocean gang that I loved so much. Jennifer, Brad, Mrs. Davis and Jeff, they were all there to greet me. Brad even said I looked great! Which was really nice considering I used to have the biggest crush on him. They were a great day to start my morning, just seeing them all smile at me.
As the day went on
it got better and better, I was just ecstatic. I mingled a lot that morning since
I was already there and moved in. I met the
That was the day of the mock trial, and it certainly was twisted. First, to start the whole chaos moment my group from Wirt was missing. We waited as long as we could, but finally had to leave. This left me a little bit disoriented because I knew my group was normally responsible. Well, we got to Judge Stucky’s courtroom and we see Mary, Rachel, Jake, and Laura get out of this nice black car. As the car drove off we discovered it was none other than our Secretary of State Joe Manchin III. We laughed so incredibly hard about that moment. Then the trial was great in my opinion. I felt me talking about my dog just really got the jury’s heartstrings. Christy Fields blew me away, I was so proud of her job. At one point I wasn’t quite sure if she was really upset with me or if she was just joking. She told me before we started that she was a little competitive. Man was she, she scared me half to death on that witness stand. It was an unforgettable night though, and I will cherish it for all times.
The day of the cases was next, and in my black gown I went. I had so much fun on my cases, and would even try to help there sides out by giving them leading questions, or asking them to clarify something. I as well would play “devils advocate” when we were going to render our opinions. I hope the others had a good time, even if I had to wake a few up in the middle of my cases. I know I enjoyed every single minute of it.
The last day, and I couldn’t stand to think it was my last time, my last day. Every moment that day I tried my best to burn it into my mind. Then, it was time for my closing speech. I shook as I waited, and with each moment it seemed as if time started to stand still it was so slow. Finally, it was time for me to be escorted down, and when I saw all of my friends setting there in the balcony or in the house seats it just about broke my heart. I could feel my heart beating faster, and my face glowing red as my eyes felt like they were on fire as the tears started to roll up in them. With my trembling hands I unrolled my speech onto the podium and started my last words spoken in that room. Which each word I uttered I stared at the once strangers and now 4 years down the road, the people I called my friends. I was told “we can’t turn this into a sob fest Angie, your speech cannot be sad.” I finally said screw it and I saying good-bye to all in my speech. Once I got through the announcement of our new Chief Justice Dollie Rollins (which made me incredibly proud), the mandatory stuff of the courts findings and what not, I began to reflect upon my years there at Youth in Government. I spoke of the friendships made, and the educational benefits, and our families and advisors. I made it through all of that without crying. It was my very last word of my speech that got me all choked up. I remember glancing at my paper for the right amounts of money as I said, “Youth in Government 185 dollars, food and travel expenses 65 dollars…” and then I looked at Meghan. I couldn’t hold it in, but couldn’t let it out. I was trying so hard not to cry, as I started the last line “An unforgettable time with friends that will last a lifetime…” one single tear slipped down my face, my lips were quivering, and I knew I couldn’t stand there forever, that I had to finish, to get that one last word out of my mouth. So in a rattling voice I faintly spoke the word “Priceless,” and then the tears flowed, and when I opened my eyes, the sight I saw is forever in my heart. People were not only clapping, but were standing. I, Angie Nida, was getting a standing ovation, something I would have never thought I would get. I was so moved by the experience I cried even more, and could barely stand as I was still trembling so much. I set down and still they clapped, what a memory, what a moment that was. Just thinking about it makes me shake again, and my eyes tear up. I owe those 400 and sum people there that day something that is definitely priceless.
I couldn’t leave the house chambers no matter how hard I tried. We took the new and old officer pictures, and I couldn’t bear to step out. I just kept finding another reason not to exit; because I knew when I left that it would be gone. I knew as soon as I went out the doors it would never be the same again. I waited so long I actually missed the busses, and had to catch a ride with Joe back to the hotel, and set on Noah Cambell’s lap. What an experience that was. I almost cried as I watched the capitol fade behind the buildings as we drove away. It was so hard to leave.
I thought I had been through the hardest part of the day, but little did I know, I would be crying much more just by getting to the hotel. I went by Oceana’s room to say good-bye to Mrs. Davis and the rest of the gang. When I walked in, and Mrs. Davis embraced me in a bone crushing hug. She was crying, I was crying, and she told me that if I ever needed her she would be there for me, no matter what it was, even if I needed bail money. I laughed at that part, but was going to miss her so much. Then I got my Weir Hi-Y shirt, for free I might add for those people who have gotten them otherwise, and I am still not going to reveal my source. It was a great time, and I left indifferent, not really sad, because I knew if I wanted to see someone bad enough I would. It was great until I hit the deer on the way home in .
I had ended my hi-y experience in peace. I wasn’t depressed or overly happy that it was over. I just felt at peace, because in reflecting of all that I had accomplished through them I just felt good. The people I had met, listened to… like Rev. Matt J. Watts the guest speaker at ’99 Fall Conference. I will never forget his words:
“I live by 3 things, 1. Nothing is easy, 2. Life isn’t fair, and 3; there are no good excuses… It takes a lifetime to build character… and only one thing to erode it. Character is everything”
This place I almost never attended changed me forever. I had one last step before I completed my circle at horseshoe.
Chapter 8 Work it baby work it
I had one last dream, goal that I had set for myself to obtain from horseshoe and that was to be a staff member. I turned down my position with the bluecoats drum corps and I packed my stuff and headed for horseshoe. I was accepted to work kitchen first half because they were short handed there and when YOC came around I would be with the kids. I left the day after graduation. In fact, I got home about the morning I left because of our senior boat ride. I slept a few hours got up, loaded my car, kissed my parents good-bye, and took off for my first adult experience.
Freddie the program director for the year, who had previously been a counselor of mine, asked me to be there at to go out to eat with the staff. I arrived at horseshoe and you know what no one was around. They had already gone to dinner. So I set in my car because I had no clue even where I was staying to move my stuff in till about when they pulled up and he was like “oh.” He had forgot. I wasn’t angry, I was too happy to be there to be upset over a few hours lost. So I started my training for the week. I wasn’t expecting an easy ride, but man I will tell you that was one of the roughest jobs I have ever had. I scrubbed and scraped that week, and at the end of the day I ached to no end.
The whole staff stayed together that week and it was one of the most interesting weeks of my life. The 2002 summer staff included: Anne, Amy, Rebecca, Amanda, Margaret, Meghan H., Kim, Leslie, Charlie, Jon, Rich, and of course me plus the regular year round staff. During the evenings you could hear the whispering of Kim and Rebecca. If Kim wasn’t talking in her sleep she was snoring, and one night her and Amy Schoolcraft were alternating in their snores, and we were all about ready to hurt them, and then Anne leaned over and it was so funny. She pecked Amy on the shoulder and Amy woke up and said, “what?” and Anne said, “It’s alright Amy go back to sleep.” I got to bond with Meghan Holland, she was a very short little girl, who was older than me, and was an art major at WVU. We talked about art a lot. Rebecca and I didn’t really talk much at first but by the end of the summer we were good friends. Leslie the gal I was so happy to be working in the kitchen with seemed like her usual self. We had to come up with a staff introduction for the kids, and we did a parody to “I Will Survive” it was so great. The lyrics were:
At first I was afraid I was petrified,
To think that I could ever live without electricity
I spent so many nights setting around at home
Then I came to camp; I learned how to get along
So now we’re here, from everywhere
No more playing games its time to show we really care
I should have come around here sooner
Can’t all of you see?
If I had known just how horseshoe
Would end up changing me
So now come
Come in the door
Look around now
And don’t you fear no more
We’ll play games have fun
And build a campfire
Did you think I’d grumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and cry
Oh not I
I will survive
As long as I have friends around I know I’ll be all right
I’ve got all my life to live; I’ve got all my love to give
I will survive, I will survive hey hey.
There wasn’t a thing like it in this world. After we sang the song we would start down the line and scream our names and Rich would always just say his name in such a monotone voice.
Also during staff training we did the adventure course. That was a good part; I got to participate in it as well. Sometimes the kitchen staff didn’t always get to work with the other crew. When we were on the log we had to arrange ourselves from one end to the other in order of age without speaking. I was small so most people walked over me and I just huddle down and gripped the log the best I could. Well, at one point Rebecca was coming over me and she stepped on my hand, and didn’t know she was stepping on my hand. I was in agony but didn’t speak, and all of a sudden someone said, “you’re on her hand,” and Rebecca said, “Why didn’t you say something.” Freddie was the facilitator and replied for me, “She wasn’t allowed to speak” of course he was chuckling when he said it. We ended at the Mohawk walk, and we didn’t complete it. It was kind of sad for me considering that there has not been one time for me that I have been in a group that could complete it, but that didn’t matter. We were so close at the end of that. That’s the goal of the adventure course though, to bring groups closer together, and help them better work together.
week of training for me ended when we all went out together for dinner, this
time I got to attend. We all dressed up and David King took us to
Chapter 9 A Wake up call
Week 1, Free Enterprise, the schedules where out and adrenaline was flowing throughout the staff, and I was cooking. It wasn’t a terribly busy week; we only had 86 campers, which meant a pretty light workload in the kitchen compared to the rumored 160 campers planning to attend the next week Sr. Hi-Y camp. I was excited, and being in the kitchen was hard work, but it wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be.
the mornings, I would get up at
take my shower, and be in the kitchen at 7, well a little before if I wanted
something to eat. Nancy Dotson, one of
the year round staff that’s been there ever since I was a camper and longer,
cooked breakfast all days except Wednesdays. She always was pepped and ready to
go when the rest of us stumbled through the door still half asleep. She always
had a smile on her face. A lot of people considered her to be a “slave driver”
and at times I might have thought it, but once I got to know her I found her
philosophy was the same as mine. She once told me she knew that people said
that about her, but she was much older than most of the kids working there and
only expected them to work as hard as she did. I respect that, because when I
was president of
As for us “kitchen staff” we worked pretty well together. Kim was spunky; she didn’t take anything off anyone. Of course that didn’t always help her because there were moments when she took other’s personality quirks to heart when they were just being there regular old joking self. Leslie, well we had been pals for a few years, so we were happy to work together. Actually in the beginning she was jealous of Kim’s closeness to Betty, our main person in the kitchen. Soon though we all formed a bond, that didn’t always help us. In some ways it divided us, as staff, from the other counselors who were with the kids all day. I could write a book about the kitchen in itself we had so many occurrences in there.
That week we had several events. I had kids try to sneak out of my cabin and was waken up by Rich at trying to catch them. Rebecca got a tri-burn. By that I mean she had 3 different tan lines. One from her sports bra, one from her tank top, and one from her swim suite, we as caring coworkers administered aloe lotion to her at night. The week wasn’t perfect, but nothing is, it was still productive as it could be.
I got really sick half way through the week, and some not so healthy things were happening to my body so they sent me home. Leslie was going to be gone the first few days of the next week because of testing at WVU, and they needed me to run rocky, and be healthy. So I took off on Thursday evening and came home to the doctor. I got some medication and went back for one of the most trying times I ever faced at camp horseshoe. The week I was put to a test mentally and physically.
Week 2, Sr. Hi-Y Leadership Camp, the very camp that made me fall in love with horseshoe was starting, and I was excited because none of my pals that were still in the program knew I’d be there. As well Betty let me go down for cabin orientation. Mary Howell and Kara Love two of my very good pals were my campers, which in some ways were odd; I knew they’d listen to me if I had to reprimand them.
The kitchen was horrible that week. I hate to say it, but it was. Times had grown hard in there with tension between all of us. I basically was walking around singing to myself because it was the only thing I knew to do to keep myself from breaking down. Leslie had left the first half to go register, and like good friends do, Kim and I covered for her when she wanted to take an extra day off to spend it with her man. However, we were the only ones that knew that was why her stay was four days instead of 3 like all the other WVU students. Things were rough, but they we were making it until she came back. Then it all hit the fan.
The weeks before Leslie had been mad at me, but not at Kim. Kim took a no stand on the matter not getting into it on either side. Though this week when Leslie came back things were good for about 24 hours. Then Leslie took it upon herself to get angered at both of us. Now the difference between Kim and I is I am a rather pacifist person and she is a bit of a in your face person. Where I continued to take it, Kim decided to give it right back. No one ever did this to Leslie, so it made for some mighty fireworks in that kitchen. Yet no one seemed to care as long as the work was done.
It had been building, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted its explosion. It was right before dinner on Thursday night. We were setting down to eat as normal, Leslie had decided to set with us at the staff table in the back for the first time in a while. Kim bumped Leslie’s foot on accident she said, “I’m sorry” to her, and then I joked, “Sure Kim!” Well, for some reason that set Leslie off. She told me to “shut up,” Kim remarked, “she wasn’t even talking to you,” and I for the first time stood up for myself instead of being quiet and I said… “No.” Looking back it probably wasn’t the smartest thing I have ever done in my life, but at least I didn’t let her talk down to me one more time. She stood up and said, “You all play your stupid games, I hate you all, you #*$%&@!” She stormed out and didn’t come back till the next morning. Now this wasn’t what upset me so much, what truly had me ready to walk out the door came later.
I was completely wound up, shaking, and didn’t speak. That’s just what I do when I am upset, keeps me out of trouble that way. Then I was asked to run Rocky, the dishwasher, since I had knew how and had been doing so most of the week. Well, with all my extra energy I had no problem doing the dishes or pots and pans. Then I swept the kitchen and then mopped it. Betty thought it needed to be mopped again so I went to do it, and Kim grabbed the mop from my hands. I just needed to finish it because I am the type of person to either physically release her energy or cry. When Kim took the mop I just lost it then, I broke in front of all and started crying. Kim put the mop down and wrapped her arms around me. She then told me to take a walk and she would finish. I walked out to where we hang the mops and just cried. I kept thinking about how different it was, how it seemed as if no one cared.
Kim and I set down instead of going straight to the kids and had a strawberry bar, it was our treat for all the stuff we did during the day. Betty came in; she was down talking to Leslie. She told me that I needed to stop annoying her. That my singing bothered her and I knew it did. She then went into how Leslie’s had a rough life, and that we needed to give her a break. Kim and I both knew Betty had been played. Sure Leslie was kicked out of her house, but I am sure she didn’t know the truth. I won’t divulge it either because that just wouldn’t be right. I was so furious at this point I actually spoke up, and said how it wasn’t fair. That she gets babied for pulling the stunts she does.
It was extremely hurtful. I was ready to walk out the door and say goodbye to it all. This was upset me the most I think because I once cherished this place, and now was carrying such hatred for it. I set in my cabin and cried, and paced. I never understood how Leslie could do what she did time after time and they all asked how she was, and was so concerned with her. No one ever asked me after Leslie would cuss me out time and time again if I was okay. On top of that down deep I was somewhat jealous and confused why I could be qualified to be with the kids for Sr. Hi-Y plus went through staff training with the current summer staff and not get to work with the kids. Caitlin and Audrey, though I love them both dearly, were with the kids and were brought in for that week. Caitlin wasn’t even 18 yet, legal
age, but none of that hurt me as much as the whole Leslie situation. It just seemed as if no one cared as long as there wasn’t a disruption with the kids.
They all just assumed. I wrote home every single day the first half of that summer. I had so many frustrations in me I had to write to 3 people to get it all out. I always wrote to the same 3 too, Meghan, my music teacher, and my mother. I had my bags packed, and I was ready to leave, but it was the talent show night, and all my campers/ friends were like you got to see my act. So I decided to walk away and have a night of enjoyment. No one could take the enjoyment of watching my friends perform and say goodbye to this place, because it was in me, and no one knew what was in my head.
So up the hill I went with my blanket, I didn’t say a word to anyone. I put my blanket on the opposite side of the room where I had rested the year before with all my friends, where they were at that moment, so no one could yell at me for being with them. A girl asked to set with me on my blanket.
It was Alison Spiker, a named I had cheered in passing all week. She was a great gal. We all set and watched, and I took enjoyment and peace away that night. All of that, and no one knew all the fury and rage inside of me slipped away with each act, each laugh, each smile, and each tear. I owe the campers of that week more than they will ever know, because it was them that reminded me of why I came to work there in the first place. The magic, it was always the magic.
Chapter 10 The weeks to come…
At last it was time for Jr. Hi-Y, it was a week that I had only prayed to come. It was my last week in the kitchen and I didn’t hesitate to celebrate that either. Meghan was coming, one of my truest friends, but as anticipation grew for the week to end the heat was continuing to rise in the kitchen. My temper was getting harder to control, but I just kept imagining the next week with the kids, it was the only thing that kept me sane.
Talking to Kim that week she told me she was leaving, but not to tell anyone. She talked about many problems, those of which I will not disclose for they were mostly dealing with the people there. She told me she couldn’t deal with everything that went on and me leaving, because we kept each other going most days, I hated for her to do it, but I knew she’d be happier else where. She was going to take some summer school at college and spend time with her family. I know I couldn’t argue with that.
I was excited about the week with the kids in my cabin. One of my girls was Katy Love, a girl I never met, but knew a bit about. She was Kara’s little sister, I’ve been friends with her for 4
years and this was my first time meeting her little sis. My first reaction was, she looks nothing like Kara. The later reactions though came in the cabin when Anne and I would be working and I would hear the girls talking. I swear it sounded as if Kara was in the wing rather than Katy. It was interesting though watching her go through the week. They are so similar in their passions and they don’t even realize it.
as well had
for the kitchen, it was crazy for me. I was pulled a million directions, but I
didn’t mind. Among all my other duties I was going to training seminars with
the other half-staff people between meals. However, in the kitchen the
temperature was rising and not because of the ovens either. One day I was
pulling dishes to put away after breakfast and Leslie shoved me into the
serving counter and said “get the *#$% out of my way.” She did this in front of
Betty, Coop, and
Then there was the talent show. I was excited. Those kids even at such a young age had so much talent. It always amazes me to set back and watch them. It got to the end and Hannah and Emily (think that was her name) sang Amazing Grace. Well it just so happened that Meghan was setting near my group of kids with her group of kids. In fact we ended up beside each other, but truth be told it wasn’t intentional. Back to the main subject, there is a history with Meg and that song. I don’t think it is my place to say, but it hits deep for her every time she hears it. I put my arm around my friend I had seen less than 24 hrs and she put her head on my shoulder. She didn’t cry either. That was a break through, the first and it made me feel special that I could share that first moment with her. Little did I know I would get reprimanded for that moment later.
came and went, and it was time to have some fun. However, there was a rumor
that had to be addressed first. It was that they were going to send four staff
Chapter 11 Waxing the floor
night was a hard night for me. I had barely gotten to talk to Meghan, wasn’t
going to be with the kids, and was leaving the next day. So that night, Meg and
I stayed in what was going to be the empty cabin the next week, and did what we
called “rewaxing the floor.” If you’ve worked at
It was a “boundary breaking” night, again a horseshoe term. I viewed all her scrapbooks, from birth to graduation. We swapped stories, life changing events, heartbreaks, and daydreams. Several times we cried, laughed, smiled, and appreciated the long breath of silence. As much as I would love to share with you what we shared that night, well, it just wouldn’t be right to disclose that, because it isn’t just my heart, its hers as well. All and all we ended up staying up till in the morning, but neither of us cared. That night was a bonding night that made up for all the lost times and would keep us close the rest of the summer.
next day we were up at bright and early for showers and for me last minute
packing. We were completely exhausted from the night, but we didn’t mind too
much. The cave lake crew loaded their luggage and hugged our fellow staff, our
friends, then said a quick good-bye. We hopped in the vehicles and headed off
for a place that only one of us had been.
five hour drive was a head of us, I was setting shotgun and in the back seat
was Amy, Amanda, and TK. Now, for a little 411, I had somewhat of a crush on TK
from where we were in the same D-group last year. He held my hand most of the
way there, but nothing was ever said out loud, odd I know. We stopped in
We got there and unloaded. Us girls were set up a nice two bedroom trailer, it was like a four star hotel compared to the cabins at camp. However, poor TK was stuck out in the boonies with no electricity, no air conditioning, and a bed that was smaller than me. It had a beautiful view though. After we unloaded it was time to go find some food for the week, so off we went to Wal-mart. Don’t tell David King though, because we know how he hates that place.
went to eat at Arby’s; it was like play time for us. We enjoyed our meal
thoroughly and went off to Wal-Mart, but don’t tell David. We bought tons of
items; I think I bought as much money in non-food items, as
our way home we discovered many things. The first was the cave lake crew had
now decided we had a theme song, Jimmy Eat World’s “In the Middle.” Only
because it played every single time we did anything. The second was,
got back and hit the sack, Amy and Amanda slept in the bedrooms, and Nancy and
I were on the pullout in the living room. Of course most of the time
a quick note, from what I began to understand about
next day started out awesome. We cleaned 4 cabins that are the size of one of
horseshoe’s counselor quarters, and man were they dirty. Then we cleaned out
the sand trap that was polluted with weeds. We hoed, raked, shoveled, and
pulled, when we were finally finished we had our drunk neighbor for the time
being take our picture. I will never forget here he was with my digital, a
cigarette, and a cup of beer all in his arms when he took it. Then we ate
lunch, tore down an old trailer’s porch that some guy left. We raked the leaves
underneath after we tore, pulled, pounded, and yanked the boards apart. As for
the later part of the afternoon we swept the lake with canoes and picked up
trash. I saw a beautiful herring at the end of the lake. TK & I, my canoe
partner, rolled up underneath the bridge at the “Cave” of “
worked with the kids that week as well. The first camper at
There were several activities that we did with the kids.
We played kickball one night with them. We had a lot of fun, we took turns pitching for them or let them pitch if they wanted to, and we played until it was time for the kids to go eat dinner. A campfire also added to the nightlife, with songs echoing across the lake and “quack-dilly-oso” filling the air with laughter, we truly enjoyed our time with the children. As part of the week we held a couple of contests with prizes for the campers.
The first was a sand castle competition at the beach. We had a lot of fun doing that. Just setting back and watching the kids were amazing, they built things I could have never done and the imagination of them all just warmed the heart. The other competition we had was the to build a “Nature Boat” they had an allotted amount of time to find anything that is naturally found at the camp and build a boat. The kids came back with some of oddest unique boats we have ever seen, and though the wind was not working that day ever kid who participated received a prize and left with a smile. They made all the manual labor we did that week seem like a mere minute of the day.
One of the two biggest events of the week was found in the last part of it. The first was Thursday; we had worked all week on the backside of the dam to the lake. It was a gigantic, steep, piece of land that we were asked to weed-eat. TK and I are two stubborn people, and we came in Thursday for dinner after TK, Amy, Amanda, and I have been switching off the hill all day because the heat was unbearable. After dinner we were all talking about how we were going to be leaving on Sat. and how we had more than half the hill to do. Well, TK and I were bound and determined to get it done that evening, so we got a gallon of water two weed-eaters. We marched off to the hill and began a gruesome task. I got even more burnt by the sun and TK got darker, and we finished just after sunset.
However, we paused for one brief
moment to see the most gorgeous sunset I had ever seen over the lake. It was
even more breathe taking than the one on
The second, one of the campers that
was allergic to bees got stung, and her kids had no place to stay, so we the
About the next morning it was time to head back. Packing the night before, we got out of bed, cleaned our area, loaded our luggage and headed the 5-½ hour trip back to horseshoe. We really had missed our other coworkers and the place we called home for the summer. I really hated to leave that place, even though my muscles ached, and I was severely sunburned, it was one of the most memorable times of my life. Again, most of the Horseshoe memories I’ve made are held close to my heart.
Chapter 13 Where I was meant to be
We arrived back at horseshoe during the staff meeting, and waited since we were not apart of that week. When it was over, Meghan and I – since we had not truly got to see each other for a week, and missed each other extremely got together and decided we would head to my house for the weekend. On the way back we caught the movie “The Banger Sisters.” We had a joyful steak dinner with my parents, and a great friend got to experience a little part of my home. We got up bright and early the next morning to head back to Horseshoe; we got breakfast in Glenville, WV (where I attend school now), and continued on our way back. Meg was asleep when we arrived back at horseshoe. It was one of the cool “spring-like” mornings with a slight touch of fog in the area. The feel of the crisp air made me more excited, because it was the first week I was back with the kids. It was my time to be with them at Youth Opportunity Camp. A car pulled up as I was reviving Meghan from the long drive, and it turned out to be none other than Alison Spiker, that enthusiastic kid from Sr. Hi-Y Camp. I screamed Hello to her and ran and gave her a huge hug, and I became even more ecstatic when I discovered she was Amy and my volunteer for the week.
We had our staff development and started the beginning of the week. Gathering bed tags, rub-a-dub markers, and Nix we were ready for the new campers. I was with the oldest group that week. I thought then they were my favorite group, but as the summer went on I fell in love with all the ages. The kids started arriving, we checked heads, sent a few to the “salon” and Alison was our “Cross Country Laundry girl.” I swear she ran from laundry porch to laundry porch. I made sure that she knew how much we appreciated her hard work, because I know how trying the first day can be the first time you volunteer. She told me later how much she appreciated it. She as well mentioned how she was questioning her decision of volunteering about midnight that night when she was still doing laundry, but when she looked up to the stars and thought about the kids, she soon realized why. She is an amazing kid with wisdom beyond her years-she will be great in whatever she does.
The first kids started to arrive; it was a dream come true for me. It was all I had wanted since the first time I volunteered, and it was everything I needed after being turned down to volunteer in 1999. The kids that week were absolutely fabulous. There was one girl in particular that I thought hated me. She gave me a rough time but I didn’t give up on her. I kept working on her and after camp she wrote me and still does talking about how much I affected her life. That week the girls threw their counselors Amy Schoolcraft and I, a little party during cabin day, even though Fridays are their day as a cabin. It is the day that we create for them that is just for our cabin, and to have the most fun ever. We cried at the party because they played a song I had said was very dear to my heart during my music appreciation class that week. I will never forget those girls ever. They truly reawaked the inner child and old volunteer in me.
The 2nd week for me, YOC 3, was a complete turn around for me. I was now with the bucks. It was Anne Schoolcraft, Rebecca Perry, and I as the counselors. Our volunteers that week quit after the first day. It was hard, but it was one of my favorite weeks.
The bucks are the smallest kids, and they were absolutely adorable. Our volunteers came in and we as staff did all we could to make them feel welcome and understood. The whole staff even took time out of running to get kids laundry and so forth to setting with them explaining “how to’s” of things. For instance, we would stop to tell them how to operate the laundry machines. At one point they came up missing, and it’s very hectic when most of your staff is doing laundry and the “horseshoe salon” (Lice duty.) We continued our job because our job is the kids, and the volunteers came later. That night I was talking with my volunteer and I told her she needed to treat the kids as if they were her kids and she told me in a very cold voice “THEY AREN’T MY KIDS.” That made me really sad, and within the next day all the volunteers for that week were gone. It was a very sad day, and as a previous volunteer of the camp I felt very ashamed of them, because we were never like that.
The week with YOC III was incredible. Anne wasn’t there too much because she was the head lifeguard and was always at the pool. Our cabin was fool of character. We had a few problems here and there, but nothing so significant that we could not move on. The children really touched our hearts. They made us bracelets and necklaces, and filled our days with hugs and joy. Their giggles and smiles still echo in my mind. The smiles, and crazy things they pulled every day run through my head. They truly brightened our day
Chapter 14 My Worst Nightmare
It was time for YOC IV and we were moved to Cabin 4 the true buck cabin. As I still found this odd that most of the summer I had been with the bucks when it seemed as if the oldest were my group, I could have never asked for more fun. These kids were full of energy and joy. They came up with a little saying “I got a pickle, I got a pickle, I got a pickle, hey, hey, hey, hey” from the little rascals. It was because we mentioned once about how one of the girls reminded us of a kid of the movie. I will never forget those kids, the way they set in the cabin being so goofy.
It was the most trying week of the summer for me I think. I was very negligent one day. I will never forgive myself for it either. It was Wednesday, Olympic day, and it was the morning crew at the pool. My group was doing great, we had a lot of problems with moral but I made sure we cheered for each other no matter what. When I signed up for the crew I always double check my swimmer’s level. For some reason though I missed it, I didn’t double check one. One of my boys got into the pool, and advanced simmer group and almost drowned. I was first to the fence when I saw his head go under the water as I called the attention of the lifeguard inside. The next thing I knew one of the assistant lifeguards ran in and jumped in the pool then the on duty lifeguard jumped in, the kid was okay. He came out set down beside me coughing and breathing hard. The on duty lifeguard shouts “Counselors please double check your lists and make sure each kid is at the appropriate level.” I looked and the kid was a beginner. I never felt so horrible in my life. I just kept running through my mind what if. What if I hadn’t seen him? What if they didn’t get to him in time? Then I watched as the counselors looked and stared and whispered to one another. The crew from the upper rec. area came down and Sarah came running down and whispered to TK and pointed to me. I saw the whole thing. I felt so horrible as it was hearing them gossip about me made me feel even worse. It wasn’t something I ever wanted to broadcast. I held it together till our kids got back to the cabin to get ready for lunch. Then Anne and Rebecca saw something was wrong. They wrapped their arms around me as I cried and told them what happened. I cannot describe what its like, those kids are mine you know? When they are with me, they are mine, my responsibility, I don’t know if I could have gone on if that kid wouldn’t have made it. After lunch was over the kids were in siesta and Coop came by. I knew I deserved to get yelled at, but in the same I knew I was harder on myself then anyone could ever be. He came up to me and looked at me and said, “so what happened at the pool today?” I gave him a play by play, and he proceeded to ask me questions about what happened with the lifeguards and their actions and I told him. He then looked at me and looked away and said “You know what could have happened, right?” and with the only strength left in me I held in my tears and uttered the word “yes.” He said, “Okay, that is why we have swim tests and make swim lists, be more careful.” I told him how I knew, and how I felt, and how I always double check, and for some reason I just didn’t this time and inside I said to myself “I will never forgive you Angie.” It was the blackest day of my life I think. It’s one thing to have things done to me, but when a child is in my hands and I am negligent it is my fault.
I didn’t want to tell Meghan, but she repeatedly asked me what happened at the pool when we met that night in the showers. Yes, how we met and we would shower and talk about our day even though we weren’t suppose to. It wasn’t exclusive, but it was just our own way to survive. I told her and began to cry when Amanda showed up at the door and was like “Meghan, do you know anything about asthma” and she said “no, why?” Amanda then said, “I have a girl out here having an asthma attack and her medicine is up in the lodge locked. I ran outside and started talking to her immediately. I talked to the girl about breathing calmly like we were trained. Then I started giving her some of my breathing exercises in trumpet lessons to fill the lungs fool and deep but slowly, and about an hour later she was okay. Trembling I went back to the shower where Meghan was, and she was just staring at me. When I asked her what, she looked at me and said, “Spiff… I know today you almost lost a kid, but I think there was something meant to be about that, because tonight, a few minutes ago, you just saved that girl’s life.” I sort of smiled, and walked quietly back to my cabin gazing at the stars, not even turning my flashlight on. It was a different twist to the end of a strenuous life-altering day.
YOC IV came and went and then it was time for week V. Who knew the summer would go by so fast. It was the last week for most of us, and though part of us shouted with joy there were parts that cried as well. The volunteers that week included some previous staff, staff that was here when I was a camper including Bobbie Godbey.
I was wowed to be working with her mostly because I had such an amount of respect for her. Though I hadn’t seen her in years, I knew she was still that person I looked up to. There was a little boy in my music classes as well that was walking down after awards and screamed across camp, “HEY SPIFFY,” and I said “What?” He then proclaimed, “I’m going to be like you!” and confused I said “WHAT?” He then shouted, “I am going to grow up and be like you some day, teach music.” It was that moment I wanted to cry, that is what being a counselor is all about, effecting a child in such a way that will be with him forever.
It was a week full of great kids. So much laughter, and smiles, the memories will always be there. For the last week, and for the 3rd time in a row it was Anne, Rebecca, and I. Anne was still the head lifeguard for the week, and a couple of nights I helped her sweep out the pool house. We loved it all, and the kids just took the week to the next level. The girls taught us this little hand jive thing that was called “Ms. Sue.” We played it the whole week, and when Anne and I get together we still do it for old times sake. Bobbie paid me a compliment that week saying she thought I was doing good, and at one point I even went down to the kitchen and helped Betty out. In case I didn’t mention it, Leslie quit. So I went down long enough to fix up all of the dirty dishes and then I left. It was really hard to see the kids leave that week, because they were just really special and some of us just knew it was our last time ever being there. On Saturday we did the usual clean-up and then went and got ready for the staff banquet. We served our own food, ate, and cleaned up the dishes, then we moved on to the lodge. Freddie had been working on this “secret” slideshow witch I had been providing pictures for the whole summer. When we entered we set down and there were certain things left from campers over the summer on our chair. I set down and what was in my chair, Alison Spiker’s volunteer reflection. It almost made me cry when I read it out loud to my coworkers. Then we kicked back and watched our summer from beginning to end. We all cried at some point, seeing our kids, our friends, day in and day out, the summer had gone by fast.
A few hours later, we had all the cabins empty, and our cars packed. Hesitantly, we all got in our cars and waved goodbye to those we had barely left the whole summer. We cried and drove off, the sun beat down through the glass as we rounded the turns, and headed towards the town St. George, and then to Parsons, and then towards our homes. The summer was over, and our lives forever changed.
The Lesson Learned
Now horseshoe has always been labeled a place where you grow. I thought I had grown, as much as an individual as I could at horseshoe, little did I know that my world would be rocked again, and more lessons would be learned that the place I loved. With anything, there are two sides. For years, I only saw the student, camper and volunteer, side of Horseshoe. Now in many aspects, they are the same, but there are more politics involved in being paid personnel there. The main focus at horseshoe are the kids, and during camps don’t expect to have your problems addressed before the youth there. That wasn’t an easy adjustment, and I didn’t understand that concept in the moment, probably because I still thought of myself as one of the kids, but in hindsight, it all makes sense. I think that was the most significant thing I learned this summer.
I gave my life to horseshoe. Everyone that knew me throughout that program always told me I was a lifer. I was going to be the next Lois or Nancy they said. My heart was truly in horseshoe never leaving. Many nights I stayed awake thinking about what I could do to help them survive, to pay off their debts, and to get more money. I love the place the kids, and would have died working there.
I never believed in my life that horseshoe would not be a part of my life. Well, there was one point when I wasn’t allowed to volunteer that broke my heart, but I thought that moment had past. I really thought I would never feel that again. All I want for horseshoe is good, and I have worked my butt off for them. I believed I could have possibly worked there every summer, and if not at least volunteered until I was too old to keep up. I guess that isn’t an option anymore.
It is about the summer of 2003, and I was looking for an application for summer staff. Again I’ve heard nothing from them for months after asking repeatedly. I call them up and ask to speak to David King. Some Hi-Y’s have made some false allegations against me, and any one person who knows me, would know that they are completely flase. That didn’t matter though, it didn’t matter the heart, effort, love, time, dedication, compassion, I gave to that place, that I felt for that place. I was not going to be offered a summer position, because of this. My heart was once more on the ground, and as I cried to my mother for the second time that the only place I just loved betrayed me again, threw me out the door as if I never meant anything to any of them. My mom said I had to make a decision, and she was right.
I had to make a decision on if I was ever going to let this happen again. The more I thought about how I felt, about what has happened, and about if I could go through the pain of this again, I realized I couldn’t. I could not take my heart getting torn like this again, I know without any doubt that I could not handle it. So I made that decision, I will never again apply to work at horseshoe as staff or a volunteer. I decided that maybe it is time for me to move on. Otherwise I would grow very bitter about a place I still only want people to love.
Horseshoe was one of the best places I have ever been, it built me up to be a great person. However, It as well tore me down a few times, and made me weaker. I guess I am just a little too sensitive to it. I just thought I meant more to the people there. I know they mean a lot to me. Life is life though, and I will move on to the next camp, and the next place. There might be another horseshoe out there right?
The Unforgotten Journey:
Memories of a place that changed my life
This is a book about my journey that started off by accident and ended up being one of the best and worst experiences of my life. It taught me a lot about myself and the world, and gave me a very blunt view of how the world works even in the most seemingly perfect situations. not to mention the most glorious friendships I walked away with.