For five years I spent one week at camp learning to wakeboard, ride horses, and challenge myself on a 70-foot ropes course. I stayed in a cabin with 11 girls my age and a counselor just out of high school.
I idolized every staff member I met, so by the time I was too old to be a camper, I was determined to work there. Camp had become a regular part of my summers and a much-needed break from my suburban life.
Located on Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho, owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, camp was the safest, most pristine and sacred place I’d ever been. I didn’t have any religious affiliation, and I didn’t know the camp directors on a personal level, but being the stubborn, determined girl that I am, I was vocal about my intentions. In January I was hired to work in the kitchen and help with gymnastics and drama.
As a rule, camp staff under the age of 18 are assigned to work in the kitchen, and though my tasks that first summer were entry-level, I was part of the team. I worked hard because I considered it a privilege to be there.
Then, last summer I was hired again, this time to teach gymnastics and work on the waterfront, driving boats and life guarding on the beach. I was handed a huge amount of responsibility, and I felt the pressure to perform as an adult. The theme for the summer was “Extreme Faith.” On one hand, I realized how much faith the camp directors had in my talents. Every day I drove expensive boats which were occupied with the most priceless cargo in the world: children. I learned that the only way the camp could function was if every staff member trusted and respected his or her fellow staff members, and if every person pulled an equal share of the weight. When I signed my contract, I made a commitment to the camp to be a good example, worthy of the position. The kids had only one week to get everything that the camp had to offer, and it was up to the staff to deliver. I realized the importance of giving my all, every second of every day, because camp might be the best thing a child experienced all summer long.
Because I didn’t grow up in a religious environment, my understanding of faith developed, and I had to explore and expand my beliefs. I met people who were strong in their religious faith and believed in a common cause: teaching adolescents the benefits of a safe, educational, and fun approach to life. I saw the value of hard work and persistence. Through my experiences at Ida-Haven, I learned to push myself, have faith in my abilities, and set higher expectations for my own behavior and for those around me.
Editors note: At 5 a.m. on January 1, 2005, Lark was baptized in the lake at Camp Ida-Haven.