Many moons ago 124 teenagers came to Camp Tecumseh to be campers for their last summer. Together they formed Team CILT-- a community of friends that stayed in touch long after their closing campfire. It's been a year and a half since that summer but they've stayed connected through the annual Winter reunion, a facebook group where they pray for one another, a special Spring reunion, some of them worked together on Day Camp staff, text messages, Skype sessions, letters, and weekend visits.
During a conversation about this group with Ben Meyaard this past Fall we came to the conclusion that just because we've never had a reunion this much later isn't a good reason not to have one. One of the major parts of his job at camp is to help alumni to stay connected.
Team CILT is a group of young people that is working hard to stay connected and we thought we should give this a shot. The excitement was instantaneous and the sign-ups came rolling in. It was so cool for me to see that this reunion group was a mix of all three sessions, of kids that had come to every reunion and kids that were making this their first, of members of the Day Camp staff and those that haven't experienced that side of camp.
As friends arrive people run to their cars, tackle them in group hugs and scream with so much excitement they couldn't hold in even if they tried. At this point they know people from the other sessions well and get confused at who came to camp with who first.
So much of the weekend has a schedule and organized activities but I love these moments when they're all just hanging out, soaking up the fun of being together in real life, back in their favorite place in the world.
If anyone ever makes a documentary or TV series about summer camps they should use all of these kids as the cast. They are funny and quirky and smart and creative and loud and artistic and athletic and kind and competitive and sometimes quiet and leaders in so many ways. We have such an incredible mix of personalities but every single one of them is vital to this group.
They love camp. They love their friends. They love that when they're here they can be themselves. They love laughing so hard tears come out their eyes. They love that these people know so much about them and still love them without judgement.
We gathered together about 40 kids and 7 counselors-- the makings of a great weekend before we even began.
We did some mass introductions, played Where the Wind Blows, 4 on a couch and then had a Minute to Win It competition-- boys versus girls style.
Annie and Patrick faced off-- Fazzio success. Mags and Nick went crazy shaking out tic-tacs-- really close until the end but he scored a point for the boys.
Coll and Kyle both worked to be unicorns and received a point for each team. Michael beat Bee in unrolling the streamers.
Harder then it looked, the rubber-band shooting challenge was a victory for Maddie.
Craig and Katherine had to face off in sudden death and he quickly won.
We had to stack dice on the end of a tongue depressor.
Mary Claire was intense but Keegan's strategy to use his molars was clutch in his victory.
In the final two games Soaps and Shannon dominated with patience and lung control.
Team Girl was pretty excited about the win.
We played Family and Kaitlyn ended up being the ultimate Godfather.
Our theme for dinner was "If I weren't a Tecumseh CILT, something else I'd rather be..." Katherine's dressed up like her American Girl doll, Maddie was a superhero.
We had sleep McDonald's workers, nerds and Torchbearers, a minion and a baller...
Athletes, superheroes, Ralph Lauren models, three blind mice...
Kaitlyn dressed up like me and Craig portrayed Beef. Soaps, Katherine and Tina want to be Beef's adopted children.
After dinner they sang an extended version of the song. All of Shannon's lines about being a hipster were my favorite.
Being at these reunions with these people are my favorite times of the year. I love being with girls like Eileen and Annie that I've seen grow up since they were campers that have become great friends.
I'm so thankful for counselors like Arielle and Carolyn that are really some of my best friends that will show up to help me on weekends like this. I'm also really thankful for this fleece.
Colleen came to visit and brought along Mary Claire and Mack, the kids she's baby-sitting for a week. These kids were living the dream running around and getting attention from all of the CILTs. They played tag and catch and Mary Claire taught us how to smile. Oh, and Carolyn gave her special hot chocolate from her armpit.
I was so pumped to get to hang out with Shannon. We've been partners in Choctaw for two summers and she is such a huge part of camp for me. I love when we're in sync with each other and get to catch up.
One of the funniest parts of the weekend might have been our dance off. We split into three groups, had 40 minutes to come up with a dance and then perform. This group danced to "We Found Love" and their dance was not only entertaining and creative but the macarena background and zombie crawlers could not be matched.
We had a couple games of trivia and then our favorite Newlywed game part 2. Camp people love to talk about camp--reminiscing about memories and friends.
One of Soaps many talents is re-writing songs for Young Life and camp events. This reunions song was to "Just The Way You Are." I love how much these words resonate with us (and we don't have to go through the writing phase) and that we can share it with the rest of the CILTs that weren't able to make it this weekend.
In devotions tonight we talked about where we are in our walk with Christ, what holds us back or what encourages us and how we want to live a life worth of the calling. I loved writing the letters at Campaigners last week so we did the same thing and then talk with a couple friends. I'm always so moved by how vulnerable all of these kids are with each other. They way they're so honest with one another and are supportive and encouraging no matter what. God is alive and working in their lives even if we can't always feel it.
Every CILT reunion has one thing in common--late nights.
We go back to the cabin to write love tank notes, to talk, to share snacks, to sit in circles or pile onto bunk beds together.
We sit with our best friends and dress up in rompers.
We push ourselves to stay up together because we don't want to miss a second of being together. We've waited for this weekend for months and know we're right in the thick of it. These are the very best nights.
In the morning we wake up to "This Side" and then drag ourselves to breakfast. When the Indian Guides started doing their cheers we joined in and performed our CILT cheers from 2010.
Shannon played guitar for chapel, she's an official rock star, and we got to sing some of our favorite songs. Then we got to hear testimonies, stories of God working in people's lives, from Katherine, Eileen and Brenna. It was incredible hearing them share their heart with their friends. These girls all have seen Christ show up in their lives in different ways and they were so honest and vulnerable with this group. Faith has been such an important part of this group and the bond that continues to keep all of us connected.
For the first time ever we got to help with a thank-a-thon. Everyone wrote and decorated thank you cards for people who have donated to camp so that more kids will be able to have this experience.
I love that the excitement that we're together never really leaves.
We really love writing thank you notes.
Have you ever played fishbowl? It's one of my current favorite games because you can play it anywhere and it's always entertaining. Watching everyone shout out guesses and seeing people act everything out were my favorite parts.
Even when all of us were together it almost didn't feel real because it was just so great. I was telling Alli that during reunions I love the moments when I can stop thinking about what needs to happen next or cleaning up from the last game and just be really present. I love being with these young men and women that have formed this incredible family. I love when Zach tells us something he's been thinking about, when Emily chase makes everyone laugh, when Maddie gets really competitive, when Brenna is so genuine and wise, when the Wagner twins hang out together, when Claire is sarcastic, when Molls laughs so loud, when Craig is ridiculous, when I see people reach out to make new friends, when everyone listens with complete attention locked on Beef, when Sarah and Katherine laugh together, when Soaps tells a story, when Mary Claire and Maggie get really into singing songs. I love this group.
We were the only ones in the dining hall for lunch so we had our dance party--serenaded David with "Lovesick"...
Carolyn and I got to do our famous interpretive dancing to "Love Story"...
the girls rocked out to Justin Bieber...
We played the best two out of three of 4 on a couch team hair up versus hair down. Booyah team hair up. Then it was time to pack up and say good-bye.
Another hour of taking as many pictures as possible and hugging good-bye a couple times.
It was so good to be back with Beef and Shelby- we missed you Kaitlin!
I loved getting to see Gina (this was her first reunion) and Shannon (she flew her from PA).
I love getting to laugh in real life with Annie and Arielle, two of my very best friends.
The times goes by so fast but this weekend was such a blessing. I love these people and am so thankful for how they've impacted my life and the way I see camp.
Perhaps these moments are special because they're rare but I really wish they could happen all the time.
Grace McGill said it best, "My favorite times of the year are when our lives overlap." So grateful for this weekend with these friends.