Vic's Journal

Outside Camp’s Gates – Meet Bailey

By Abby Emmons
March 29, 2024

REACH is Victory Junction’s outreach program, and it is essentially “Camp on the go!” This program, that began in 2010, brings Camp into hospitals and clinics throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. Sometimes, kids with complex medical conditions spend a lot of time in clinical settings. That is when REACH steps in and brings Camp joy to them.

Our REACH managers are a very important part of our REACH program. One of our newest team members is Bailey! She is a REACH manager at Victory Junction and is proud to serve kids outside of Camp’s gates. We asked Bailey a few questions about her journey to Camp, REACH, and a little more about the program. We began with asking Bailey one of the most popular questions at Victory Junction:

Bailey wearing a helmet and life vest. She is laughing.
Bailey began her Camp journey as a summer counselor in 2021.

Let’s say you have a boxing ring, and you put a taco in one corner and a sunbutter and jelly sandwich in the other, and they have to fight. Which one comes out the winner in the end?

“Taco! A hard-shell taco is definitely winning against a soft SB&J.”

Where did you go to school and what did you major in?

“I went to Western Carolina University (GO CATS!) and studied Recreational Therapy. I wanted to be in a field where I could use my time and resources to serve others. I have a passion for inclusion. Plus, I love recreation and leisure activities. So, when I learned about Recreational Therapy, I realized that it was the perfect career for me!”

How did you first get involved with Victory Junction?

“I went to a small church camp growing up and it was my favorite week of the year. I decided that being a camp counselor would be a really fun summer job while in college. I applied to a few different summer camps, but out of all of them, I loved VJ’s mission and values. Also, I was excited about the idea of getting to work with so many different populations of campers. I was hired in 2020, and unfortunately, that summer didn’t happen as planned. I was hired as a program counselor in 2021 and had the best summer of my life. I came back in 2022 as the program area support manager and continued to volunteer during family weekends and summers, because I just could not get enough of Camp. Now, I have the honor to work at VJ full-time!”

How did being a summer counselor impact your career?

“It gave me such great experience working with individuals with a wide range of diagnoses. Working in program areas allowed me to improve my facilitation skills and helped me to get comfortable creating adaptations for activities on the spot. I’m a better recreational therapist because of my time working at Camp. Other than my future career, I’ve met some of my best friends through Camp, which I am so thankful for! The friends you make become a part of you.”

Bailey at the water park.
Bailey returned to Camp in 2022 as a support staffer and volunteer.

What is your position at Victory Junction?

“I am a REACH manager, so I get to help bring the magic of Camp into hospitals and clinics. I program in the Charlotte area and travel to hospitals and clinics in South Carolina. I collaborate with the rest of the REACH team to create appropriate and fun activities to bring with us into the hospitals. In the hospitals, I program with patients by doing crafts, playing games, and participating in activities to try to alleviate the stress of being hospitalized.”

Bailey with a child life specialist at a partner hospital.
Bailey works with child life specialists at partner sites, like Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital.

In your own words, what is REACH and why is it’s mission important? What are some things that REACH does to adapt the Camp experience to bring joy and support to children in hospitals?

“Being in the hospital can be stressful and scary, so REACH tries to eliminate some of that stress by bringing Camp into hospitals and clinics throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. We do our best to create unique and fun activities that reflect Camp, like crafts, activities, and games. A typical day of programming might include a cabin chat, playing Uno, creating a hot air balloon craft, making warm and fuzzies, and painting woodshop items. We are intentional about making sure that our activities are age-appropriate and can be adapted for any ability level, so that we have something for everyone!

What is your favorite part about REACH and being involved in it?

“I love being a part of REACH. I end each day with warm and fuzzies after getting to spend time with the patients. It’s so sweet to meet the patients exactly where they are at and try to put a smile on their face during a stressful time in their lives. It’s also a great reminder that the magic of Camp can be found anywhere, and we can spread it everywhere we go.”

Lastly, what does camp mean to you?

“Camp means so much to me. Camp is the most magical place on Earth. We have so many amazing amenities like the barn, adventure, bowling, and more. However, it’s so much bigger than the program areas and features. What makes Camp special is the warm and fuzzy feeling you have while you’re there. It’s not about how many costumes we have in the theater, it’s about how you felt when the entire theater cheered you on for being brave enough to get on stage. It’s not about how tall our zipline is, it is about feeling empowered to try something new and being celebrated by your whole cabin.

Bailey talking to a camper in a wheelchair.
Bailey sharing a moment with a camper during the summer of 2021.

“What makes Camp “camp” is the unrelenting love, kindness, inclusion, genuine acceptance, and encouragement you feel every time that you’re there. Camp changed my life, and I do my best to try to reflect the attributes of camp every day.”

With Bailey’s versatile experience at Victory Junction and her education in Recreational Therapy, she is dedicated to bringing the warm and fuzzies of Camp to the children that she serves, no matter where they are. Thanks to hard workers like Bailey on our REACH team, Victory Junction relieves some stress from hospital visits that children and their families endure during their stays. With REACH, kids can simply be kids and experience Camp magic wherever they are!