I keep a folder in my e-mail in-box labeled “Sweet notes / testimonies” that I add to every year. E-mails sent in from parents who have just picked up their child on Closing Day for the first time, telling us how surprised they are at the positive change they are already noticing, and parents/grandparents who have been with us for decades telling us about the connections they made at camp, the life lessons they learned, the sense of pride and confidence that they gained… all good things! Every once in a while, I’ll click on the folder and read through some of them, just for a pick-me-up. It reminds me why we do what we do here at Vista. Not that I need a “why”! I’m one of Vista’s biggest fans and have loved this magical place since my first year as a camper (1991). Actually, down below are two pictures I just found today from my first Hawks Hilton year…. Short brown hair, rockin’ the crop top, YEP that’s me!
I’m a 2nd generation camper at Vista Camps and now my kiddos attend each summer. My life has been forever changed by this place, as every life is that drives across the Guadalupe River and into the Vista Bubble. So, when I get e-mails from parents and campers describing the impact that camp has made on their children and in their own lives, my heart swells and my eyes fill up with tears. No joke. Put on some Tracy Chapman or Chicago, which were Sierra Vista CD staples back in my day, and I’m a blubbery mess! I’ll have to share my full Vista Testimony on here one day, but I wanted to start with some of the sweet notes in my folder. It’s so funny, because parents and campers will e-mail us, thanking us for what we do and sharing their love for everyone here, when we honestly feel the EXACT same way about them. This is a precious family and I’m so thankful you guys are in it! Enjoy these little Vista Love Letters and if you’d like us to share your Vista story with the world, send it to sarak [at] vistacamps [dot] com. We’d love to know how much camp means to you. XOXO
Real life e-mails I read to fill my cup…
“Dear Vista Camps Staff..
E just returned from her first trip to camp and I wanted to take the time to thank you. The only way I can think to describe my gratitude is to say thank you for “filling her back up”. During the year we both worked hard at school and while E is a great student that pours her heart and soul into school, all the time spent logging reading minutes, memorizing math facts and testing left us both empty at the end of the year. And then she went to camp and you filled her back up with everything that matters.
You filled her with confidence that she can be “on her own” and be just fine. Faith in her cabin, her tribe, her camp and the much wider circle of friends that she now has. Knowledge that truly great people do exist in the world that care about her like we do. Adventures to last a lifetime (thank you Beth Rumbo for the blob, giant slip and slide and all the other amazing activities). And hope that, at least at camp, time will stand still for her and all her favorite traditions about camp will be there next summer (and oh yes will there be a next summer for her.) You’ve filled her up and me as well. With every picture I saw of her at camp I could see in her eyes how much fun she was having and it filled me up too. We still have a lot of summer to enjoy and fill ourselves back up before next year but I can’t thank you enough for her week at camp. So as we get on to school next year I’m sure we will both do things with a slightly lighter heart knowing that when we reach the finish line and we’re on empty, we’ll have our time at Vista Camp to fill us back up.
Much Vista Love and Cheers,
-K (E’s Momma)”
“M loved his Rio Vista camp experience so much last year that he made us sign him up right there and then on pick up day. And, he came back from camp happier, a little taller, more confident and ready to take on the challenge of a new school, new country and new culture and new friends in what is his home country…but one that he hadn’t lived in for 8 years.
That stress of repatriating and making new friends again, coupled with my major health struggle, make camp all the more special and important to help M unplug, get dirty and challenge himself. Camp will guide him in learning about what his strengths and gifts are and how to use them to better the world and help others. Camp will become his anchor and safe place that this only child can get away to and know that friends (aka RV brothers) await him there every summer. To some kids, camp is probably just a lot of fun and down time away. But, for M, because of our moving back from living abroad in small apartments for the past 8 years, and because of my illness, camp is so much more.
We can’t wait to tell him this evening that he’s going to Rio Vista 3A! Woohoo! Go Sioux! 😉 We’re still trying to find a friend to go to camp with him, but if that doesn’t pan out, no worries. He will be excited to see his old pals from session 3 last summer!
Lot’s of love from our grateful family to all of you.
J, M and M (mom, dad, and camper)”
I love this one from an RV alum from 1969! It’s amazing how the memories of camp stick with you for so long.
“My name is Mike F. I was born July 1, 1957. I attended RV month of July, 1969. cabin counselors were Bruce and Vick. My parents and I lived in Florida at the time but we had relatives in hunt, TX.
My parents were mildly disappointed when my first letter came to them announcing that the thing I liked best at camp was playing “bombardment”(a form of dodge-ball). They were rather hoping for tales of adventure in archery, canoeing, and the like. I did later get to enjoy these more classic camping activities.
Very memorably, the whole camp walked a few hundred yards to someone’s large yard nearby to watch the first moon landing on a b&w tv screen placed aloft so all the campers could watch.
The funniest/scariest thing that happened to me was when I dreamt that campers were supposed to bathe by jumping into the Guadalupe river. I was on the way to the river when my cabin mates started disappearing from my dream. Then, in real life, at 2AM, a counselor returning from Crider’s splashed a beverage in my face to rouse me from my walking slumber. Only then did I realize that I was actually only a few yards away from the river! Had I made to that river and jumped in…….well, who knows?
A great highlight for the boys was trekking over to Camp Mystic (the girls camp). Only problem: I had the worst case of chapped lips ever at that time (lips looked caked with chocolate frosting). One gal was kind enough to dance with me despite my alarming visage.
I still remember well the camp theme song,”Camp Rio Vista spirit is the best…” and the Golden Arrows tribal song,”year by year, day by day, in the Rio Vista way, Golden Arrows go rolling along…”
Cabin mates included Will Cox and Shipley. Carved on my bunk were the words,”brownie bear slept here.”
Many other great memories come to mind when I recall those days. It was a magical summer month.”
Sara again… I’ll share more later.. you should probably get back to work now! Fortunately, this is “work” for me! I get to relive my glory days in the Vista Bubble and talk to others about theirs! Winning! XOXO