In the summer of 2012, my daughter Reilly was 11 years old. She had always been an adventurous sort, but when the subject of sleep away camp came up, she wasn’t having any of it. She couldn’t imagine leaving her home and her friends for over a month, and the thought of trying to fall asleep in the middle of the woods with strangers and without her parents was far from appealing.
Throughout that Spring we spoke to Rachel Kerchman, the Director of Brant Lake Dance Camp, no less than five times. She even made time to visit our home when she was in Washington DC. Kerch was patient and warm, open and respectful of my daughter’s feelings. Reilly agreed to try BLDC, and we started packing.
As the bus pulled away from Lincoln Center that first summer, Reilly never looked back. (I cried my eyes out, however!) During every weekly phone call, Reilly’s happy voice and excited stories made us sure she was in the right place.
It is now five years later, and Reilly is getting ready for her last summer as a camper at BLDC. She is dying to get back to her friends and Brant Lake’s beautiful setting, but the thought that her time as a camper is coming to an end is bittersweet. She knows the years that follow will hold new adventures and challenges, but if she had her choice, she would ask for five more summers.
It is bittersweet for us as well. During these last five years, we have watched Reilly grow into a graceful, poised, self-assured, independent and outgoing woman, in no small part because of her experience at BLDC. Her friends and counselors have seen her through happy and hard times, from the exhilaration of her first Enchoreo to the heartbreak of a chronic injury which took her off the professional track she was aiming for. Reilly’s Dad and I are grateful for the love, friendship and endless summer days she has experienced at Brant Lake. While I still cry every time she leaves, we now know that camp, after being eagerly anticipated for ten months, will be the highlight of her year. And who knows? Maybe we will be back if we have a grandchild that loves to dance as well.