Campers to Counselors
By Bailey Deaver
August 9, 2022
By Bailey Deaver
August 9, 2022
Many of our 2022 summer staff brought previous Victory Junction experiences and history going back almost a decade with them to Camp. More than a dozen counselors were once campers, and many others have loved ones who were also attended VJ. We want to share just one of those special stories with you.
It all started right here at Camp four years ago, when two VJ counselors met for the first time. Claire Manning and Sarah Bazemore met in 2018 at summer camp when they both were campers in the same cabin. That camp week was Claire’s last as a camper and Sarah’s first. They created memories together that they both cherish to this day, and left a huge imprint on their lives.
Claire has a long history with VJ. Her brother has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, so she first attended a family weekend when she was only five years old. Later, during her middle school years, she attended Camp by herself in 2013. Claire continued to return to VJ as a camper for six years, until 2018 when she aged out. Her favorite memories from her time as a camper were making friends with campers and counselors, as well as doing archery under the guidance of Mr. Larry, VJ’s archery instructor. Claire remembers receiving many special medals from Mr. Larry when she got bullseyes, not to mention the bullseye dances!
After aging out, Claire knew she wanted to come back as a counselor and provide some of the experiences that she experienced herself for others. Claire is now 20 years old and is a student at East Carolina University, majoring in Child Life Management.
Sarah’s connection with Camp goes back to when she found out about VJ through a friend who previously attended. Sarah was a camper twice for summer camps and once during a family weekend. At Camp, she created a strong bond with her counselors, whom she looked up to and with whom she had many fun memories. “Overall, it’s the people that make Camp so special,” Sarah added.
After experiencing Camp, Sarah wanted to give back to VJ, because she said it changed her life. She praises VJ, saying Camp gave her a boost when she needed it the most. She wants the same type of experience for campers and wants to help kids create memories they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
Sarah is now also 20 and is studying Elementary Education and Special Education, with a minor in Sports Management at University of Mary Washington.
Earlier this year, Claire and Sarah began the application process to be counselors for the 2022 Camp sessions. Even though they attend different universities and prepare for different career path, the two friends both knew that coming back to VJ was something they wanted to do. Since they kept in touch with one another, they knew that they both had applied and talked through the hiring process. They found out that they were going to be working at Camp together, and ever since arriving at VJ for staff training, they rekindled their friendship and have been good friends ever since. 2022 was their first year on the summer staff, both working as program area counselors. Claire helped run arts and crafts activities, and Sarah assisted with archery.
Over the summer working as counselors, they found working in their roles to be humbling. They also said it was heartwarming and special when they could interact and talk with campers and their families about navigating life and relating with their own hardships and overcoming their own challenges during their childhood to now. In addition, they were thankful to work with other counselors and create a “warm and fuzzy” support system.
Claire and Sarah agree that, while team building is necessary, friendships are crucial for working together as counselors. They are both grateful that they were able to return to VJ and help create the “Camp magic” they once experienced together years ago.