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The beginning of fall seemed to disappear as quickly as leaves on the trees. Between keeping track of paperwork, reluctantly dragging thermals out of storage, trying to remember what felt like hundreds of new names every day, and finding a spare minute to fill up water bottles, we were too busy to realize something simple. We hadn’t been taking the best care of ourselves or each other. A busy life certainly isn’t an unhappy life, but we were also finding it challenging to find a moment in the day to stop, breathe, and take that extra step to check in.

 

But one chilly weekend, our cabins were suddenly stuffed with sleeping bags, the lodge was radiant with laughter, and our staff couldn’t walk a few steps without passing a flurry of smiling faces. The participants of Capital Care Inc.’s Point of Hope Camp – a program designed to provide extensive care to children who have experiences familial loss – had arrived.

 

The energy brought a new vibrancy to Hemlock, but watching the interactions between ‘little’ campers and their ‘bigs’ made it even more obvious that we’d been neglecting even the simple, everyday moments that show care.

 

Whether it was a reminder to grab a water bottle or the gentlest push of encouragement that would transform the entire weekend, the campers’ experience was made all the more precious from a consistent, inspirational support network. The care was so natural, so organic that we didn’t even notice when we started mimicking some of the language. Asking “how have you been doing?” or “what can I do to help you?” wasn’t a logistical afterthought; it was a priority.

 

Even the most experienced instructor can forget the basics, no matter how many times we’ll impress them upon our groups. As often as we throw our passion and energy into enhancing the campers’ experience, we sometimes forget to seek out moments for ourselves and one another beyond checking in for a minute at mealtimes. But the transformative effect from watching our core values play out in front of us couldn’t be ignored. We slowed down, we started asking more questions, revitalized our friendships and soon enough pairs of instructors were laughing alongside a big and their little. Program participants usually aren’t the only ones who benefit from our experiences here, but our moments with Capital Care couldn’t have come at a better time. As the weekend rolled to a close, we all felt a little stronger and a little more valued. Just a little extra cares goes a long, long way.

 

Ryan and Eric Cleaning Bull Run
Ryan and Eric Cleaning Bull Run

We get busy sometimes, busy planning summer camps, busy planning team building programs, busy training our staff, busy getting our fleet ready for camp… The point is sometimes the things we care about get pushed to the back burner. While our daily goal is to get people outside and to interact with the environment our direct environmental stewardship often gets pushed to another day.

So when a few months ago two of our senior staff members approached the leadership team with an idea for a Bull Run Cleanup event we fell in love with the idea and encouraged them to run with it. Our awesome staff members Ryan and Eric planned and executed a terrific day of river cleanup on The Bull Run and partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to make it happen. They also wanted the day to be educational and brought out Earnie Porta the Former Mayor of Occoquan, to speak about the history and importance of local rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay.

In total the volunteers last Saturday removed over 1500 pounds of trash! That included a dozen tires, countless bottles and styrofoam, a boogie-board, and a tricycle. We went back down to the river the following day, and while you wouldn’t have previously thought about all the trash along the water it was evident how much cleaner the shoreline now was.

Thank you to our “tree hugging” staff Ryan and Eric and the wonderful volunteers that came out to help keep Hemlock Overlook and Bull Run a local treasure. You definitely carried your weight last weekend.

 


 

adam-headshot-Adam Trautenberg | Marketing / IT Manager

Just the other day, we had the sad occasion of one of our leadership team members unexpectedly losing a childhood friend. The Facebook post/tribute he wrote to this friend was vivid, beautifully written and it read as if the memories were as fresh as yesterday. However, he hadn’t seen this friend since their childhood.

I realized in that moment that there were some of my own childhood memories more crisp, vivid and alive than things that occurred just yesterday. There’s just something about the mind of a child that holds images, feelings, words, wonderful friendships, and even scents!

In the midst of this nostalgia, I was out for my daily run on our property. Upon reaching our mailbox a mile away, I opened it to find my very own treasured piece of childhood. There it was, the smallest trigger flooded my eyes with tears and took over my face with a smile, I KNEW that handwriting! You see, back then (the 70’s and 80’s), we girls wrote notes to each other and LOTS of them! The boys? Not so much. Their notes went something like this:

 

Dee Dee's letter
Dee Dee’s letter

“Do you like me? Circle yes   or no. Don’t show anyone.”

But I had shoeboxes full of notes from my dearest, most cherished friend Dee Dee and I would recognize a note from her anywhere, anytime. We hadn’t corresponded in nearly 10 years and there it was… my very own note from her in my mailbox. The memories flooded back and I smiled and actually teared up even before opening her letter. I credit that ‘little girl’ and those wonderful notes for getting me through a tough childhood. I navigated the confusing ups, downs, and sideways of a dad battling bipolar.

Little did I know that years later a talented keynote, psychologist, and writer would explain what all of this meant to me. Michael Thompson wrote ‘Best Friends, Worst Enemies’ where he explores the crucial and hidden role that friendships play in the lives of children. I was sitting in a keynote session he delivered at the National Cathedral in 1996. Michael described the research that demonstrated that a key indicator to a child’s resilience was the existence of one, at least one, BEST friend. He began to list all sorts of qualifiers that determined BEST friend but frankly, it was all I could do to not leap out of my chair and scream “THAT’S IT! I GET IT NOW!! I had a best friend! We believed we could get each other through anything!”

I stayed in my seat that night but quite soon after that keynote session, I left my many years as a teacher and decided it was my time to create and pursue something, something bigger than me. I knew I could build a place for best friendships and personal journeys and a place where children could uncover their own courage. And now the exciting part is that it is now something much bigger than me and I WILL let my best friend Dee Dee know that she played an integral role in creating the magic behind this company.

That something is Adventure Links.

IMG_1845
Childhood camp t-shirt of one of our leadership team members.

 

Anna Birch-Anna Birch | CEO

 

Have you seen the photo on the internet with the picture of a trail that say’s “there is no Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection”?

wifi

I love this quote, because everything we do here is to get people to work together and want to be outside. Creating positive experiences outside is what we love to do. And five or ten years ago you would have spent the day out here, or your camper would have spent a week or two with us and then once home you would have developed the pictures off your camera and told your friends and family all about your experience.

But today’s world is different. Our friends don’t always rave about a great new restaurant to us anymore, instead they post about it, they review it, and they share pictures all online. This is the dilemma we are faced with here. We want our participants and staff to concentrate on the experience they are having in the moment, but we also want them to share their experience. We would like them to be able to look back at their newsfeeds and timelines and relive the moments they had with us and remember what a great time they had outside with their friends.

We want the involvement and the memories to last without crossing that line of bringing the technology with all of it’s distractions into the outdoors, so we are left with the dilemma: to #hashtag or not.

 

adam-headshot-Adam Trautenberg | Marketing & IT Manager

Fall Staff 2014

We are getting both sad and excited around here. Friday November 21st is just two weeks away and it marks the last day of our 2014 program season. We break the week before Thanksgiving so that our staff have the opportunity to spend the holiday at home. Our staff travel far and wide to, places as far as California, Michigan, Florida, and Vermont. Our staff are the faces and soul of Adventure Links and we will miss this year’s crew when they leave for the winter.

That is the sad part, the exciting part is that Monday, December 1st is the opening of registration for Summer Camp 2015. After we have devoured our turkey dinners, shopped our hearts out on Black Friday, and rested up and traveled home over the weekend, we will already be looking towards 2015. We are extremely excited for what is going to be an amazing summer, and we look forward to hiring and planning out the final details this winter and spring.

Make sure to check out our website as we get closer to registration for the posting of the 2015 schedule.

Camp Registration Opens Dec. 1