March 27, 2020
50 Years Celebrated at Camp Thunderbird for Girls
In mid-August of 2019 girl’s camp alumni from across the country dating back to our opening season arrived on the shores of Lake Plantagenet to relive their camper years and meet up with old friends. Having attended all of our reunions over the years, I thought I knew what to expect! Don’t get me wrong. Our past reunions were a lot of fun. This one simply had a completely different type of energy. As people rolled in and congregated at the lodge, the sounds of heartfelt hellos and the vision of long reuniting hugs were everywhere. Our youngest alumni were eighteen years old, and our most senior, well, they attended the first summer, so you do the math.
The palpable energy was evident at our first breakfast. During the camp season, breakfast is often our quietest meal of the day as everyone is just waking up. But, with this crowd, the coffee pots emptied several times and a handful of Starbucks cups dotted the tables. Perhaps it was the excitement of being back at camp and wanting to get their fill of “camp” or maybe it had something to do with the coffee, but the lodge quickly rang with a chorus of wake-up songs. And, these were not the ones with a quiet melodic sound. Instead, it felt like the windows were rattling. Laughter, more songs and the group defied the rule of, “when the hands go up, the mouth goes shut.” Those of us running the show didn’t mind. We too, were busy belting out songs, reminiscing, catching up with old friends and even making new ones.
Daily cabin clean-up was a bit lost on all of us, but activities were not. Arts and Crafts was bustling, and the waterfront launched more than a dozen canoes, paddleboards and sailboats. Some brave women even ventured out to water ski and windsurf. At least I consider them brave because those activities can cause some serious muscle pain done once in a blue moon. A shout out to the horseback riders for the same reason. At lunch, it was wonderfully hard to hear one another talk and the singing literally picked up where it left off. The singing was interspersed with conversations about hitting the bullseye at archery/riflery or enjoying a quiet moment on the rockers at the log cabin. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t give high praise to the Camp Thunderbird Charitable Foundation board members. During the meals and throughout the weekend, they sold baseball caps and co-sponsored a silent auction to raise funds and awareness around how underserved and underprivileged campers are able to attend Camp Thunderbird. With the help of CTCF and The John Austin Cheley Foundation, more than thirty-campers attend boys and girls camp.
Rest hour, or as we call it now, “cabin time,” was a great opportunity to lounge in the hammocks, climb up into the tree forts, find a shady spot on the beach or hang out at “Carol’s house” (now Tres’ and Michael’s house) looking at old photo albums. The hairstyles and outfits from the 70s, 80s and 90s caused well-deserved laughter.
Our bonfire on the beach was a full-fledged party with s’mores and other treats. I think the attendees at our family camp across the lake at boys camp could hear the laughter and rowdy crowd. But, one of the most special and memorable moments occurred at our Council Fire. Groups of friends and individuals led us in their favorite camp song or shared a favorite reading or thought about their years at Thunderbird. There was laughter, tears, and lots of hugs as the sun set behind the trees and the streaks of orange and red colors lit up the sky.
On our last evening together, we had our traditional “final banquet” meal. Imagine Thanksgiving with more than 200 people and the best dessert ever called Grasshopper Pie. We never make it any other time of the year and I might personally hoard an extra piece for myself for after the summer is complete. Just picture an Oreo crust, then a layer of homemade fudge from our original camp cook’s recipe, then mint chocolate chip ice cream topped off with an ample drizzle of more fudge and Oreo crumbs. Yum!!! This last night of camp is always bittersweet for campers as they look forward to heading home but are also unbelievably sad to leave their camp family. For alumni, it felt too short. Of course, we all were starting to set our sights on a reunion in five years rather than the normal ten-year gap.
Much like the last morning of camp, we all set off at different times and many of us bumped into one another at the airport. It was a weekend to be cherished. It gave us one more chance to become a camper, to appreciate those carefree moments even more because we now understand that those childhood experiences were fleeting and formative.
After the reunion weekend, notes, texts, posts and phone calls poured in from all corners of the country expressing gratitude for the time and memories we shared. It couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend. For Michael, myself, Carol and the rest of our family, it reinforced how valuable, life shaping, and instrumental the years at Thunderbird truly are for the campers of yesterday and today.
One of our alumni recently wrote about her time at the reunion and her years at Camp Thunderbird. Here is a link to her article: https://www.usnews.com/news/lifestyle/articles/2020-02-04/at-a-reunion-an-ex-camper-reflects-on-how-camp-shaped-her
Written by Shari Sigoloff Owner/Director