Eric Roberts , as a counselor has added to and impacted so much. He hopes to return as a Group Leader for his 5th year this coming summer. Below he reflects on his experience at Towanda
As I look back reflecting on my time at Towanda, I can’t help but think of the impact that it has had on my life. Camp Towanda and the people there have no doubt touched the lives of countless people throughout the years. I can’t imagine all the blessings and benefits of spending my summers in such a beautiful environment growing up. However, I think my camp experience has been a unique one, a little different than the average Towanda attendee. The impact this place and the people there have had on my life is immeasurable.
My life before knowing about camp was far from glorious. I grew up lacking positive role models and looked up to the wrong people my entire life. The only thing that kept my going in any positive direction was playing soccer. The older I got the more temptations arose (which I rarely resisted). I got to a point in life where people started leaving and abandoning me in order to avoid watching the inevitable train wreck I was heading towards. While at college I attended a job fair where I met Jared Reiter and Matt Miller. We hit it off quickly and my roommate ended up attending camp that summer. It took two years later for me to decide to go. All I needed to graduate was an internship and I couldn’t afford to take a free internship, so Towanda lined up perfectly for me as I also saw a chance to get away from the temptations that had been chasing me for a while at this point. I figured I’d have a summer away from home get my act together, get my credits done and be gone. I had no idea the journey that camp was about to send me on.
When I first arrived at camp I saw tons of people running around smiling and laughing. People I had never known before were introducing themselves to me and it was truly unlike anything I’d ever seen. It put me in shock really, and it made me question myself with how different and out of place I was. I never met such welcoming people, it actually made me suspicious. I started asking myself what are their motives what are they trying to find out etc. I kept questioning their motives until I finally got to meet the camp directors. During orientation I had some issues arise with a family member and I wasn’t sure what to do. I spent the next hour walking and talking with them. I ended up telling them about my past and my family, things that I’ve been scared to tell friends about. At this point I was being so open with them because I was expecting myself to leave, but something about their sincerity really helped and I realized I could trust them. Without that night I would have left camp before it even started.
After that night things began to align for me. I stopped questioning everyone’s motives, and I found other counselors I felt comfortable around and started to ease into the Towanda culture. Once the kids arrived though is when my experience really took off. I immediately bonded with my campers. They were coming up to me asking about me and my life. You could tell they had never really known someone with a background like mine. Yet despite not having the best family life, despite not having a good financial situation, they accepted me for the person I was. I quickly found myself wanting to become a better person, wanting to be a good role model, wanting to be someone these kids would be proud to know. This is where my Towanda journey began to overlap with my personal journey, I realized I wanted to become the best person I can be. With the support of my campers and counselors I realized at Towanda it’s not about what you’ve done, or how much money you have, it’s about the person you are at this moment in time. It’s about being a good friend, it’s about supporting each other, it’s about living each moment for what it is and accepting people for who they are.
It has always amazed me just how supportive everyone is (campers and counselors). I am still in touch with my campers and co-counselors from my first year of camp. Now I’m writing about my camp experience four summers later. Each year being different than the previous, but being equally rewarding. This last summer provided me once again with new people who just like camp are always going to be a part of my life. Those relationships don’t fade away with time. They get stronger with distance and time. You realize how much people care when years later you’re still in touch looking after and supporting each other. I will be forever grateful for that path that Towanda helped me find. I think that camp inspires many people to become the best version of themselves possible. It’s a journey that’s far from over but I’ll be eternally grateful for my time spent at my summer home. Whether or not I am able to return a piece of me will always be at camp and a piece of camp will always be with me.