Last summer, during our Younger Girls session at camp, an unfamiliar car came down the driveway. If you’ve ever been to camp, you know it’s unusual for someone to just stumble upon us. The driver explained that his family had been in Lexington for the weekend and his mom could not stop talking about this camp nearby that she went to as a child in the 1940s. Finally, they decided to get in the car and see if they could find Camp Alkulana.
As she stepped out of the car, Sarah Collier’s eyes lit up with recognition. “Those are MY cabins,” she said. And sure enough, they were. We toured the camp and she sat by the swimming hole for a time, recalling how she learned to swim there as a child. It was a most delightful time to see the memories come flooding back to her.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mrs. Collier later last fall to hear more about what originally brought her to camp and what it meant to her. Like many of our campers, she grew in a home where she was expected to be responsible for many of the chores at home. Both of her parents worked, so there was little time to be a kid. She did not have the privilege of play and free time.
And then one day, Mrs. Compton at Stockton Baptist Church sent her to camp Alkulana. She went to camp by train—a first for her. She had her first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich there. She swam in a freezing cold creek, participated in Bible study, performed skits with her cabin mates, and heard stories from her counselors. Her very favorite part of camp was the campfire every night before bed. She spoke of the sense of community that comes with singing songs around a campfire. She felt safe surrounded by the mountains and was encouraged by people who truly saw her significance and worth.
Though she only went to camp that one summer, the impact has lasted a lifetime. When she talks about camp, she beams. I asked her what she would tell a child who was considering attending camp this summer. She said she would tell them that they have to go. It would be a life-changing experience, unlike any other. Camp Alkulana, she agrees, creates a lifetime of knowing that you matter.
by Julie Agee
Julie has been coming to Alkulana since 1972, when she was 9 months old. Camp Alkulana is her favorite place in the world, and she returns with her own kids every summer. She loves watching her children fall in love with Alkulana.