As a proud product of the Hilliard City School District, I first came to Camp Joy the fall of my junior year of high school. That was way back in 1991. It was then that I signed up to be a high school chaperone for the sixth-grade groups that went to Camp Joy for a three-day program outdoor education program. I had a blast. I got to help on the ropes course, be a conductor on the underground railroad, and learn that I loved camp. That was just the introduction though. During college, I started working with an organization that brought kids with asthma to a week of summer camp, Camp A-OK; eventually we ended up at Camp Joy. Also, while in college, some friends and I started an experiential, leadership retreat; it took place at Camp Joy. You could say that a pattern was emerging and that I was setting the stage for something.
After graduating from college in 1997, I was hired to work summer camp for what I anticipated to be one summer before I started graduate school. That summer—it was the ‘Summer of Song’—I was the boy’s unit leader. I loved every minute. I loved working with other young adults who wanted to make a difference in the lives of inner city kids from Cincinnati. I loved working outside where camp fires and night hikes were normal. I loved that it seemed to fit who I was. You see, I had five majors in college. I wanted to be a teacher, a social worker, a psychologist, you name it I explored it as an option. But that first summer at Camp Joy I found a place where I fit and that fit me.
It was in the midst of preparing for that summer that I learned Camp Joy was a place I could work all the time. It was during summer camp staff training that I learned about the Outdoor School Program and a potential full-time career. I applied, was interviewed (while putting together the soccer goals), and was offered a job—a full time job working at Camp Joy, teaching kids, and helping them develop as leaders!
As I mentioned, my career path as not necessarily a linear one while in college (that five majors in four years thing). However, often times when asked what I thought I might like to do upon graduation, I would always joke that I just wanted to grow up and be a camp counselor. So, it probably isn’t a big surprise that I took the job. I loved teaching outdoor education, but what I loved even more was the leadership development stuff that happened with high school and college groups. I eventually became the Student Leadership Coordinator. It was during one of those student leadership groups that I met a girl. That story is a long one, but the best part is the end. That’s right—I met my wife at Camp Joy.
I eventually left Camp Joy for graduate school. It was during that time that I began the process to become a United Methodist Minister. I still work with young people, but instead of doing it at Camp Joy I do it as a campus minister at the University of Cincinnati. And interestingly enough, during that time I worked at local churches as a youth pastor, I brought several youth groups to Camp Joy for weekend retreats. Even after I left Camp Joy, I kept coming back. In fact, I still consider Camp Joy, the people I met there, and the relationships that were formed there some of the most important and meaningful things in my life. For that, I am forever grateful.