Cookie Camp 2020
by Susan Bradley Arico, Deer Run Alumna & Camp Mom
Cookie Camp. What a sweet time! (Literally, and figuratively!)
In 2008 I moved away from my beloved New England to distant lands, but a few months before I left, I attended Cookie Camp. It was the first time the event was open to alumni (and the second time that Cookie Camp happened), and I got to be part it! I lived about 45 minutes away in Rollinsford, NH at the time. I got a sitter for my two babies, as my husband had already departed in advance of our pending move, and drove to camp for 24 hours.
The idea of Cookie Camp was simple. Bake cookies and mail them to camp staff at Valentine’s Day to let them know they were loved and appreciated.
With three of my closest staff friends – about a decade out from the last time we’d been on staff – I aproned up, rolled dough, pressed cutters, sprinkled sugar. It was magic. After all, what’s not to love about camp, old friends, girl time, and lots of sugar? There were about fifteen women there that year, and I got to meet a few new friends too.
Fast forward twelve years to this year, February 2020.
I was back living in New England again for the first time in nearly twelve years. What did I want to be sure my first winter back included, of course? Cookie camp!
And here we were again – same girls (several of us, anyway) – aprons and rolling pins at the ready.
But my, how the operations had grown and expanded! Instead of 13 women, there were 25. Instead of just cookies to bake, there were whole care packages to fill. Instead of 75 boxes, there were more than 250! It was such an impressive operation! And it was so fun to spend time rubbing shoulders with so many cool, dynamic, faith-filled women from different generations and eras of camp leadership.
Melissa Yonan explained the expansion and rationale.
As “Cookie Camp” continued over the years, camp staff increasingly became aware of how valuable and meaningful the parcel was to its recipients each Valentine’s Day. They began to embrace it as a ministry in its own right, and they expanded the recipient list from just current camp staff to alumni between the ages of 19 and 25 who have attended camp for five or more summers, or served on staff previously. They began crafting homemade Valentine cards to communicate heartfelt affirmation. They put in some candies to further sweeten the pot. And they added a devotional to ensure that a piece of spiritual content made it from camp to these beloved camp community members in the middle of the dark winter.
“Parents email and call us to tell us what a huge difference it makes to their kids to get these parcels,” Melissa told me. “It reminds them of who they are and that camp loves them – just like God loves them – no matter where they are or what time of year it is.”
I was so touched as she was speaking. And her words prompted a memory: I remembered George Bowling sending me a care package, when he learned I had mono. It was shortly after I’d spent a month working at camp, and I still remember what he wrote in that note. It was 1995 and I was a sophomore; it was the worst year of my college career. It had made a huge difference to me, to know that I had camp’s (and his) support and affection in that hard space.
I left Cookie Camp weekend feeling so humbled and grateful. Grateful for a place like camp that both gathers its people together for meaningful reunions of all different kinds, and also intentionally pours into its people in different places. Grateful for friends so dear to my heart who camp introduced me to, friends of 20+ years who can laugh together till we cry in the dark at 1 AM in Elk Cabin. And grateful for a God who makes it possible for us to be connected in faith with others in this way for both filling and service to others.
Susan Bradley Arico was a Deer Run camper from 1986-1991 and was on staff in 1994, 1996, and 1997. Her husband York was on Brookwoods staff for three years in the 1990’s. The Aricos now reside in Connecticut. You may contact Susan, or view more of her writing on her blog, or her facebook page.