To The Sleep-Away Camp That Changed My Life

I've been going to sleep-away camps my whole life.

Ever since I was 10, I would spend at least one week away from home living in a cabin and hanging out with friends, while also making new ones. It was something I always looked forward to.

Then, when I was 13, I found a camp that truly changed my life and made me into the person I am today. So, after returning from my seventh year (four as a camper and three on staff), I'm writing a letter to the place that made a bigger impact on my life than I could have ever imagined.

Dear Chris Dudley Basketball Camp,

Thank you. Thank you for the laughs, the tears, the friendships, the memories and for the countless lessons learned while spending time in the Vernonia hills. Being a type one diabetic is not an easy hand of cards to be dealt, but somehow, this camp makes it seem like it's just something we have and it can't tear us down.

Thank you for giving me friends from all over the country and even the world, and for giving me endless reasons to travel and see new places and old faces.

Because of this place, I've learned how to cherish the moments you spend with people because it could be another year until you see them again. Because of you, I appreciate the little moments and smile when I think of them. This camp has given me and so many other campers something to look forward to during the year, and all of us will be forever grateful for everything you have given us.

This is the place that has given me the happiest of memories, the best of friends and the reassurance that even though you might be having a rough day, week, or even year, you will always have a group of people to rely on, to cry to and to celebrate with. Who would have thought that someplace in the middle of nowhere, Oregon, would be a place that I hate leaving every year and can't imagine my life without.

So here's to the Lucky Few, here's to the late nights staying up laughing until we can't breathe.

Here's to crying during the camp song even though we swore we wouldn't. To climbing up the giant hills every day just to have to carefully walk back down them to eat.

To the highest of highs and even the lowest of lows. To inspirational talks, testing and not guessing, and to tips games that can last hours.

Here's to the friendships that will last a lifetime, and to the place that makes even the darkest days just minor bumps in the road.

Thank you, for honestly... everything.

Sincerely,

Emily Riley

Part of the Lucky Few since 2011

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