Words from a CF “Lifer”

Ashley Thompson is the mother of two boys and owner/head coach of ACT Running in Austin, Texas. She moved up the ranks from a camper to a CIT, Junior Counselor, Senior Counselor, Year-Round Staff Member and is now a proud Camper Parent. She makes the pilgrimage to Palmyra every couple of years to “Be and Find a Friend.”

Ashley Thompson

The summer of 1986 was the first year that I got to unload a trunk of my own at Camp Friendship. Up until then, I had to watch my older brothers bound up to their cabins, check in with old camp friends and get settled into their bunks.  After each previous drop-off, I’d cling to the window, soaking up every detail as we drove down the Senior Village hill, past Friendship Lake and took the tree-lined drive towards the gates. This time, however, we were headed down towards Junior Girls! I had heard so many stories from my brothers and their friends that I can’t be certain our car had even stopped when I jumped out in front of Cabin One. It was finally my turn.

During those two weeks of Session 4, a great deal transpired: I held a bow & arrow for the first time and later learned how to Walk Like an Egyptian (it was 1986, remember?). I also vowed to practice swimming so that next summer I could take on the challenge of the ropes swing and the lake zipline! But really, I set into motion a series of lessons that would help to make me into the strong but compassionate person I am today. There is a theory out there that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can lead to a hurricane half way around the world; small moments and memories add up to something greater than their sum. That summer, choosing my own activities allowed me to enjoy the rewards of independence – vital lessons I use today as a business owner – and ordering a snack from the Snack Bar helped this once painfully shy girl to practice speaking up and looking grownups in the eyes. I even met a young C.I.T. (Counselor-In-Training) named Anna Larson, who would go on to be my counselor for 4 more years, and who is still my dear friend 28 years later.

Camp is all about trying new things

I realized, too, that there was WAY more to experience than one summer could allow and I wanted to do it all. On a walk over the Junior Girl’s hill with my new friend Dot, I promised to come back the following year, and that when I was old enough I would go on to Senior Village…and eventually become a C.I.T … and then a Junior Counselor, and then a Senior Counselor and then a Director … and then send my future kids to camp. Camp Friendship offered so much more than I could articulate and I couldn’t wait to come back!

This upcoming summer, after experiencing 12 amazing years as a camper, counselor and year-round staff member at Camp Friendship, I’ll enter into a new phase. My 9 year old son, Oscar, will be headed to Camp Friendship for his first time at sleep away camp. We’ll head through the gates, pass Friendship Lake, and head up to Junior Boys. I can’t wait to see where it takes him!