By Cassidy Orth-Moore
Camp has been my way of measuring growth over the years, the various horses I rode acting as trail markers throughout my life. My most significant friendships have been formed at camp, important lessons have been learned at camp, and the best parts of myself were discovered and established while at camp. Camp helped me take my first independent steps when I was eight years old, and from that moment until my program head year, camp was the most important relationship in my life. Just the very fact that I was able to attend camp every year for over a decade was an ongoing healing.
If you ask any of the Orth-Moore kids, the highlight of the entire year, every year, was driving through the A/U Ranches arch. Seeing the words on the back side of it, “Grace unto you, and peace from above,” will always flood my heart with excitement and love. The start of summer break meant we were going home, and that sign meant that we were finally back after 12 months of separation. For kids who moved every three years, the knowledge that we would definitely return to our favorite place on earth meant a lot. The donors who made this consistency possible for us are the heroes of my life, and I’m sure my siblings would say the same. My experiences at camp shaped my entire life, probably in more ways than I’m even aware of.
From a young age, I really felt the need for a sense of stability in order to find a stronger understanding of my identity. Camp counselors taught me that my true identity comes from God, and no human experiences could stand in the way of my expression of Her. I struggled a lot with the need to have strong and meaningful relationships with people, especially among my friend groups at school. For a long time I thought that there was something wrong with me, but then I would be reminded of the lifelong friends I’ve made at camp over the years, and my fears would subside. These people helped me to make difficult decisions and supported me through periods of turbulent self-discovery.
Being at camp with the people who really love me helped me realize that I needed a change of direction when I was going into my senior year of high school. I decided to enroll in The Link School (next door to the A/U Ranches), and my life was changed for the better. I felt such a strong sense of home in the little town of Buena Vista, Colorado that I just couldn’t leave. Camp helped prepare me for The Link School, which deeply strengthened my relationship with God. Without this year of intense spiritual development, I would not have been emotionally or mentally prepared for the next big chapter: college.
I had always planned on going to a school called St. John’s College, but was led to go to Principia at the last minute. After I had changed my enrollment, I felt a deep sense of unrest because I was letting my human plan interfere with my spiritual sense of what was right. There was a lot of self-doubt regarding whether I, Cassidy Orth-Moore, had made the right decision by changing my plans.
I graduated from high school and began work at camp for the summer feeling very lost and confused. Appropriately, during one of my days off at camp, I wandered aimlessly through the South Woods, attempting to quiet any and all human sentiment around me. I distinctly remember feeling a strong wave of calm washing over me as I walked by the rodeo arena. God seemed to say, “Remember all the scary things you’ve faced here? Didn’t I take care of you then? Why would I stop taking care of you now?” From that moment forward, I released my human plans and embraced the path set before.
On a loving, carefree God cloud, I wandered back toward my cabin and ran into a friend who invited me to dinner, which I gladly accepted. This marked the start of a beautiful relationship with the man who became my best friend and will become my husband in a few months. We picked Buena Vista as our wedding venue because that is where we feel most at home, where we feel the most ourselves, the most loved, and the most accepted. It was all the years of molding at camp that eventually led me to this wonderful man and the life we lead together.
When I think of camp and my character development, I am reminded of Hymn 123 (second verse):
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
Camp acted as the flame, which joyfully consumed the dross that surrounded me to produce a purer, shinier gold. Though I haven’t attended or worked at camp in a while, it now serves as the Orth-Moore family’s common ground and reunion place. Really, I think of camp as a sort of “Giving Tree,” which never ceases to provide love and support to those who ask.
Do you have a memory to share from camp? Send it to us!