What's Camp Like For Counselors? : Riley's Story

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Ever wonder what the camp experience is like for counselors? Here's a look at Riley's story, from staff orientation through closing day.

Riley McIntosh has molded his life around other people, thriving off community and building meaningful relationships. As a young adult, Riley strives to enrich his life with experience, memories and connections everyday. In 2021, Riley had graduated University and began working a typical 9-5 job, he found himself staring down a life spent looking at computer screens and managing endless spreadsheets, coupled with long commutes and utter dissatisfaction with his job.

Riley felt he needed something more.

Riley signed up for Camp America, where Falling Creek Camp approached him with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Within a month Riley was on a plane to travel 8,300 miles from New Zealand for a summer in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tuxedo, North Carolina. In his role as a cabin counselor Riley guided his boys through the FCC code and taught the art of sailing as an activity.

“It doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with, how much money you are making, if you wake up in the morning and you are happy doing what you are doing, that’s the key to life I feel.” Riley said. “And that’s what I feel like for me Falling Creek Camp is.”

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Vibrant hiking backpacks were not yet hung on the porch and stickered trunks were not yet pushed under the bunks after the arrival of two-week campers.

Vibrant hiking backpacks were not yet hung on the porch and stickered trunks were not yet pushed under the bunks after the arrival of two-week campers. The burly New Zealander sat cross-legged on the wooden floorboards of Cabin 19 as eight ten year olds circled him trying to pay attention. One was chewing his hat and another staring off into the ceiling. Full of energy, Riley established expectations for his campers asking each one to provide a rule that the cabin would abide by.

Riley’s main rule was the “Rock Mentality.” He held up a photograph of Dwayne Johnson. Riley said that the reason that the Rock is the person who he is known for is because he has a foundation for taking care of himself like brushing his teeth, showering, eating properly, and working out. He passed around the list for the boys to scribble their signature indicating that they agreed to live by those rules in the cabin.

When the sonorous ring of the morning bell vibrated across the lake and reverberated around the mountainous bowl at 7:30 a.m., Riley made sure he was first one up setting an example, making his bed and starting his chores. He helped the boys build a routine mixed with lessons on how to properly clean a toilet after themselves to fun teeth brushing parties throughout the cabin.

Riley signed his cabin up for a sailing adventure together. The wind conditions were perfect. Dozens of sails dotted the horizon line. The boys lined up in their sun-faded red PFDs as he showed them how to rig a Pico sailboat on the dock of Lake Summit, a postcard-esque man-made lake with calm, bath warm waters, sunny skies, and swaying trees along the mountain backdrop.

The boys separated into pairs and learned to navigate the boys by trial and error. “It was so much fun to see the smiles and even the fear in kids. These kids are making memories and relationships that’ll hopefully last a lifetime, and you’re an instrumental part of that.

Having the privilege to introduce, teach and develop lifelong passions is an aspect of my job that absolutely fills my heart with pride” Riley said.

“You are talking to and interacting with these boys like the men that you want them to become,” Riley said. “At that age, you have such a surreal impact on the pathways of these boys’ journeys that you can make pretty epic changes to the men these boys become.”

There was a soft spoken boy with brown eyes that were filled with tears after reading a letter from his parents. He desperately missed home and did not know how to process his emotions. Riley poured his energy into keeping the boy occupied at camp. While the campers were getting ready for bed and Riley was hurriedly moving about the cabin ensuring that each boy got ready for bed, he took an extra moment to connect with the boy.

He scooped up a teal Manchester City jersey out of his trunk with excitement and said that the boy should wear it the next day, teasing that Riley would wear his Liverpool jersey too. Riley invested little moments like these throughout the session to help the boy work out his homesickness.

Riley watched as all his boys became more sure of themselves at camp.

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“What is a really invaluable thing about being a camp counselor in Falling Creek is that I know I am going to be a better dad because of it,” Riley said. “In terms of job perks, that’s a pretty immeasurable perk.”

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Interested in experiencing camp for yourself as a Falling Creek Camp counselor? 2023 summer staff applications will open soon! In the meantime, please or give us a call at (828) 692-0262. We’d love to get the the conversation started!

Looking for other stories from the staff perspective? Check out Reid’s story here, or more staff stories here!