The Days Are Just Packed!

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…and we wouldn’t have it any other way! Yesterday was a stellar Sunday at camp, with a lot of fun things packed in. We began with an extra hour of sleep in the morning, which is much needed after a fast-paced week. After Sunday breakfast and cabin cleaning, we gathered for church service. Because of the weather we met in the McGrady Gym, with the peaceful sound of rain falling on the roof.

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The 2022 DASH Crew. Back row served for the first half of the summer, and the front row just arrived at camp for the second half of the summer.

Before the service began, we took some time to recognize the DASH crew, who are the staff members in the “dash” between their camper and counselor years. They work for 5 weeks during the summer after their senior year of high school, in a mix of “behind the scenes” kitchen roles and activity teaching roles. Yesterday was the transition day between the first half of the summer DASH crew, and the second half. We said goodbye and thank you to Mace, Walter, Hayes, James, and Jack.

Yates had all five join him at the front, and shared how thankful he was for their service to the camp community, praised the growth in their leadership skills, and said he was proud that camp had been this step in their journey to manhood. Mitch was the staff mentor for this group, and also shared some words of gratitude, and hopes that they will return as counselors in the future. “You’ve left some tough shoes to fill,” Yates said.

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All 11 members of the 2022 DASH Crew, receiving their Challenge Coins before the church service.

Luckily, the five outgoing DASH guys are being replaced by an equally incredible group of young men: Griffin from Atlanta, GA, Miller from Charlotte, NC, Brooks from Memphis, TN, Mason from Philadelphia, PA, Jack from Little Rock, AR, and Jackson from Charlotte, NC. We’re excited to have these six guys for the remainder of the summer!

Finally, once all 11 DASH guys were at the front together, Yates gave them all a limited edition Challenge Coin that only former campers receive on staff. “You’re taking part in what we call the ‘Greatest Tradition’ here at camp,” he told them, “returning to pass on the legacy of Falling Creek as a staff member.” There are 19 cabin counselors this year who are also former campers in their first year as staff members, and they were welcomed up to receive their Challenge Coins as well. On the front of the coin it reads, “Your return lights the path for others as both your journeys continue.” Yates told the group that “life is breathed into camp when new people come, and we are grateful that 50% of our staff are brand new to camp every year. However we do want to celebrate the staff that return to give back to the community that we’re all so privileged to be a part of.”

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Matt, camp's chaplain, sharing a message for the day during church.

Matt, our camp chaplain, then began our church service. “The God who made everything thinks about you. He loves each of us and knows us. Church is a reminder of that - we’ll spend the next little bit here celebrating that,” he said. Counselor Jonathan Randles read Psalms 24:1-6, and we sang songs led by our Falling Creek band. Matt’s message for the day centered around “integrity,” the theme for this past week. “Integrity is telling yourself the truth while honesty is telling others the truth,” he said, encouraging us to be honest with ourselves and hold ourselves to a high standard, while giving thanks to God.

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Swim trials for the upcoming Ironman Triathlon also happened in the afternoon at the Upper Lake.

In the afternoon following ice cream sundaes, we had our weekly opportunities for Special Signups. Counselors could host activities and lessons that they may not otherwise teach during regular activity periods during the week. The swim trials for the annual Ironman Triathlon, happening next Sunday, also took place for those who wish to race. Dinner was a special occasion for boys and staff who have been coming to camp year after year - it was the annual “5-Year Dinner,” where those who have been to Falling Creek for 5 years or more enjoy a steak dinner in the Gym to show gratitude to their continued presence and dedication to the camp community. Collared shirts and tablecloths were brought out for the occasion, and everyone enjoyed looking through the photos of each other through the years, hanging all around the gym.

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Beau Bethea (Camper, CIT, 1984-89) spoke to the whole camp community after dinner.

However, there was a treat for the whole camp community after dinner when everyone came up to the Gym to hear our guest speaker, alumnus Beau Bethea. Beau was a camper and CIT (now our STEEL program) from 1984-1989. In 1996 he was commissioned as a Marine Corps Officer and went on to serve 23.5 years as an infantry officer on active duty. He and his wife Patty, a retired Coast Guard officer, have retired to Wilmington, NC and he now serves as the Operations Director for the NC Wildlife Habitat Foundation.

Beau spoke to the group about the value of the Falling Creek experience, and taking advantage of all that it could offer them. He shared how camp had personally shaped him, and how he drew on those lessons and friendships throughout his military career and still today. “My experiences at Falling Creek significantly enhanced my reliance on faith, brotherhood, training/preparation, leadership, and field craft, which are all so vital to succeeding as a Commissioned Officer and a leader of Marines,” Beau said. After his talk, there were dozens of eager boys flocked around Beau, eager to ask him questions and talk more with him.

Beau Bethea in 1988 winning his second Ironman in a row, shaking the hand of Skeet Keyes on the landsports field.

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The day ended with Campfire, which was our “society campfire” where we celebrate the community built here at camp. Yates gave a brief history of camp and recognized those who had been here for their first summer all the way up to 30+. The skits, one about a “ripple effect” and one about animals coming together to build a house, both emphasized the influence that everyone has, and the unique strengths that each individual brings to the community. We closed with candle lighting and Taps, finishing out another busy, exciting day at camp.