This year's theme is Go and Do and as we are gearing up for the summer, we can't wait til then to share this story with you. If you haven't seen the Go and Do Theme Launch video, watch it now. We asked staff members to share someone in their life that inspires them to be the best version of themselves and their answers ranged from their parents to their coach to their high school janitor. The main goal of this video was to show everyone that you don't have to be famous or rich or perfect, you can be you and share the love through your actions and words. Grace is a camper with an inspirational story and because she is so modest about her actions and words, when we caught wind of what she's been up to, we knew we had to share with you.
Year round staff member, Erica, a native California, went home over winter holidays to visit her family and the Hotalings (In case you missed it, we interviewed Kenny and Kelly Hotaling back in February). While at the Hotalings, she had the opportunity to watch their two older daughters play in a high school soccer match and was surprised to learn that Grace was not playing soccer that season. When she asked why Grace wasn't playing, she discovered what Grace was doing instead. Here's how Grace tells it.
"In August of 2015, my sister's seventh grade school basketball team was in need of a coach. My father gave me the idea of becoming the coach for the team. After long conversations with both of my parents, I decided to apply for the position at the end of the month. About two and a half months later, I was called into the school principle's office to discuss my application. Since I am a minor they couldn't hire me due to liabilities. However, they allowed me to partner up with another coach in order to work with primarily the seventh grade team. I had to make the decision of coaching or playing soccer. In the end, I chose what I loved to do. Coaching has been one of the greatest experiences of my life."
If you didn't catch it through all of Grace's humble words, she volunteered to coach her younger sister's basketball team so that they could play. Grace is a junior in high school; she has all the typical time demands you would expect for a junior in high school and she added coaching to her plate. In addition to growing her coaching experience, she also learned time management, as she had to keep everything balanced.
The hardest part of coaching was "the parents and managing my time efficiently during the school week. When I was not doing homework, most of my free time was spent planning practices, sending weekly schedules to parents, contacting the athletic director, researching new game plays, or meeting with the captains to reflect on the previous week of basketball." She dove right in and took her coaching position seriously and commanded herself in a professional manner by keeping communication lines open with all involved with the team.
Throughout the season there were highlights that included obtaining second place in their first tournament of the season and later in the season, playing the same team three times, with three over times, and taking first in their home tournament. The overall highlight for Grace as the coach was getting to "see my kids grow as basketball players and develop a true passion for the sport."
The season was not without some adversity for Grace as a coach. There were parents who voiced concerns over her age and inexperience as a coach to the athletic director who shared these with Grace and helped her overcome them. She certainly ended the season with a record to prove their concerns wrong with 19 wins and only 4 losses.
Grace stepped up and took the initiative when her younger sister and schoolmates needed help and despite the challenges of being only a junior in high school, she didn't let that stop her from doing a bang up job, taking responsibility for the team and players, and coaching them to the very best of her abilities. Here's what she learned and hopes for the future.
"I have learned that there are always going to be people who will try take you down but you must develop a tough skin and continue to persevere through. I have also learned that each kid is special in their own way and contributes to the team differently. It was a pleasure getting to form a different relationship with each of my 16 kids through the season. If I have the opportunity to coach my group of kids again in the upcoming year, the probability of me taking the position is high. I hope to continue coaching throughout my life because it is an unforgettable experience."
We hope you found this story as encouraging and inspiring as we did. Go and Do like Grace, who sacrificed her soccer season to coach basketball for her younger sister. Go and Do like Grace, who put others before herself. Go and Do like Grace, who overcame challenges with a positive attitude.
Grace is a Cali Kid. She was one of the first campers to come to Camp Henry from the Golden State 5 years ago at the request of the Hotaling kids.
Grace loves so much about Camp Henry and over the last 5 summers she has accumulated many camp favorites. PJ Sing, grilled cheese and grape jelly sandwiches, the Dining Hall, being rooted, and sacred ceremony, just to name a few. She enjoys being an ambassador for Camp Henry in her home state and loves being apart of the Cali Kids crew. She says, "it's interesting to see the Camp side versus the California/school side of each California kid. Generally at Camp, everyone is more enthusiastic, energetic, and friendly to everyone they encounter. I see a majority of the California Kids at the high school and a few of the younger kids everyday during practice, since I coach them in basketball."
Grace has a plethora of talents and interests including cooking, baking, playing musical instruments, crafting, running, swimming, hiking, and photography. She hopes to someday join the Camp Henry staff as a counselor and maybe even lend her fantastic photography skills full time as Camp photography/videography person during the summer! Her greatest hope for Camp Henry is for it to expand so that more kids can experience this freeing and impactful place.
If you know of someone who is connected to camp, be it camper, staffer, alum, who has a story you find inspirational that makes you want to Go and Do just like them, send us an email! We'd love to hear it!
Kelly Hotaling holds one of the most important positions at Camp Henry in the summer months, Camp Mom. There have been many Camp Mom's over the years and each serves selflessly as a mother to all the staff and campers. Kelly gains 40 new kids each summer in the form of the summer staff and each week turns through 200 campers, many of whom started in Day Camp years ago and have aged their way into overnight camp. She's always available to help in those motherly moments, yet she is also tough as nails, a fierce competitor in any camp game, and one of the goofiest "big kids" out there. She took a moment out of her busy days in California to be interviewed and so here's a glimpse at the wonderful Kelly Hotaling.
How did you first get connected with camp? Over 10 years ago, our very best friends, the Jacobs said, "You should come to this camp that we run in Michigan. " And Jake (Jeff as we knew him) said," Oh, and Kenny, you should be the Chaplain." Our response was, "No, that is crazy.
A. We have never been to Michigan.
B. We don't know anyone in Michigan.
C. I have a career and a mortgage.
D. We have a 6 month old baby!
E. Kenny said," I am not a chaplain. I am not qualified to do that." Jeff said said, "That's ok, all you need is strong faith and be great with kids."
What did we do? We prayed about it and we said that sometimes the Lord is subtle and sometimes the Lord puts situations right in front of you... this was one of those times that He put it right in front of us even though there were so many reasons why we shouldn't go. We said, "OK, we will go for ONE summer!"
What made you want to get more involved? Once we experienced one summer, we were hooked. The love of camp was everywhere. We grew closer to God and knew that perhaps our "mission field" involved a boat, some arts and crafts, zany songs, face paint and a bucket of mud.
How many years have you been coming to camp? This summer 2016 will be our 11th!! (the picture below is from our first summer on the shores!)
Did you attend camp growing up as a kid? If so, where, what was it like, what experiences do you still fondly reflect on now? I went to a girl scout camp for 1 week and was so homesick, I was miserable. I went to a YMCA camp on Catalina island 1 week which was great.
What would be your "ideal' day at Camp Henry? Lake swim, chapel, DAYCAMP, rest period, arts and crafts, capture the flag, grilled cheese and tomato soup, night chapel and reading a bedtime story to a cabin.
How has camp changed since you first came? Camp seems to change for the better each year. The staff inspires me and camp each year. Camp is more God focused which is ALWAYS better.
Many people would consider what you do each summer, taking the whole family across the country, living in small living quarters, etc., kind of crazy, what do you say to these folks? Absolutely true...many people in the "real world" think what we do is crazy, and many are quite envious. Many wish they could do it. It's hard to explain camp to people in the corporate world. It is really hard for them to grasp what we do; driving across the country each year, living in cramped quarters, working for love, not money, eating in a loud dining hall each meal, and being filled with unimaginable joy. I say that I'm so blessed that we have jobs that allow this to happen. Financially, it isn't perfect for us, but I always say that we do it as a memory maker, not a money maker.
What roles have you served/do you serve while at camp? Camp mom, day camp director, arts and crafts, dish washer, cook, driver, chaperone, lifeguard, medical assistant, referee
How has going to camp each summer effected your daughters? Oh my goodness! They are confident, Jesus loving, smart, adaptable, tolerant, athletic, grounded, caring young ladies much because of camp. They have perspective and goodness that I truly credit to Camp Henry. Their true red heart friends are from Camp Henry. They have had the most amazing roll models at camp which have helped mold them.
Any fun stories to share from your adventures across the country? Every year there are sooooo many. Arches National monument, Mt. Rushmore, hail storms, tornados, broken legs, sick kids, camping, Women's World Cup in Vancouver, Yellowstone National Park, mad libs, movies, books, stupid car games, visiting family in Colorado, playing songs in the car, laughing so hard that we all need to pee, having ice cream in each state we visit, Vegas, visiting family in Chicago, visiting friends in Colorado, exploding yakima box on I-80 with Emma driving, 112 degree heat in the desert, passing the "Pure Michigan" sign when we enter Michigan, and passing the "Welcome to California" sign when we return.
Any fun camp stories to share? Sooo many! The year of the great Blue House Flood, fixing the sewer with a "jump rope", living in same house as the Jacobs, staff camp out in the rain when it was raining inside our tent, super secret missions with JJ, Christmas carols, Christmas Santa on the Jetski...too many to list!
What do you do for a living outside of camp? I'm a physical therapist, mom, classroom volunteer, and coach
What are some of your hobbies outside of camp? Run, soccer, ski, read, movies, hike
Favorite camp meal? grilled cheese and tomato soup
Favorite camp activity to lead? Day camp talent show
Favorite camp activity to be a part of? Day camp talent show, waterfront activities, vespers
If someone was not sure whether they should send their kid(s) to camp, what would you say to them? I can speak as a mother that I have seen my own children thrive at camp and truly be the best version of themselves. The best part is when I see that version spill over to their everyday life which happens a lot. I see Jesus living in them. I experience their tolerance, their kindness, their bravery because of their experiences at camp.
What is your hope for Camp Henry's future? I hope that Camp Henry continues to grow, thrive and keep Jesus first.
What is your hope for your future with Camp Henry? I hope I'm there till I'm 100. :)
Kenny Hotaling, a key member of the Camp Henry's leadership summer staff, sat down with us...er, technically with his computer since he and his family live in California...and took the time to answer a barrage of questions about his 10 (soon to be 11) summers at Camp Henry. His presence at Camp is noted in his hard work, his kindness, his fatherly compassion for the staff and campers alike, and his humor. If this interview doesn't have you chuckling, then you should come spend some more time with him on the shores this summer.
How did you first get connected with camp? Sitting around the Jacobs' dinner table here in California, my response to Jake's question was something like this" "What??? Chaplain? I've never been one before! Do I have to wear a collar or would the outfit from Princess Bride be ok?"
What made you want to get more involved? Sometimes God answers prayers immediately. As I began to consider whether my family and I should relocate to Michigan for the summer, with a newborn (Jane) mind you, He told me repeatedly that he wanted to challenge me by talking to campers about my experiences with God, my relationship with God, how God loves you, and how great it is to have God directing your life. I was nervous that I would blow it, but listened to God anyway. I sure am glad I did... for so many different reasons. It clearly showed me how big He is and how small I am... but I can still make a difference for His kingdom.
How many years have you been coming to camp? Year 11 this year! We've gone through a couple sets of tires, many oil changes, and a transmission, but have every intention to return for 12.
Did you attend camp growing up as a kid? If so, where, what was it like, what experiences do you still fondly reflect on now? I went to Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp as a teenager, and it the spot where I finally understood what having a personal relationship with God is really all about. I found out that it was so much more than the "stand up and the right time, sit down at the right time, and repeat after me..." church experiences. What I remember most was the "peace that passes all understanding" as well as the friendship of another camper and the guidance of our counselor. John 3:16 became a part of my heart.
What would be your "ideal' day at Camp Henry? No such thing exists as there are infinite answers to the ideal day. Despite all the uncountable number of wonderful/funny/sad/life changing/challenging/ridiculous/inspirational/powerful moments that have already happened, I know that God has even more in plan to make room for additional entries into the "ideal" day.
How has camp changed since you first came? Camp changes every summer; sometimes dramatically, sometimes, subtly. Camp isn't supposed to stay the same. We can always get better, get kinder, get closer to God, and make more headway to making this earth like He intended.
Many people would consider what you do each summer, taking the whole family across the country, living in small living quarters, etc., kind of crazy. What do you say to these folks? Yep. Nailed it.
What roles have you served/do you serve while at camp? I am just a humble "Happy Helper"- friend, chaplain, musician, mechanic, researcher, driver, reader, lifeguard, belayer, encourager, fire builder and plumber. I almost got the plumbing figured out for the bottom of the Blue House :) Maybe next summer.
How has going to camp each summer effected your daughters? Camp have helped us immeasurably parent our children. It is impossible for me to comprehend how all these summers have had an effect on my daughters. Likewise, it's impossible to comprehend what they would be like without all of those wonderful summers. What I do know is that my daughters are smart, confident, kind, athletic, beautiful servants who love the Lord and others. I am so thankful for Camp Henry for all it has done to help shape Emma, Grace, and Jane.
Any fun stories to share from your adventures across the country? Nebraska is horawful (horrible + awful = horawful). What's the best thing that ever came out of Nebraska? I-80! Uncountable rows of corn for hours is all one can see. But, out of necessity, a new car game was created: Corn Wars! The game is played by naming a corn type product. For example, Corn on the cob. The next person needs to name another- Corn Pops. It turns out there are quite a few corn products. Let's see how many you can come up with!! Hours of entertainment! By the way, do you know what the "N" on the side of the University of Nebraska football helmets stands for? Knowledge!
Any fun camp stories to share? A king calls for his servant. The servant asks what the king needs. "Bring me my Royal Papers!" he shouts. It turns out his royal papers aren't recycled papers from the office, nor are they some of the left over sheet music from the Theater. It turns out what he really needed was some Toilet Paper!!! Oh! Those Royal Papers!! Hilarious!!!
What do you do for a living outside of camp? I am a 17 year veteran public school teacher. I teach in an integrated classroom that focuses on math and science. It is a STEAM school that is heavy on engineering and computers so the math and science that we experience is applied to some sophisticated capstone projects. It's a blast going to work each day as I work with some very smart and motivated teachers.
What are some of your hobbies outside of camp? I have recently rediscovered my love of mountain biking! I'd ride everyday if I could. In addition, I also read a lot of non-fiction. Lastly, I am plowing through the Office on Netflix. Michael is so uncomfortably funny.
Favorite camp meal? Sausage patties. I eat the entire red basket.
Favorite camp activity to lead? Night Chapel. It's a blast to see God go to work in that sacred and beautiful place.
Favorite camp activity to be a part of? Christmas week's PJ sing. If you haven't heard Away In a Manger camp style... well, you are missing out.
If someone was not sure whether they should send their kid(s) to camp, what would you say to them? I completely understand! Having your kids away from you for an entire week! Super scary. However, this week I promise that your child will experience God's love and I also promise that we will take tender loving care of them.
What is your hope for Camp Henry's future? Someone once asked a question about my church here in California. They asked, "If this church closed down, would anyone care after a couple of years?" It's a pretty interesting question. Now, ask the same thing about Camp Henry. Presently, in my opinion, there would be an uproar if Camp closed! So that's my hope for the future. If in 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now, Camp Henry closes... there would be an uproar!
What is your hope for your future with Camp Henry? I hope they hire my back as a Happy Helper!