Deer Run Mentoring

by Sarah Bartlett Cohen, Program Director

When I arrived at Camp Deer Run for the first time at the wise age of 18, my visions of what I would be doing as a camp counselor included lines of little girls trouping behind me through the woods, assembling one s’more after another, and reading Bible stories by flashlight after “lights out.” While many of these visions became a reality, there were unexpected blessings that rounded my experience and keep me coming back to Deer Run summer after summer. One that I still reflect on is the Deer Run mentoring program.

In the summer of 2004 I was paired with camp legend, Bekah Peterson. I don’t remember much of what we talked about, likely funny stories of what my Whitetail campers did or said or how I spent my day off. What I do remember is that Bekah made me feel comfortable to be a clueless, eager, and overwhelmed first-year staff member. She had been around camp longer than me and she had more life experience. She listened and asked good questions that helped me see the bigger picture of camp and God’s Kingdom. Plus, she was just fun and cool and I liked hanging out with her.

Sarah Cohen (right) visits mentee Ellen Goodling in Nashville this past fall.

At this point in my “camp career,” I have spent at least a decade of my camp experience as a mentor. It is still one of my favorite parts of camp life. Every summer I have 1 or 2 mentees and my relationship with each of them is different; I love the way each relationship develops authentically. Sometimes we go for a walk along Damon Drive. Another mentee might prefer to stop by my office several times a week to chat for 10 minutes while eating a handful of M&Ms on her way to her next activity period. We always talk about campers, co-counselors, and the ways they are seeing God in those relationships. We talk about life at college, plans post-college, and how to discern God’s calling. We talk about future things, like marriage, babies, and family. Sometimes they just need to vent about the hard things that come with camp ministry and living in very (very) close community.

The mentoring program is a way that Senior Staff can support young adult staff in their daily ministry. As much as my mentees long for and need my listening ear, I also need to be reminded of the work God is doing inside each cabin and out on the front lawn. Just as Bekah helped me to see the bigger picture of God’s Kingdom, each summer my mentees remind me of God’s faithfulness and the work He is doing at Camp!

Sarah Cohen loves her job as the Brookwoods and Deer Run Program Director. Other jobs she’s held at camp include Whitetail counselor, Junior Unit Director, and LDP counselor. Sarah is a former 2nd grade teacher, now stay-at-home mom who brings her whole crew to camp every summer! She is mom to three future campers, Jacqueline (6), Paul (3), and Audrey (1). The Cohen Cabin loves breakfast cookout and can be frequently be found “selling” free sticks or painted rocks by the Eagle. Say hi to Sarah here!