Because of Camp...Ashley's Story
I may have left Camp Talooli a few years back, but that magic will forever remain inside of me...
I believe in Never Never Land. You know, that magical place where you never have to grow up. I believe in it because I lived there for 22 summers and to this day a little bit of Tinkerkell’s fairy dust travels with me everywhere I go. I may have left Camp Talooli a few years back, but that magic will forever remain inside of me, and it hangs above my bed in the form a very special staff whistle.
My most inspiring counselor over the years was an incredible young woman named Sandy. As a Camp Fire Girl, giving service was ingrained in my soul, and she believed in this too. In my last summer as a camper, our group decided that we should create a path to Hidden Lake, which actually was hidden at that time. We took shovels and picks and created steps leading down to the pond, and we laid sticks to mark the path. Every time I go back to visit, I take a walk down those steps and remember Sandy, the counselor who made me want to be a counselor someday.
Like all of the “Talooli Lifers,” I went through the CIT program, because my counselors inspired me to be like them, giving their all and creating memories that last forever. When I first became a counselor, I earned my coveted staff whistle, which I will never give up. I spent many MANY summers having the best job in the world – building caring confident youth and future leaders – and passing on the love that my counselors had for me. I was 17 when I decided that a little cabin in the middle of the woods needed to be used and I helped my campers turn it into the WoHeLo cabin that it is today. Sandy’s seeds were spread in that project.
I was fortunate enough to be on the Talooli staff for twelve incredible summers fulfilling a variety of roles, but being the CIT Director for the last five years that I was on staff was truly the greatest gift in the world. I watched so many inspiring young people grow from caring confident youth into exceptional leaders. I’ve worked in many places over the years and I have seen other camps, but there are no sixteen year-olds quite like the day camp staff members at Camp Talooli. Like me, these young adults are the product of counselors who embraced all of the values, challenges, and memory-making experiences that Talooli has to offer.
I have incredible memories of being at Camp Talooli and some of my campers and CITs are still on staff. Hopefully they still remember the values that I tried so hard to instill in them. Hopefully they still cook popcorn over the fire and drown it in butter (a tradition that I had with my campers every week and every summer). More importantly, I hope that like me, they still carry around a little bit of Tinkerkell’s fairy dust, reminding them that they really have lived in Never Never Land.
Ashley Ritzheimer, 30
Environmental Educator, Frost Valley YMCA
Camp Talooli Family, 1987-present