Today, October 14th, is the birthday of the one and only Ellyn Hessong. The CAC Queen herself, the composer of E-L-L-Y-N the president of the Will Smith Fan Club is turning 23. It's a very big day.
In the summer of 2009 Ellyn checked into CILT Session 1 as a camper. Little did we know that in the year that followed we'd both start being part of Carmel Young Life, go church hopping every Sunday and slowly become a huge part of each other's lives.
In the summer of 2013 after being friends and co-workers at Tecumseh for years, Ellyn moved into Choctaw cabin for the first time. It was the start of a three year adventure, Sar and Ellyn and Choctaw. She's now been the reigning CAC Queen for two years and there are rumors that we'll both return in May for a fourth summer together. We've taken daily pics together for years, we fall asleep in bunk beds right beside each other and we always eat at the same table in the Party Room.
After all of that time together I count myself as somewhat of an Ellyn expert. (It goes two ways--she could also tell you every tiny detail of my life.) I know that every day Ellyn will get a letter from Jarn and an email from her mom MK. Ellyn sleeps with Mo, Jo, Fairbanks and Yoda every night and if you don't bring a stuffed animal to camp she'll make you wish you did. Ellyn once OD'd on Nerd Ropes, wrote a love story about Willy Wonka and eats candy literally right before she falls asleep. She doesn't believe undeniable things like the existence of cells but it's not worth arguing with her. Rugrats, Will Smith, Fresh Prince, Spongebob, IU and cold Sprite are all on her list of favorite things. She's had a FitBit for almost a year now and she claims it's the best thing that ever happened to her life. On Friday nights she get's chocolate milk for the whole table and always drinks my carton for me. Ellyn loves camp kids, especially the babies, and would drop anything to play with them. She gets the credit for nicknaming Joel as J which has stuck after all these years. Ellyn is from Carmel but she'd rather just tell you that she's from Indianapolis. Apples, tree nuts and bees are all on the very long list of things she's allergic to. She'll come pick up sticks with me in Main Field. Mellow Mushroom is the unofficial official pizza place of Camp Tecumseh reunions because of her. The rules of Rest Hour are sacred to her and she's taught all of camp that Rest Hour is the Best Hour. Her doctor once told her that being weird is a side effect of being awesome.
I'm so thankful for a friend that always has my back. When I was gone at Wyld Life camp at the start of the summer Ellyn unpacked all of my things from my car and moved them into Choctaw. Later when I was at Young Life camp an we were unexpectedly moved to Teton Ellyn packed up all my things again and moved them to our new cabin. Ellyn will catch me when I fall off of Ghost Cabin or bring me my raincoat if it starts raining mid-morning. When she's home on break she'll come visit me and my girls at Friendship Bracelet Club across town. She knows a Diet Coke will make my day. There's no doubt that she'll always stand up for me.
Ellyn loves people. When she started living with the CILTs three summers ago I was happily surprised at how invested she was in getting to know all 40 of the CILTs each Session. It would be easy for her to not be fully present and just learn most of their names. But Ellyn knows each of these kids so well that they would name her as the 5th CILT counselor. Every Saturday morning during check-out Ellyn is stationed in Kampen selling the DVDs of the week. Directors often comment how incredible it is to watch dozens of kids from both villages run up to hug or talk to Ellyn. In just a week she becomes friends with almost every person at this camp.
I'm not the only person that thinks Ellyn is a rock star. I asked some of her friends to share something that Ellyn has taught them...
"Persistence. Kindness no matter the circumstance. Appreciating the things about people that make them unique." Sarah Mooney
"That there is a designated pooping bathroom in the Longhouse and to not make it stink you follow the 'Plop, plop, flush' rule." -Julia Dewolf
"Ellyn has taught me how to be silly and cheerful every day. Her excitement never fails to make my day." Erin Williams
"Ellyn taught me to always be myself and not to care about what other people think and to find the positive in every situation. Also she taught me that sleep is good. Very good." -Erin Smith
"It's okay to be yourself and act weird and silly even if other people may judge you for it because their opinion doesn't matter." -Jill Pars
"She taught me the importance of being yourself and showing love and compassion to others. She also taught me the value of candy." -Alli Kenney
"Ellyn has taught me to choose joy. Every day she is so enthusiastic, playful and joyful." -Megan Happ
"Ellyn came into my life right when I needed her. I was having a tough time in HS with friends and Ellyn taught me that it was okay to be myself in every situation and that being able to laugh things off is the key to happiness. If not for Ellyn in the pivotal moments in my life, I'm not sure I would be the carefree person I am today!" -Haley Keefer
"How to be weird and how to accept everyone as they are." -Claire Smedley
"Laughter is the best medicine." -Rachel Yuska
"She's taught me to simply enjoy life. Ellyn could be stuck inside of an airplane over-head compartment for an hour and after twenty seconds in the compartment the passengers would be singing along with the theme song to The Fresh Prince. Ellyn has taught me to be comfortable in any situation by forcing me to be in uncomfortable situations." -Alex Allison
"THE REVOLUTIONARY SHAVER FROM TARGET" -Riley Meyer
"Sweatbands, windbreakers and Will Smith shirts are true fashion statements." -Devon Kennedy
"Different kinds of poop. Especially ghost poop." -Hannah Hutchison
"She has taught me to always look at the glass half full with a smile and childlike personality when facing any situation." -Liz Koch
"Everyone has something unique about them, laughter can lighten any situation and general positivity." -Gretta Preston
"Don't eat 17 Nerd Ropes at one time." -Kelly Wentland
"Ellyn has taught me to be excited about everything and to always give over a 100% no matter what you are doing!! She inspires me to live life to it's fullest everyday! She was so excited about her first OD for OE and she told me she was going to get everything done on the list of tasks that were listed. She has such a sweet sincere spirit! I love that girl! I am so blessed by her daily hug! I send her off encouraging her to let her Light SHINE!!!" -Mama Kat
"Ellyn has taught me not to worry so much. Laugh in any situation! She is the most fun to be around. Love her." -Rachel Allison
"She taught me how to braid!!!" -Alice Scannell
"How to be funny, to care for others, to believe and love in things with all my heart. She is the funniest person I have ever met." -Olivia Kinsella
"She taught me how to live life true to myself with loads of laughter. She has also taught me that Nerd Ropes are in fact the best candy around." -Kevyn Cutler
"That being yourself is always the best thing to do. And it's okay if people don't accept the real you." -Margot Deely
"Ellyn taught me to be aggressive and guard the paint in the craft closet, to never take life too seriously and that to get on rides for free just wear some corn rows and you're good." -Diggy
"Ellyn has taught me to be true to yourself... no matter what someone may think of you. Stand up for others and your beliefs." -MK Hessong (aka Ellyn's mom)
"Arnold Palmer has taught me that when you are 100% authentic and yourself all the time, people will love you even more. And how to make a bookmark/bracelet out of straw and yarn." -Molly Henry
"Be the best that you can be." -Erin Dickett
"She taught me that Nerd Ropes and rest hour can fix anything. And that having a great spunky attitude is so infectious. She's one of a kind." -Chrissy Crowe
"It's okay to be silly, to tell people like it is and that it's important to love people in that big way that she innately does." -Kaya Mernitz
"Don't eat 17 Nerd Ropes or you might black out from sugar intake. But really, be yourself because fitting in is boring." -Maggie Kroeff
"SQUATTY POTTY IS A LIFE CHANGING MIRACLE."-Izzy Ruff
"Being yourself can be hilarious and awesome at the same time. The easy answer to "What fabric do you wish you could fart?" is denim." -Lauren Lombard
"She taught me to be creative with everything I do." -Dan Wetzel
"Give your time to people without restraint. She is always doing this-- giving time out of busy days to talk to campers or friends who need her. She never complains even though everyone knows she has a million things to do. Her priority is always to listen when someone wants to talk." -Maggie Shadid
"Ellyn teaches me how to see the good in every person and the joy in every moment." -Jamie ZJ
"No matter the situation, you should always have a great attitude and a smile on your face." -Rachel Wilson
"Farting in public is acceptable and to always be 100% myself." -Nikki Lanigan Jones
"She taught me that life is way more fun when you aren't afraid to be yourself." -Kiley Wendt
"Ellyn has taught me the importance of remembering names, sharing experiences, that being weird is always the best option and what it means to be an intentional friend and counselor. Ugh I love her." -Erin O'Awesome
"You can find a way to laugh in even the most boring of situations and dancing like a crazy person in chapel in cool." -Rachel Kent
"How to be silly, how to love those kids and how to work hard at your job while having the most fun." -Michelle Mooney
"She taught me to do a cartwheel." -Julia Plant
"She led my favorite devotion of all time when she was my day camp counselor in a resident cabin. I've never forgotten it." -Emma Flynn
"The Western toilet is designed purely for comfort and style." -Sofia Rhode
"It is possible to make every person I interact with feel like the most valuable and loved individual. She reminds me that life is about enjoyment and adventure and laughing hard and to not get tied down by how others view me." -Arielle Brosman
"She taught me to be myself and to love who I am." -Lauren Johnson
"Ellyn is my biggest role model because she's taught me how to be the best me I can. She has this energy that pours of her and it's like a magnet. I don't know if she even realizes it and that's what makes it so powerful. That's how I want to live." -Soaps
Ellyn you are so, so loved. Thank you for being you and making this world a better and brighter place. I hope today is better than riding all the rides at Indiana Beach for free, breaking your FitBit record and having Claire Smedley braid your hair.