by Madelyn Smith
Madelyn served for several summers on the Camp Gravatt staff and is the youth director at St. John's Episcopal Church in Columbia.
Gravatt means a great deal to me as it does to so many, and I value the deep connection that exists within the Gravatt family, no matter how we've come to love the place and what it stands for.
I've always been told hindsight is 20/20, and that's no exception in the case of my experience at Gravatt. The more I reflect on my time on staff there, the more I'm compelled to give back to the place that gave me far more than my first summer paycheck.
As someone who had not been a Gravatt camper but first came to work as a Junior Counselor in 2007 - the one time peer pressure worked in my favor! - it didn't take me long to be captured by the Gravatt experience. Camp gave people the perfect combination of outdoor time, new friendships, spiritual growth, and the chance to exercise leadership skills we didn't know we had. And if I was having that much fun as a staff member, I could only imagine the added thrill of the campers' time there.
In the subsequent years of being a counselor and then on program staff, I only grew to cherish the experience more. Each summer I felt myself being stretched and fine-tuned as I learned more than I ever thought about service, community, time management, and caring for all ages of campers. Not to mention the cool other skills on the side - belaying, archery, building a solid fire, and the art of the last minute choreographed talent show dance.
The outdoor setting may not have had the most fancy schmancy amenities, but that's precisely what made it holy ground to me. In a time when screens are easy to come by, kids need a place like Gravatt where they can wholly unplug and connect to God in a beautiful outdoor playground and sanctuary.
So, I give to Gravatt to continue its mission of opportunity for campers and staff.
Kids need the opportunity to learn firsthand, as we on staff surely did, that serving and loving others is one of our most important calls on this earth. That friendships, like many of my cherished ones from camp, can be formed in the span of one week and last long after. That drinking lots of water is pretty important, especially in July in South Carolina. And that God is with them in the everyday moments, at camp and back at home.