In Ashford, Connecticut sits a bunch of land, some log cabins in one circle, a group of buildings in another circle, with a lake on end and a gigantic swimming pool on the other and all of this is surrounded by woods.
At least, that is what I thought the first time I stepped onto camp soil for the very first time. Scared and alone and far away from home, I thought my parents were nuts for sending me away. To a little seven-year-old, to be gone for a week, felt like forever.
I can still smell the campfire lit up that very first night under the stars where we got together with our bunk-mates and counselors, learned the camp songs and rules (which were mostly to just have fun), and just finally enjoyed being a kid.
The Hole in the Wall to many, really is a tiny piece of heaven. It is a camp for kids with life-threatening illnesses and their siblings (and families to boot). For just a little while, we do not have to deal with doctors and hospitals and medicine and chemo and appointments and dinner with only one parent because the other one is up at the hospital tending to the sick. For the parents, they get a step away from the hospital walls and finally can breathe fresh air but for us campers, it really is pretty close to heaven.
My first night there, one of the counselor’s did not come running out and cheering (as most do). Instead, she gracefully glided out of the woods wearing this beautiful crown of flowers and playing the most incredible song on the flute. I have no idea what the song was but when I heard the soft, sweet, yet jovial, music floating through the night air, I knew that Mommy and Dad had, as usual, did something amazing for me. I do not remember that counselor’s name, only that she was called the “Wood Fairy” and at the end of our sessions, she would give us a little baggie full of “pixie dust” (okay, it was really glitter) so we could carry camp magic all year long.
I spent many a summer at the camp and even applied to be a junior counselor when I was fifteen. I have sung on stage at the O.K. Corral, rode a horse, proudly swam the deep end of the pool when I was about 10, fished in the lake, created numerous art projects, nearly burned myself in woodworking, danced the silly camp dances, yelled out “scraper head” loudly and gleefully walked in through the out-door purposefully just to sing “ya ya, shake my bushy tail”.
Last year was the first time that the camp did not open for the summer and it was held virtually instead. I cried to my Mom about how it was unfair that kids would not be allowed to experience the camp magic. “Stupid Covid…some of these kids, this will be their last summer” I wailed and my Mom ever so lovingly reminded that the magic was not in the camp at all. The magic of camp lies deep in our hearts and if we just dig deep enough, we’ll find that tiny nugget of courage to get up and sing and dance, no matter who is watching.
In closing, there was a fire recently that pretty much destroyed “downtown Hole in the Wall” and I immediately went into “okay what can I do…how can I help?” and started begging people to donate to help rebuild. Through generosity and love, the camp’s downtown will be rebuilt and generations of kids from all over, will one day, get to be the “Star of the Show” and create priceless memories for years to come.