These are the responses of my four children when asked what they think of when I say “Family Camp.” And the list goes on and on. Our family has been attending camp annually for the past thirteen years. To say that it is a special place to us is a huge understatement!
Ray, my husband, grew up attending Camp Koinonia with his family. When we got engaged, his family made sure that family camp was something I knew about in hopes it would become an important part of my life too. They spoke of skits, camp capers, the pool, masses, morning prayer, family reconciliation, their favorite meals, and the many relationships that shaped and impacted their life as a family. I have to admit, I was bracing myself a bit. Would I be ready to embrace this experience the way they all hoped I would?
In 2009, when our oldest was two and her brother was almost one, we attended camp for the first time. As we met our teen staff, got settled in our cabin, met other families, and attended evening mass, it was quickly obvious that this was going to be a unique and life-changing experience. Throughout the week, I found so many moments to connect with my husband, bond with other mothers, watch my children being so loved and cared for, grow spiritually, and make unforgettable memories as a family. On the last day, during morning prayer and the family blessings, I was overcome with emotion. I realized I was scared to leave this place of love, acceptance, growth, and peace. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, Joe Rutigliano, our teen staff, said, “Oh, she’s crying….that means she’ll be back!” He was SO right!
Over the years, our involvement in camp has taken on various forms. Beyond attending Family Camp each year, we have felt called to donate money and time to Camp Koinonia. We have helped with various service projects. Over the past several years, Ray has helped with maintenance and I have helped with writing the children's program when able. Our kids have helped paint the camp store, campfire tables and benches, and several other projects. These are projects that have shaped and molded us as individuals and as a family. While we no longer live in New York and our physical distance to camp hinders our ability to help out in many ways, we will always consider Camp Koinonia an extension of “home” and do what we can to preserve it for future generations.
The countdown to our week at Family Camp 2022 has begun and we will be eagerly awaiting our turn to drive under the parachute, meet our teen staff, and dive into another unforgettable week of Family Camp love and growth. My fifteen year old describes camp as the place she feels most connected to God. That is the greatest gift of this holy ground….to her and to our family. It will forever be one of our favorite places!