Many of you know that a large part of my formation as a Christian, as an Episcopalian, and as a priest came from participating in summer camp. In fact, I count my first camp experiences as seminal in my journey to the person I am today. I first went to camp at Camp McDowell in the Diocese of Alabama when I was in high school. A friend at church urged me to go. I had a great experience that summer. Then, when my family and I moved back to Georgia, I wanted to return to camp so badly, and another friend from church mentioned Honey Creek, which is where the majority of my camp experiences happened as a camper, a counselor, and even later as a priest leading the weekly program.

Needless to say, I have been so excited to introduce my own children to summer camp. Luckily, our diocesan camp and conference center, Camp Mikell, has a Mini-Camp for rising 1st and 2nd graders. It’s only a weekend-long camp and the campers have to bring a parent or grandparent with them for the weekend.

I didn’t even have to convince Tai to go to camp. Granted, my kids have been with me at week-long sessions at Camp Mikell when I did program staff a couple of years ago, so Tai was somewhat familiar with Camp Mikell. He and I loaded up the Jeep and made our way up to the mountains for a weekend filled with fun.

This also was special for me because it was the first time Tai and I have done something alone together. When you have 3 younger siblings, it’s hard to get the primary attention of a parent, so I wanted this to be a special weekend for “just us.”

And special it was. Camp Mikell is just a fantastic place. Tucked away in a mountain in Toccoa in northeast Georgia, Camp Mikell truly is a retreat. Everyone there is just wonderful, from Ken Struble, the director, to the camp staff, to the permanent staff, I’ve never met anyone at Mikell that wasn’t friendly, hospitable, and full of God’s love. The most impressive part of the whole camp program is the staff. They are college-aged young adults who have the right balance of silliness and seriousness. They are silly most of the time, but do a great job of getting the kids involved in the times where listening and quiet need to happen. They are all highly trained in CPR and lifeguarding, sexual misconduct prevention, and many other things needed to keep children safe. They are the pinnacle of a professional camp staff and I wouldn’t hesitate at all to let my kids stay there by themselves for a week.

Below are several of the things Tai and I did together at Camp Mikell.

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Tai is sporting his camp T-Shirt in the cabin.

We got to sing songs and dance!

We got to sing songs and dance!

During Program time, Tai got to trace his body and decorate himself.

During Program time, Tai got to trace his body and decorate himself.

We even got some rest time in the cabins.

We even got some rest time in the cabins.

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You can't have camp without WATERMELON!

We spent hours in the pool!

We spent hours in the pool!

See that crumb on Tai's chin? That was what was left of the s'mores we had at the bonfire.

See that crumb on Tai's lip? That was what was left of the s'mores we had at the bonfire.

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Lots of kids play 4 Square, but we invented our own game called "Gazebo Ball."

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Of course the Hiking Priest went hiking!

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We were happy campers! Literally!

Overall, I wouldn’t have traded that experience with Tai for the world. I’m so lucky that we get to go back to Camp Mikell later this summer! You may not know, but because camp was so formative to me, I like to “pay it forward” by serving on the program staff at a session. This year, I will be doing Junior Camp for rising 6th and 7th graders. This is one of my diocesan ministries that means so much to me and I love doing it. Also, it looks like I’ll be going to Mini-Camp for the next 7 years, as Tai has one more year to go, followed by Bronwyn attending for 2 years, then Liam, then Grey! I hope they all will want to go!

If you have a child or grandchild who wants to go to camp at Camp Mikell, here is the link to their website. They have camps for all ages of children. Also, I firmly believe that no child should ever not go to camp because of financial constraints, so scholarships are available both on the diocesan level and the parish level.

Here is the remaining schedule for Camp Mikell:

Youth Camp: June 8th-June 14th, Rising 10th-12th Graders; $415.00

Intermediate Camp: June 17th-June 23rd, Rising 8th and 9th Graders; $415.00

Performing Arts Camp: June 26th-July 2nd, Rising 4th-9th Graders; $440.00

Junior Camp: July 5th-July 11th, Rising 6th and 7th Graders; $415.00

Kid Camp 2: July 14th-July 19th, Rising 3rd-5th Graders; $395.00 (Note: Kid Camp is 6 days)

Work Camp: July 22nd-July 26th, Rising 10th Graders-Just Graduated; $285.00 (Note: Work Camp is 5 days)

Guest Camp: September 2nd-September 5th, Children, Adults, and Families of all Ages

OUTDOOR CAMPS:

Outdoor Youth: June 17th-June 23rd, Rising 10th Graders-Just Graduated; $415.00

Outdoor Intermediate: July 5th –July 11th, Rising 8th and 9th Graders; $415.00

Jeff+