Staff of the Year, 2003

He is the coordinator of the staff shows, and knows a hundred skits by heart. He’s the activity leader who can step in at a moment’s notice at any activity area in camp, and the storyteller who every camper hopes will come tell stories in their cabin at night.

Slim’s influence extends beyond what the campers see. He works tirelessly behind the scenes with the teens in the Staff Development Program, teaching them how to be positive camp leaders.

His leadership style is personal. He takes time each day to talk with the teens about how things are going in their cabins, at their activities and makes gentle suggestions from his 20 years of camp experience that help them make good choices.

Staff members come to Slim when they are having difficulty with their cabins or individual campers, and activity leaders come to him for creative program suggestions.

Theme weeks, daily songs and announcements, all-camp games… all of these areas of camp life benefit from Slim’s positive influence.

More than anything, it is Slim’s influence on the individual campers that I respect most. He notices and becomes the instant buddy of the homesick camper, the unsure camper and the camper most in need of a friend. He makes time to listen.

He returns for Winter Camp, even though it cuts into his short Holiday visit to his family. Slim’s actions remind the rest of us that the kids always come first.–Jenny “Fozzie” Rule

YMCA Camp Merrill M. Benson, Mount Carroll, Ill.

Katie Lynn and Laura Jo “Lou” Blair

S-LA Woodmen of the World Youth Camp Inc.

For Katie Lynn and Laura Jo “Lou” Blair, camp extended their family. Having no younger siblings, their charges at Camp Woodmen were quickly adopted for the summer.

“After you work a year or two, you get to know the kids really well, they recognize you when they come back, and they tell you about what’s been going on at home,” says Katie.

This familiarity helped Katie and Lou come up with creative ways to help the kids overcome their fears and homesickness at camp.

“Some of the kids are hours from home, so you have to deal with kids being scared at night, because it gets really dark and quiet at night,” says Katie. “We would hold a cabin meeting every night and if anyone had a problem, they could say anything they wanted to and it would be handled that night. Then it wouldn’t be on their minds the entire week and ruining camp for them.”

Katie is a senior and Lou is a junior at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. Lou is studying design and Katie plans to go to culinary school and open her own restaurant some day.

Lou says that camps should strive to fully utilize the interests and talents of their counselors, particularly when planning all-camp activities like luaus and other special events.

Also, Lou emphasizes the importance of a unified staff so that camp is a healthy blend of maximizing each person’s differences toward a common goal while not allowing differences to divide.

“It was hard for the 24 of us counselors to merge that first week,” recalls Lou. “But that’s where I learned to take someone who you might not get along with, get past that and learn to work with them.”

I am nominating the Blair twins — Kate and Laura “Lou” — for this award because both of these young adults have been working with Camp Woodmen, under my leadership, since 1999.

During their tenure, both have worked with all aspects of the camp — lifeguarding, cabin counselors, program directors, food stocking crew, skit coordinators, janitorial… you name it, they have never avoided trying it once.

Both Lou and Kate have the ability bring out the best in others, and each in their own unique way try to include everyone. They do not tolerate isolating others from the group. Both have tried to include other members of the staff, even when those staff members tried to be separate.

South Louisiana Camp Woodmen operates seven weeks out of the year. We handle 168 youth ranging in age from 8 to 15, with 30 staff members.

Both Lou and Kate have worked with all age groups and can be trusted in maintaining the camp, even when I’m not around.

I respectfully submit these two phenomenal young twins for Camp Business magazine’s first annual Staff of the Year Award.

–Grethchen A. Varnell, Camp/Fraternal coordinator

S-LA Woodmen of the World Youth Camp Inc.

Lafayette, La.

Duane VanOrden

Howe Military School Summer Camp

Duane VanOrden, the director of Howe Military School Summer Camp in Howe, Ind., is a big believer in community involvement. This collaboration yields community-wide and individual camper benefits, and even helps retention.

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