I was a camp kid.
I didn’t really have a choice: my mom had grown up going to camp on the shores of Lake Tahoe and was determinedly hopeful that I would have an equally formative experience. She first packed me off to overnight camp in North Carolina when I was 8.
Thankfully, I loved it – despite the challenges – and continued to go every summer until I was 16. I made some of the best friends of my life and learned skills that serve me still.
So when Chris and I first visited St. Dorothy’s Rest several years ago, I immediately felt at home. St. Dorothy’s is one of the most beautiful camps in America, nestled in the redwoods of Sonoma County. Built in 1901, it is the oldest camp in California.
The mission of St. Dorothy’s is perfectly aligned with what Braid is all about.
The camp was built by James and Nellie Lincoln in memory of their daughter Dorothy, who died at a young age. Her parents founded this special place with the distinct mission of providing a space where other children who had experienced illness and hardship could find healing in nature.
Braid youth started going to camp at St. Dorothy’s in the summer of 2017. While we wanted Braid youth to experience the benefits of summer camp, we were also really protective of these children we have all come to love, and we didn’t want to send them to just any camp.
Caring for particularly vulnerable children is in the DNA of St. Dorothy’s, which is why we felt comfortable entrusting them with Braid youth.
Every year, St. Dorothy’s sponsors “hospital camps” for children who have experienced cancer or blood disorders. They have worked closely with YES to help youth from inner-city Richmond attend camp. They are committed to having a staff that is diverse and trauma-informed.
For three summers before the pandemic, we were able to observe firsthand how transformational a week at camp was for our youth who attended.
On the way up, the van was full of anxious energy. (The first year, our four novice campers were barely hungry for lunch, the real indicator of how nervous these normally ravenous young people were.)
But when we picked them up a few days later, they were triumphant and tired and quite stinky. They had paddled canoes and tie-dyed and lost teeth and acted in skits and hiked farther than they ever knew they could and learned songs by heart! One Braid youth went on to become a counselor-in-training.
While camp is full of fun activities, we also appreciate that this camp has “Rest” in its name. One of Braid’s guiding principles is recreation (or re-creation), and amidst the busy daily schedule of summer camp, the deeply-rooted calm of this place works its magic.
This year, our youth need this more than ever. (And, to be honest, we’re really excited to be joining them as camp chaplains.) We are so grateful that Braid youth have this opportunity for a week together to play and breathe and try new things.