Smoon, Lizzie and I arrived to Tecumseh bright and early to get ready for the CILTies. Signs and love tanks were hung, chapel slide shows were put together, activities were prepped and sleeping bags unpacked. We were ready.
And then just after lunch we were joined by Grace, Katie and Ellyn-- the rest of the counselor crew. Then the proverbial flood gates opened and over 90 of our closest CILT friends pulled into the LV parking lot.
There was a whole lot of screaming, running, jumping, hugging and smiling. We haven't seen most of these pals since this past summer but they've got such a chunk of our heart. Coming back together in the middle of December always feels like a dream.
The anticipation for this weekend has been growing for months. Once we're finally together we just don't want to let go. It's even better than the start of a new session of CILTs because we're all already friends with each other. We just jump right back in where we left off-- but we have such a greater appreciation for our friends now.
After welcoming everyone back and playing a couple games we split up in mixed-Session groups to try some different activities. We wrote new songs about camp...
set new jump rope records...
played "Do you remember?" with last year's overnight counselors...
and attempted to play 20 favorite camp games in 30 minutes.
Thanks to the ACT, choir and sports, more friends trickled in all day. When someone new was spotted in the parking lot a mob of people would race outside to attack them with hugs.
I got to introduce the CILT Pack to cups-- it's sweeping the nation.
We played the class Airport Waiting Game.
Then dressed up for Would You Be My Friend If I Wore This theme dinner. Friday night dinners are one of the best parts of the week in the summer so we have to include that fun in the reunion. Anything goes from cone heads to onesies and everything in between.
I love that color and fun and parties and singing and dancing and silliness are part of the camp culture. I think we can all agree that being boring is overrated. We don't want to save up the fun for some day-- today is worthy of a celebration and tomorrow will be too. My best friends have always been the people who value being crazy and weird and fun every day of the week.
For a whole week in October my school comes to Tecumseh for a field trip. The very best part of that week is arguably the Just Dance competition we have every night in Kampen. Tonight I introduced that competition to the CILTies. Session 1, 2 and 3 battled with individual and team points for each round.
Next we played a CILT Reunion classic-- the Newlywed game. Sessions split in half and answer questions like, "Who in your session is most likely to win a reality TV show? Who takes the most selfies? Name two people who didn't know each other before this summer who became best friends."
Then we bring the two halves of each session back together and see if they wrote down the same person for each answer. A match equals a point for that team.
Our next teams for Human Ladder were based on which cabin the CILTs lived in this past summer. In the words of Liz Koch, "Not many counselors get the opportunity to bring all of their different cabins together for one pictures. Thanks for the love. Thanks for the laughter. Thanks for the smiles. Thanks for the talks. Thanks for the presence. Thanks for 25 hours of reminding me why I do what I do and how to find joy in each and every minute. Proud of each and every one of you."
Lizzie and Abnaki
Todd and the Brova
Grace and Hopi
Sarah, Smooney, Ellyn and Choctaw
The rest of the night was filled with Human Ladder, ice-cream sundaes topped with baked oatmeal, a reunion video of the whole summer, devotions in Whitetail and being serenaded at the end of the night by Miss Ava Davisson.
One of my favorite parts of the CILT Reunions is letting the CILTs be in charge of chapel. I asked my friends Anna Fagin and Shreya if they would lead all of the music. I'd heard them play together this summer and was completely blown away. The girls figured out all the chords before this weekend and have been listening to the unfamiliar songs on Spotify to make sure they were ready.
They were phenomenal.
Chapel Set List:
When The Fight Calls
Oh Come Let Us Adore Him (Hillsong)
Camp has always been one of my very favorite places to sing worship songs. I grew up singing in the Green Cathedral and learned there what it meant to raise a joyful noise. Singing with these CILTs this weekend felt like coming back home again.
In lieu of a tradition chapel skit, I invited two more CILTs to share a part of their testimony. Kelsey and Viv are two of the most phenomenal teenagers I know. They both inspire me to be the best version of myself, to live with humility, to raise others up with encouragement and to choose positivity every single day.
The girls spoke about faith and joy. About leaving behind a legacy that points others to Christ. About living a life of gratitude and joyfulness. About focusing on the things that really matter. About not conforming to this world but setting our sights on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
We took the next hour to put our love in action by filling up Love Tanks for all of the kids and counselors that made it back to Tecumseh this weekend. We write these notes of encouragement and support every session, but this takes words of affirmation to a whole new level. Now you can write love tanks to friends from any session, the guys and girls, to all of the counselors. SO MUCH LOVE.
I love this practice because I know what happens to these brown paper bags. These CILTs will take these notes home and pin them up on their bulletin board or tape the bag or their wall or save them in their camp box for a day when they're feeling down. They'll hang on to these notes for years and keep reading the words again and again. We're giving them a physical reminder of why they are so loved and valuable and wanted.
The surprise blizzard was beautiful at camp, but it made travel complicated. Smooney's flights home were cancelled so she had to rent a car to drive all the way back to Pennsylvania. Smoon and Ellyn headed out early so she could get started on the long trip but it was sad to say good-bye. These are our people, our home team, our best friends.
One of camp's running media projects is "Humans of Tecumseh" modeled after the New York account. Kayla needed to profile a couple more kids this weekend and invited Stephy and Anna to be the next two kids on the project. Lucky for all of us, that meant we got to have a Kayla Bacon photo shoot out in the snow.
Soon everyone was out in the snow taking pictures-- a new backdrop compared to the green grass and trees of the summer.
It looks like we were all living inside a snow globe. Sometimes it snows at summer camp and when it does it feels a little bit like magic.
Each session got to perform their CILT cheer up on stage.
And we had more game before lunch.
It's true-- the CILT Reunion really is the best 25 hours of the year. I wouldn't have wanted to spend the last two days anywhere else.
Liz wrapped up the weekend with a final pep talk. She encouraged the CILTs to not let this be the end of their friendships, their faith, their joy. We must take action to keep being the best versions of ourselves for the rest of our lives. For many of these kids, this will be their last time at camp for a very long time, but they owe it to themselves to keep spreading the joy, hope, love and peace that they've found here. If there life at home doesn't change because of what they've experienced at camp than we're missing the mark.
This weekend was a dream. We get to experience things three times-- while we're anticipating them, when we're actually living them, and when we're reflecting back on them. This CILT Reunion was one that I could keep experiencing over and over again.
Thank you to all of the CILTies and counselors who made this weekend the greatest. I love you all more than you know. I believe that you are the people who will keep making the world around you a better place with your words, actions and attitude each and every day. I'm such a fan of you Team CILT.
But of course, my favorite photos of the weekend come from the incredibly talented Queen herself, Kayla Bacon:
"If I had to have anyone's hair in my face I'd want it to be yours."
"It feels like we're in an ad for Sperry boots and Patagonia."