Camp Joy was a pioneer in offering a racially integrated camping/outdoor education opportunity. When Tammy O’Brien Butts was a young girl, she took part in what was – at that time – an unusually unique program. Tammy grew up in River Town – a small Appalachian settlement – surrounded by Caucasian neighbors (just like her.) “We didn’t have a lot of material things, but there was a lot of love. My parents were loving and open minded, and besides us six kids, there was always someone else living in the house who my parents were helping. I was taught to treat everyone the same.”
When she initially learned she had the opportunity to go to Camp Joy, she was ecstatic! As the day of departure neared, she admitted she was a bit nervous. “I had never even seen a person of another race.” What she quickly learned was that they were all just kids wanting to have fun. And did they ever!
Tammy especially loved the night they stayed in Indian tepees and cooked over the fire together. She vividly remembers teams competing on an obstacle course and how her squad worked together to boost the last person over the challenge wall. Her united crew didn’t win the competition; they won a whole lot more in the long run…mutual respect and friendship. Tammy recently ran into one of the guys who shared that Joy immersion. They enjoyed reminiscing about what a wonderful time and valuable experience Camp was for both of them.
“I would tell anyone who would listen, that when I grew up I wanted to work at Camp Joy. Well, I’m grown up and I still do!” she smiled. “It’s a little too far from home to commute, or I’d be out there with an application.”
Tammy wrote her experiences in a journal during her stay, and has cherished it as a treasured keepsake all of these years. She shared it with Camp Directors when she dropped off her granddaughter, Jaden, to participate in Healthworks Camp in conjunction with CHMC. “Jaden loved canoeing and the variety of activities offered on a daily basis. And I was thrilled to see the cabin I originally stayed in was still there! I loved going in there and being able to see it!”
Tammy feels her involvement with Camp Joy helped her become the person she is today and contributed to the reason she chose her current work. “I am an assistant to a pre-school teacher in a predominantly African American CPS school. I love the kids! I learned there is nothing to fear – and many things to gain – from knowing someone who’s not just like me. My parents and Camp Joy taught me that. I am very grateful.”
Fortunate are the students who are the recipients of Tammy’s love and caring. This planet would be a more peaceful place if folks felt and believed as Tammy does.