Because of Camp...Damara's Story
I came to camp to be myself – to be talkative
I have a handmade certificate in a drawer at home with my name on it. It’s from 1986 and it says: Damara Canery – most talkative camper. It’s from Camp Talooli and my counselor made it for me. Anyone who knows me from those days knows that I could be very talkative…but only if I was comfortable. And there weren’t a lot of places I was comfortable in those days. I was self-conscious, I was made fun of in school on a daily basis, and I withdrew into myself in most situations because I was afraid of being hurt.
Camp was a vacation from all of that. I came to camp to be myself – to be talkative. I went to many camps as a child, but started out at Camp Talooli, my very first exposure to the outdoors and to the acceptance that is camp. When I think about my childhood the only bright spot that stands out in my mind is summertime. For me, summer meant camp, and at camp I could get to be the “Damara” I wanted to be, the one that I should have always been. No one made fun of me for being the chubby girl or the bed wetter, no one made fun of me at all. At camp I was talkative, confident, curious, and excited to try new things. I eventually moved on from Camp Talooli, but I never forgot what it meant to me as a child.
When I was in college I was looking for a summer job and had trouble deciding what I wanted to do. All of a sudden it came to me: camp. Camp had been such a positive experience for me, and what better way to spend summer than giving back what had been given to me as a child. The more I thought about helping a child find her “talkative” side, the more it appealed to me. In 1999 I began working at camp for the first time and in 2000 I came back to Camp Talooli and have been there every summer since.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to help shape the lives of children for all of these years. I still remember the names of my counselors from when I was a child and they still stand out to me as role models and symbols of strength, acceptance, caring, and encouragement. I can only hope, as I go into my 13th summer working at camp, that I stand out in the mind of at least one child in the same way my counselors do in mine.
Camp Talooli Director, 2006-present
Camp Talooli Counselor, 2000-2005