Camp Movie Show and Reunion Travel Blog - Week 2

As we reflect on our second week of travel, we’re constantly reminded that camp friendships run deep. Previous campers and counselors gather at these movie shows to reunite with old friends. Whether they were campers here just this past summer, counselors a few years back, or they are grown dads who have fond memories at The Creek from decades past, they are all united by their positive experiences at camp. Even though these camp movie shows were initially started to explain what Falling Creek was about and introduce new boys to camp, they have since turned into more. Not only are they informative and inviting for new families, they are also fun reunions for returning camp families. Every city we go to is a chance to reconnect with friends, sharing the camp experience that is so important for us all. It is exciting to see how expansive those camp connections are, uniting boys all across the country and even the world. This week we stayed on the east coast, traveling to Raleigh NC, Richmond VA, and Alexandria VA.

On October 15th, we started the week off in Raleigh at Emily and Pat Funderburk’s home. Their older son Patrick will be returning to 2-Week camp for his third year this summer, and we’re looking forward to when Wells is old enough to join too! There were quite a number of dads at the Raleigh show who have been a part of Father/Son Weekends, and it is always enjoyable to catch up.

Yates with the Funderburk’sYates with the Funderburk’s
Raleigh show at the Funderburk's home -  all the boys in attendance, plus dads from Father/Son, alumni, and staffRaleigh show at the Funderburk's home - all the boys in attendance, plus dads from Father/Son, alumni, and staff

George Edwards was one father who was part of Falling Creek in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. His son will be returning to camp in 2019, and they both came to the show in Raleigh to reconnect with everyone. Tor Ramsey, who has been involved in editing the camp movie several times since 2006, lives in Raleigh, and was also in attendance. Tor was the lead behind "Behold50,” the new 1 hour movie celebrating 5 decades at Falling Creek camp. You can find the link to this movie in the alumni section of the Falling Creek website. Tor did a great job as usual, and we suggest sitting down to watch this movie on your TV. Another thank you goes out to Sam and James Frushone, who are returning to Main camp in 2019 for their 6th summer. They both helped explain to the new families what Falling Creek is about, and gave some insight into their camp experiences for new boys who came to learn more about FCC. James was the first Warrior ever in the F.A.R.M., one of Falling Creek’s newest programs that focuses on learning about sustainability, gardening, animals, and repurposing materials. Sam has 2 of his 3 Warrior waypoints, which is the highest level attainable in our programs. He is a Ranger in his 3rd, which is the level just below Warrior. To become a Journeyman, campers must first show proficiency in a variety of camp activities, and must have reached the level of Warrior in at least three programs to prove this. Sam is well on his way, and plans to focus on becoming a Journeyman in this coming 2019 summer. You can read more about this unique challenge and camp experience in our previous summer blogs about Journeymen during Main camp this past summer. Sam is excited about working towards his Journeyman status, and having a chance to complete his Journey to become a Keeper of The Flame in the future.

Yates with Sam and James Frushone in RaleighYates with Sam and James Frushone in Raleigh

For following day on the 16th, we headed to Richmond, VA, the next stop on the Falling Creek Camp movies and reunion tour. Thanks to Sarah and Beau Hurst for hosting at their beautiful home. The 4 Hurst boys have been spending their summers at Falling Creek since 2007. They’re known for being big outdoorsmen, and especially avid whitewater paddlers. Wade Blackwood, who was a counselor at Falling Creek in the mid 90’s, brought his family to the movie show and reunion. His son Spencer is coming to Junior camp for his first Falling Creek experience this summer. Wade is the Executive Director of the American Canoe Association where Chris Stec, a former FCC counselor with Wade, and Program Director at FCC, is also on the ACA team as it’s Chief Operating Officer. Meade Whitaker was a camper and counselor in the 80’s and 90’s, and he drove over from Charlottesville, VA where he and his family live.

The great crew in Richmond, VA - all the boys in attendance, plus dads from Father/Son, alumni, and staffThe great crew in Richmond, VA - all the boys in attendance, plus dads from Father/Son, alumni, and staff
Yates with Meade WhitakerYates with Meade Whitaker

Steve and Kirki Fuller also came to the Hurst’s home, and their son Harrison is returning to main camp for summer 2019. Steve and Yates especially enjoyed reconnecting as they are fraternity brothers from their days at Appalachian State. Steve also took Yates out on the brand new mountain bike trails at Pocahontas State Park before the camp movies and reunion event.

Yates with Harrison, Kirki, & Steve FullerYates with Harrison, Kirki, & Steve Fuller
Enjoying pizza and friends at the Richmond, VA movie show and reunionEnjoying pizza and friends at the Richmond, VA movie show and reunion

The final day of travel was this past Wednesday, October 17th. We made our way a little further north to Alexandria, VA, where Katie and David Woodruff hosted us at their beautiful home. Their sons Will and Charlie are main campers, and they joined with several other FCC campers in attendance to help tell the story of camp to new families.

The crew in Alexandria, VA! All the boys in attendance, plus dads from Father/Son, alumni, and staffThe crew in Alexandria, VA! All the boys in attendance, plus dads from Father/Son, alumni, and staff
Friends at the Woodruff home for the Alexandria, VA movie show and reunionFriends at the Woodruff home for the Alexandria, VA movie show and reunion

It was also wonderful to reconnect with Mickey Herman, a 13-year camper, CIT, counselor, and previous assistant director at Falling Creek. Mickey finished law school recently at Wake Forest and is starting his new life as a lawyer in D.C. this month. Patrick Greenwood, a 3-year counselor at FCC, returned from coaching in Europe and came to the Woodruff home as well. He is now serving as a teacher and coach nearby. We are appreciative to them both for taking time to come and support Falling Creek! It was a beautiful night to share camp.
Thanks to everyone who came to the camp reunions and movie shows this week, and especially to the wonderful families who hosted. Whether it was our first time meeting you, or you are a long time friend and Falling Creeker, we loved getting the chance to see you all!

Yates with Mickey Herman and Patrick Greenwood in Alexandria, VAYates with Mickey Herman and Patrick Greenwood in Alexandria, VA
Camp friends at the movie show and reunion in Alexandria, VA Camp friends at the movie show and reunion in Alexandria, VA

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Camp Movie Show and Reunion Travel Blog - Week 1

Every summer after the last camper heads home, the final activity supplies are put away, and the last counselors leave, camp reverts back to it’s dormant phase, quietly waiting for another exciting summer to begin in May. You might think that the same is true for the directors and leadership team. Don’t they close up shop and retreat back to their homes for the long winter? Actually, it’s the opposite – the off season for camp is almost busier than than when the campers are here! During the Fall and Winter, the year-round team is busy recruiting staff, interviewing, completing work projects, planning the upcoming sessions, and traveling all over the country to camp family homes and colleges.
This past week was the first of many in this year’s Camp Movie and Reunion travel schedule. These shows take place all over the country, from the end of September through November. A full travel calendar can be found on our website (, but if we don’t make it to your city this year, you can always tune into the last show in Asheville, which we stream live on Facebook. To kick off this season of travel, Yates was able to visit four cities, hosted by four of our incredible camp families. He was in Atlanta, GA on Sunday, then Birmingham, AL, New Orleans, LA, and finally Greenville, SC on Wednesday.
The Daniel Family were our gracious hosts for the show in Atlanta on September 30th. It was a fantastic way to start the travel week, and director Frank Tindall was also able to be there. Pizza was served and there was time to mingle before watching the movie in the backyard in a fun outdoor setting.

Atlanta kicked off the week with a great Movie Show and ReunionAtlanta kicked off the week with a great Movie Show and Reunion
Camp friends in AtlantaCamp friends in Atlanta
The new 2019 trunk sticker was also revealed, which is a collectible item that campers can only receive at a Movie Show and Reunion. This year’s design is the dining hall, and we were excited to share these stickers for the first time in Atlanta.
The 2019 Collectible Trunk Sticker The 2019 Collectible Trunk Sticker
As a side note, if you would like a sticker but we aren’t traveling to your city this year, just tune in to the Asheville Facebook live show and we’ll send stickers to all those who participate through the live feed as well!
The second day led us to Birmingham, where the Mandell Family hosted at their beautiful home on October 1st. Ken Cochran, who was on staff in 1988-89, also came to reconnect and even took some photos, just like he did at camp back in the late 80’s when he was on photography staff.
It was a great turnout in Birmingham!It was a great turnout in Birmingham!
It was fun having so many veteran campers in attendance to share their Falling Creek experience with all of the new families. Though many of the families who come to these shows are new to camp and looking for more information about Falling Creek, there are also many families who come to simply reunite with friends and catch up since the summer.
Watching the Camp Movie in the Mandell Family home Watching the Camp Movie in the Mandell Family home

On October 2nd, the Pipes Family opened their home in New Orleans. New Orleans has always been a city that sends a number of boys up to NC for camp in the summer, and we are always happy to reconnect with our friends down in Louisiana.
The great crew at the New Orleans Movie Show and Reunion!The great crew at the New Orleans Movie Show and Reunion!
Many of the boys at the New Orleans show were at camp this summer, and even though it has only been a few months since we last saw them, you can already tell how much they are growing! Seeing the boys grow into the great young men we know they are is one of the most rewarding parts of the ongoing camp experience.
A few of our incredible campers from New Orleans!A few of our incredible campers from New Orleans!

To round out the week, we finished the tour on Wednesday in Greenville. It was a beautiful evening, and we are grateful to Cary and Gage Weekes for welcoming everyone to their home.
4-time Father/Son attendees, the Savage's, came to reconnect with the FCC community4-time Father/Son attendees, the Savage's, came to reconnect with the FCC community
Yates was able to reconnect with Kelly Odom, who was a camper in his June 3-Week cabin back in 1987! He was able to meet Kelly’s family, and we are excited to have his son join us at Falling Creek this coming summer.
Yates Pharr with Kelly Odom, one of his campers from June Camp 1987Yates Pharr with Kelly Odom, one of his campers from June Camp 1987
Yates and Frank Jackson leading a Fontana Trip during June Camp in 1987 (Kelly is in the blue second from the right) Lawrence Whatley is to the right of Frank, and Spencer South is to the right of him. Both are FCC dads, and Lawrence was at the Monday night show!Yates and Frank Jackson leading a Fontana Trip during June Camp in 1987 (Kelly is in the blue second from the right) Lawrence Whatley is to the right of Frank, and Spencer South is to the right of him. Both are FCC dads, and Lawrence was at the Monday night show!
Yates with his June Camp Cabin in 1987, including a young Kelly Odom Yates with his June Camp Cabin in 1987, including a young Kelly Odom
Cary presented some amazing FCC logo and CODE cookies for dessert that were almost too pretty to eat, and were a huge hit. It was great seeing super-counselor Andrew Smith, who is now a PA in Greenville and came by the show to support and reconnect.
Cary presented some incredible custom cookies at the Greenville show!Cary presented some incredible custom cookies at the Greenville show!
Thanks for a great night Greenville! Long time staff member Andrew Smith (back row far left) was also able to reconnect and come say hi Thanks for a great night Greenville! Long time staff member Andrew Smith (back row far left) was also able to reconnect and come say hi

We are so grateful for all the incredible Falling Creek families who open their beautiful homes for these Movie Shows and Reunions. Your support is what makes all of this possible. Our next travel week, starting Monday, October 15, will take us to Raleigh NC, Richmond VA, and Alexandria VA. We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!

-Annie Pharr

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50th Anniversary Reunion Weekend September 7-9, 2018

This past weekend, nearly 200 Falling Creek alumni gathered to celebrate camp’s 50th anniversary and reconnect with old friends. It was heartwarming to see so many people reconnected, and to realize just how much this camp means to so many.

Yates, Marisa, and Stephen PharrYates, Marisa, and Stephen Pharr

Everyone began trickling in late that Friday afternoon, mingling on the grassy knoll by the old Lakefront cabin, which is now the ESEFEL library. Render Braswell and Clay Willett were two of the alums returning for the first time since the late 2000s. “This just makes me so happy,” Render beamed, walking to the cabin areas with his bag ready to settle in for the weekend. “I haven’t smiled this much in forever.” Their walk to the cabins kept getting cut short as they couldn’t walk more than a few yards without seeing another old friend and excitedly embracing.

Render Braswell, Clay Willett, and Henry Foah heading to their cabin for the weekendRender Braswell, Clay Willett, and Henry Foah heading to their cabin for the weekend

As old campers and counselors arrived, we were welcomed with lemonade and “gorp”, classic camp treats, while mingling on the grassy knoll by Morning Watch. The excitement for the reunion was contagious, and everyone was happy to see each other, no matter what decade they were from. Phil Walker, a founding camper from Falling Creek’s first summer, was explaining what a fun surprise it was to drive up the old dirt road to camp again, experiencing all the new additions since he had last been here. “As a founding camper, we found out how Jim Daddy had the most brilliant business plan. We paid $100 a week (which we thought was a lot), and we were put to work building the camp instead! We had counselors in the water for 8 hours a day building docks. Everything we worked on in the woods seemed to have yellow jacket nests in it. But we loved it.”

Founding Camper, Phil Walker, and Marisa Pharr mingling on the Grassy KnollFounding Camper, Phil Walker, and Marisa Pharr mingling on the Grassy Knoll
Camp Songs and GORP at the Esefel Library (Lakefront) to welcome everyone Camp Songs and GORP at the Esefel Library (Lakefront) to welcome everyone
David Brown with son Joey Brown, both previous paddling counselors and campersDavid Brown with son Joey Brown, both previous paddling counselors and campers

Fathers and sons were able to come back to camp together, and old counselors were reunited with their previous campers. David Brown, counselor 1976-1987, came with his brother Bucky, counselor 1978-1984 (they both served as head of the paddling program in the early 80’s), and his son Joey. David was hanging out on the grassy knoll with some of his old campers like Brooks Scurry and Stephen Gray. Joey was playing some favorite camp songs on his banjo, setting the mood as people gathered, returning to their summer home for the weekend.

Reminiscing and catching up over Fried Chicken SupperReminiscing and catching up over Fried Chicken Supper

For dinner on Friday, we had Falling Creek’s famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and warm rolls, a meal usually reserved for Sunday lunches. The dining hall was once again buzzing with energy as old friends reminisced, reconnecting after years apart.
As the “Evening Program” for the night, we divided into groups based on the decade we most resonated with. Each group had a leader from their decades to head up discussions on the individual flair from each generation, including their favorite foods, skits, songs, most legendary counselors, or funniest memories. For the 70s, the group leader was Phil Walker, the 80s was Dusty Davis, Crom Carey was leading the 90s, Clay Willett led the 2000s, and Will Walters led the most recent group from the 2010s.

Phil Walker sharing the highlights of camp from the founding year through the 70sPhil Walker sharing the highlights of camp from the founding year through the 70s

After the group discussions, everyone came together to share highlights from their decade with the whole crowd. Phil told everyone about the early days of camp, when there were organized green and gold camper work days, and how during the first summer Jim Kurtts removed 15 copperheads in one week. They had to frequently get up at 5am for “work days” and even build their own cabins, but as Phil said, “we boys thought it was heaven.” During these early years the boys were treated to blackberry pie for dessert with hand-picked blackberries, joined Bob John’s music program with the “Men’s Corral” choir, and had to turn in a letter home (many of which were blank paper mailed home) if they wanted to partake in the weekly banana split sundaes. Phil had the whole crowd rolling with laughter as he reminisced on “the night that all the campers got diarrhea at 1am,” particularly during a time at camp when cabins had no electricity or plumbing. Everyone cringed and laughed as Phil described how they had to take their kerosene lanterns and “shlep down to the 4 communal toilets” at the bathhouse. On a happier note, Phil also told us about watching the first moon landing from a tiny black and white TV screen in the dining hall, trying to crowd all 113 boys around the small display as history was made.

Dusty Davis and his prior camper Stephen Grey sharing highlights of camp in the 80sDusty Davis and his prior camper Stephen Grey sharing highlights of camp in the 80s

Dusty Davis and his prior camper Stephen Grey shared the highlights of camp in the 80s, starting by chanting “stud,” much to Yates’ embarrassment. This nickname originated during his time as head of the paddling docks in the 80s, and Dusty said that he “had been everyone’s favorite CIT,” so they enjoyed poking a little fun at him. The favorite food of this decade was not only fried chicken, but specifically the leftover fried chicken out of the trunk of Skeet Keyes’ car on the following Monday. The legend of camp in the 80s was Virgil Starks, one of the first African Americans to work at camp, breaking down racial barriers and bringing his kindness, enthusiasm, and humour to grace camp. His legacy lives on everytime camp alums repeat his famous chant, “I am. Somebody.” Dusty and Stephen also laughed about the times that the old Volkswagen was put in the Dining Hall, or the time that all the dining hall chairs were carabiner-ed to the high wire, and how anytime you wanted to call home you would have to use the old pay phone in the counselor lair. They looked forward to Saturday nights especially, when the camp gathered to watch reel to reel films like Indiana Jones and Star Wars.

Crom Carey describes the best parts of camp in the 90sCrom Carey describes the best parts of camp in the 90s

Crom described the best parts of camp in the 90s, a decade that he chose because even though he was a counselor in the 2000s, he can remember idolizing the counselors as his heroes every summer during his camper years in the 90s. Food that he remembers from the 90s included Frito Pie (complete with it’s own theme song), cookouts on the field, the coca cola you get at 5 year dinner, and Longenecker Lumps. Legends included JJ Hicks and John Dickens as camp comedians, Bill Wilson because Crom was both terrified of and in awe of him, and of course Chuck McGrady and how they called him “the stealth” because of his ability to seemingly be everywhere. The 90s were a transitional time especially for the cabins as they began to get renamed, each got their own bathroom, and the old rusty metal beds were finally traded out for wooden ones. The 90s was also the era of pranks, with Chuck recalling the time he inflated the entire blob inside cabin 8, the time the cow that they borrowed for Cow Pie Bingo escaped, and the paddling competitions with Merrie Woode for the elusive Bull Sluice sign.

Clay Willett and William Rhodes Sharing highlights from the 2000sClay Willett and William Rhodes Sharing highlights from the 2000s

The 2000s were highlighted by Clay, who described the unique position of that decade as being witness to the “transition years” from Chuck and Donnie to Yates and Marisa. Choco Tacos were the favorite dessert of the time, acting almost as a “camp currency” during mealtimes. The legend of the 2000s was Rick Bowers, also known as “Wood God,” and they’ll never forget the time that Ben Williams smashed through the plexiglass onto the front porch while trying to act out the “bug on a windshield” skit. The trends of the millenials in the 2000s were birkenstocks, crocs, having a myspace, and Nalgene water bottles that were not yet BPA free. The struggle of this decade was trying to make sure your laundry made it on the outside of the huge cabin laundry loads that were washed in the industrial size machines at the time. As Clay said, if your laundry was clumped in the middle of the massive laundry loads, it would just remain there untouched by the soap and return back to you still filthy, but sanitized.

Will Walters describing memories from the most recent decadeWill Walters describing memories from the most recent decade

Finally, Will Walters shared the most recent highlights of the past decade. Food highlights included stromboli, mini corn dogs, and s’mores pockets. The best pranks included the time the counselors moved a smartcar to different locations all around camp, when the paddlers performed an enthusiastic “harlem shake,” or the ongoing legend that beaver sharks live in the lakes. We laughed about the failed addition of a 5th tribe “Algonquin” and remembering Duckles, the fat duck who couldn’t fly.

Judson Randolph enjoying the gift for the weekend, our new book, Behold50, a celebration of the past 50 summersJudson Randolph enjoying the gift for the weekend, our new book, Behold50, a celebration of the past 50 summers

Though each decade had their own highlights and memories, reflecting on what made Falling Creek so fun throughout the years was a common theme for all. To close the first evening, everyone was given the newly released book, Behold50, a celebration of the past 50 summers and a collection of the stories and photos throughout the years.

"Top of the World" sunrise hike to the new orchard side of camp

The next morning, many of the early rising alumni chose to join in on a “Top of The World” sunrise hike. This hike went up to the top of the new apple orchard property before breakfast, enjoying the view of the Green River Valley below as the sun rose to greet them. After a beautiful start to the day, they returned in time for Morning Watch, led by Dusty. The focus was on camp’s central verse: Psalm 133. Dusty explained that the verse specifies both “good and pleasant” because sometimes things that are good for you are not always pleasant. At camp however, we have the privilege of experiencing the good and the pleasant simultaneously as we “dwell together in unity.”

singing singing "Fire on the Mountain" during Morning Assembly
Goody sharing his famous Goody sharing his famous "Opie Rap"

After a hearty breakfast everyone gathered on the front porch to experience an extended Morning Assembly. We were treated to several skits, including Ben Williams’ “bug on a windshield,” Timothy and the “used toothbrush” skit, the newer “dead cat in a box” skit, and even Goody shared his “Opie Rap”. The band for the morning was extensive, with dozens of camp legends up at the front with guitars and singing voices at the ready. Joel Priest started it off with “Rooster in the Yard,” Nathan suggested “Fox on the Run,” and requests for “Rocky Top,” “Dust on my Saddle,” and “Leroy Brown” were all honored. Donnie Bain even borrowed a guitar so he could join in with other legends Walt Cottingham, Steve Rogers, and Dave Dickerson on the favorite “Hey Baby” song.
Ben Williams performing his Ben Williams performing his "bug on a windshield" skit
Steve Drewry sharing his hilarious acting talent during the Steve Drewry sharing his hilarious acting talent during the "used toothbrush" skit
Left to right, Dave Dickerson, Walt Cottingham, Donnie Bain, and Steve Rogers playing their famous rendition of Left to right, Dave Dickerson, Walt Cottingham, Donnie Bain, and Steve Rogers playing their famous rendition of "Hey Baby"
Dave, Walt, Donnie, and Steve in the same order, playing the same song, 42 years earlier (1976), in the exact same locationDave, Walt, Donnie, and Steve in the same order, playing the same song, 42 years earlier (1976), in the exact same location

The morning was a whirlwind of choose-your-own activities. SFL was cooking Longenecker Lumps at the library, Joe Duckett brought his giant snakes and tarantulas to hang out in the warrior ball pit, Ben Lea was planning a mountain bike epic around camp, and several old alumni were channeling their inner camper as they back flipped and dove off the high-dive. After lunch, we had ice cream sundaes on the road by the dining hall, complete with all the toppings. The afternoon was another free choice time, with rounds of disc golf being played, kayaks and canoes out on the lower lake, and folks trying to make it to the top of the climbing wall. SFL also shared a combined program presenting birds of prey and snakes.

Sam Frame with Longenecker LumpsSam Frame with Longenecker Lumps
Steve Longenecker with Joe Duckett at his snake presentation Steve Longenecker with Joe Duckett at his snake presentation
Garrett Randolph (left) and Judson Conway (right) holding Garrett Randolph (left) and Judson Conway (right) holding "Cuddles," one of Joe Duckett's snakes
Cooling off at the swim docks Cooling off at the swim docks
Ice Cream Sundaes by the Dining Hall!Ice Cream Sundaes by the Dining Hall!

Before dinner, everyone gathered at the McGrady Gym for a group panoramic photo and cocktail hour. It was a treat to be able to mingle with old friends, snack on hoursdouvers, and reminisce over the many photos and memorabilia that were hanging up around the gym. Shortly after, everyone sat around the stage.

Simon Wilson looking over the decades of pictures strung around the McGrady GymSimon Wilson looking over the decades of pictures strung around the McGrady Gym
Gordon Strayhorn (FCC Program Director in mid 1980s and now Director of Camp Illahee) reconnecting with Sarah Bailes (FCC Secratary 1970s-80s)Gordon Strayhorn (FCC Program Director in mid 1980s and now Director of Camp Illahee) reconnecting with Sarah Bailes (FCC Secratary 1970s-80s)
Garrett Randolph, Skeet Keyes, Hagar Rand, and Terry Tyree recreating the same photo from 1981Garrett Randolph, Skeet Keyes, Hagar Rand, and Terry Tyree recreating the same photo from 1981
Garrett, Skeet, Hagar, and Terry in 1981Garrett, Skeet, Hagar, and Terry in 1981

Talbot Carter, who attended with all 3 of his sons, led a toast to Falling Creek and how the camp has positively impacted his entire family. He remarked that “They say the road to heaven is paved in gold,” Talbot mused, “but for me it’s a dirt road. And I know I’m there right now.” This was a perfect segway to then watch the new historical video, made specially for the reunion and highlighting the past 50 years in detail. As the video ended, we all were blessed to have the opportunity to stand with so many important FCC aumni to announce and celebrate that the sacred bridge that everyone crosses on their way to church and campfire has been reconstructed and now renamed “Bain Bridge”, dedicated in honor of Donnie and Kim Bain who each have offered over 30 years of service to Falling Creek. It was a standing ovation of love, happiness, and gratitude for the Bains.

Talbot Carter leading a toast to Falling CreekTalbot Carter leading a toast to Falling Creek
Stuart (left) and Jimboy Miller, enjoying the time to celebrate what their father (JimDaddy) foundedStuart (left) and Jimboy Miller, enjoying the time to celebrate what their father (JimDaddy) founded
The campfire bridge renamed the The campfire bridge renamed the "Bain Bridge" for Donnie and Kim Bain

For supper we were treated to BBQ, tomato pie, texas caviar, warm rolls, and coleslaw. Everyone was able to enjoy a great meal before heading to the campfire area for a Candlelight Campfire ceremony. Campfire is a place that is held dear to all who come to Falling Creek. The minute you walk over Bain Bridge and pass the “Behold” sign with Psalm 133, a wave of peace and reverence immediately washes over you. As we gathered in silence along the rows of benches and listened to the alternating conversations between bullfrogs and cicadas, it felt like any other summer before.

Walking over the Walking over the "Bain Bridge"

During this Campfire, gratitude was the redundant theme, and with good reason. Between songs of “Country Roads”, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, and Garrett sharing his song he wrote about Steve Longenecker called “Down South Again,” Terry Tyree reflected on why he was grateful for Falling Creek, and opened the floor for other alumni to share their experiences. Terry’s thoughts centered on the ever present “Spirit of Falling Creek,” and how those values never leave when you leave camp, allowing you to make a difference and touch lives every day because of the things you learn at camp. He shared how he believes that you get what you need at Falling Creek. Leland Morris shared, “Boys get what they need in camp. It meets you where you are and teaches you what masculinity is about, through vulnerability, caring, and unselfishness.” Phil Walker echoed this positive impact, sharing, “Falling Creek didn’t change my life, Falling Creek made my life. It was the first place that I was able to say ‘I can,’ and at the end of the summer I could say, ‘I did.’” Phil expressed, “you can go home again if you never left – and Falling Creek never left me or my heart.” Phil challenged us to take on a new identity, one that is not simply Falling Creek alums. Instead, he declared us “Guardians of the Flame,” since we let the Spirit of Falling Creek live inside us. Each of us can give something to make this flame grow brighter and ensure that it doesn’t die, taking on a more active alumni role as “guardians” of the Falling Creek spirit we know and love.

Terry Tyree reflecting on his experiences at Falling Creek during CampfireTerry Tyree reflecting on his experiences at Falling Creek during Campfire
John Moll, Robert Kirby, and Nathan Newquist sharing their musical talents during CampfireJohn Moll, Robert Kirby, and Nathan Newquist sharing their musical talents during Campfire
Candlelight Campfire Candlelight Campfire

For the final morning of the weekend, we gathered at the campfire area once again for a church service before breakfast. As the quiet sounds of the morning surrounded us, Allen Kannapell began the service, sharing the story of how he “came back to God on the banks of the Tuckasegee River” as a camper. The theme of the service was “love,” a fitting way to end a weekend spent celebrating brotherhood. Dusty Davis also shared his experiences with the CITs (now called men of S.T.E.E.L.) this summer, emphasizing the importance of the love and support from peers and mentors at camp, something that is so formative for a teenage boy.

Allen Kannapell leading Church service on SundayAllen Kannapell leading Church service on Sunday

As we fueled up for the day with a hearty pancake breakfast, the excitement was high for another Morning Assembly before heading out. In addition to singing even more popular tunes from the past, Terry Tyree led us all in “Fleasta” and Steve Rogers performed his famous “Chicken Walk”. Starting the day with enthusiastic singing, hilarious skits, and just goofing off together was a great way to set the mood, and everyone was hesitant to get on the road before lunch. After a fun weekend spent reminiscing and catching up in a place loved by so many, it was hard to say goodbye. However, with the reassurance that the Spirit of Falling Creek was still alive and well, everyone knew it wasn’t goodbye, but only a “see you next time.”

Author: Annie Pharr

If you would like to see the full album of photos from the weekend, go to our website and enter your e-mail and password to log in to your CampInTouch account. (The link is below the video on the home page). Once logged in, click Photos. You can also use this link. Behold!

Steve Rogers performing his famous Steve Rogers performing his famous "Chicken Walk"
Terry Tyree leading us all in Terry Tyree leading us all in "Fleasta"

An awesome crew of musicians for Morning AssemblyAn awesome crew of musicians for Morning Assembly
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Boy! What a great idea!

Boys’ laughter rings out across the Green River Valley. Then you see them, a blur of sweaty bodies — sprinting, climbing, riding, splashing, singing, shooting, hiking, paddling — until there’s no energy left and they collapse in their cabins. And do it all over the next day. This is Falling Creek Camp.

To the camper, to the casual onlooker, it’s a seemingly magical utopia where everything runs like clockwork, there’s always a fresh coat of paint, cool new stuff is added constantly, and endless hours of sheer fun and positive vibes are doled out from a bottomless reservoir. But it didn’t start out that way.

In fact, the story of how it did start is almost as good as the stories its founder used to tell by the campfire — stories of sacrifice, heroism, and redemption. This is the story of the camp… that almost wasn’t.

It would be appropriate to say that Jim Miller (James Miller III) went out on a limb to start Falling Creek camp in 1969. It would probably be more appropriate to say it was the gamble of a lifetime.It would be appropriate to say that Jim Miller (James Miller III) went out on a limb to start Falling Creek camp in 1969. It would probably be more appropriate to say it was the gamble of a lifetime.

Raised by a coal miner in Madisonville, Kentucky, Jim (Jimdaddy, as many affectionately called him) was acquainted with hard labor and didn’t even know what a camp was until later in life. His ticket out of the coal mines came when the head football coach at the University of Kentucky, the late Bear Bryant, recruited him and offered him a full scholarship as a lineman. After a year at University, when Jimdaddy didn’t keep his grade point average high enough, he became eligible for military service and was drafted for the Korean War.

Fortunately for Jimdaddy, football saved him once again when he was selected to play for the Army team, which he did for two years before returning to the University of Kentucky. He soon met a young lady by the name of Elizabeth (Libby) Hannah, whose great grandfather, Joseph Sevier, had founded Camp Greystone for girls in Tuxedo, North Carolina, in 1920.

Joe founded Greystone as the fulfillment of a longtime dream after his career as a Presbyterian minister. He was the executive pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia. A church known to be a center of political power — a big deal in the south. He gave up that prestigious job in order to start Camp Greystone, because he thought camp would be a better, more exciting, more productive platform for spreading the
Good News to young people.

Babies, Corporate Life, and the Prospect of Camp

Libby and Jimdaddy married in the summer of 1959. Jimdaddy excelled in corporate sales with various companies, including Proctor & Gamble, while Libby kept the home; prepared for their first child, Kathryn (Katie) in 1961; and continued to make the trek back to Tuxedo in the summers to work at Greystone.

After several years passed, and several more children were added to the Miller family — including Jimboy in 1963 and Stuart in 1965 — Jimdaddy got an itch to learn more about the camp business, because Libby’s parents were wanting to know if she or any of her sisters might be interested in taking over Camp Greystone.

Stuart, Libby, Jimboy, Katie, and JimDaddy Miller of Camp Greystone.Stuart, Libby, Jimboy, Katie, and JimDaddy Miller of Camp Greystone.

“So there came a big decision in the summer of 1966,” says Jimboy Miller, son of Jimdaddy and current director of Camp Greystone. “My dad decided he would give up the whole corporate thing and do the camp thing as his life’s work,” Jimboy says. “I don’t think he really understood what he was signing on to. He didn’t know the full extent of what was involved.”

In order to learn more about running a camp, Jimdaddy spent a summer working at Camp Sequoyah near Asheville, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sequoyah was founded in 1924 by C. Walton “Chief” Johnson, with whom Jimdaddy had the privilege of working all that summer.

“The great thing about a summer camp situation is that it is one of the few controlled environments we have left in America. It’s a place where children can come to be away from television, to be with a care group. It’s a place where a community of people can come to be together, and in a short period of time, you can create a very positive learning environment.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Camp Sequoyah banner. It was a historic North Carolina Summer Camp

“Sequoyah had a fabulous reputation and Chief Johnson was an icon of the camping world,” Jimboy says. “My dad had an extraordinary experience working there. They gave him a whole lot of inspiration for what really proved to be Falling Creek. My dad thought that for the camp experience to be great, it needs to be more than just doing stuff; you need to have a platform that is impacting all aspects of what it means to be a man; and the reality of our existence has been made in the image of God — the part of the thing that, as boys grow into men, they need to wrestle with and come to grips with.”

When Jimdaddy went back to Greystone to apply what he’d learned at Camp Sequoyah in the summer of 1967, he was like a fish out of water. “They didn’t know what to do with him and he ended up doing mostly manual labor stuff, moving trunks and helping the maintenance man (Grady) around the camp. He didn’t do much with the administration of the camp,” Jimboy says. “He felt like he needed to make a place for himself that was outside of the girls’ camp. He thought that a boys’ camp would be ideal, something modeled after Sequoyah that could be a brother camp for the Greystone girls.

“I got involved in this primarily because when my wife inherited Camp Greystone, which had been in her family for some 50 years, I came with her to help. My mother-in-law, Virginia Hannah, had suggested, ‘Jim, why don’t you do a boys’ camp?’ My wife loved it. She had a passion for doing camp and I felt it was something I would be suited for, so that’s how the first seeds were planted — and I liked the idea.” — Jimdaddy Miller

“Jimdaddy had an entrepreneurial spirit and liked the idea and the challenge; he loved the idea of building something from scratch that would last for a long, long time,” Jimboy says. “He had seen the impact Sequoyah had had with boys, and the impact Greystone had had on his wife and all of her friends. So he knew it would be a worthwhile thing to do and it would be a good business.”

Jewels in a Crown

Soon, Jimdaddy and Libby began looking in earnest for camp property as they explored the winding back roads near Camp Greystone. “In hindsight, it was just meant to be,” says Jimboy. “It was a very unlikely property, because it wasn’t for sale.”

“We had heard of Virginia Prettyman, who at the time was a teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and we had heard that she owned a sizeable piece of property, so we drove up there and drove in around the top of the mountain, and there, nestled just like jewels in a crown, were these two beautiful little lakes, right on top of the mountain — ideally situated for a camp. And so I looked at Libby and she looked at me and said, ‘This is it.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Jimdaddy wrote and telephoned Miss Prettyman to inquire about the land, but she initially replied that it was not for sale. He arranged a meeting in Boston to meet Miss Prettyman in person. He explained that he was the director at Camp Greystone and that he could afford to pay $200 – $250 an acre for her land to start a boys’ camp. Miss Prettyman replied that her idea for a fair price would be more like $800 – $1,000 per acre, but she did not want to sell. Jimdaddy once said: “I can’t tell you what a sinking spell I had, because I just knew that the Lord had led us here and this was the place for the camp.”

Then the unthinkable happened. Convicts broke free from a county chain gang and an FBI manhunt ensued. “These guys had broken out of prison and were killing people,” Jimboy recalls. And that’s when Miss Prettyman had a change of heart about selling her property. “She just saw herself having no defense up there by herself in this remote cabin,” Jimboy says. “And that upset her mind and she decided to sell out of concern and, in a sense, of wanting protection.”

“Miss Prettyman called me and asked me if we could get together. And she said ‘Jim, I’ve been thinking over your offer,’ and she says, ‘It’s woefully inadequate, but on the other hand, I felt that I would like to have a camp up here and also I’d really appreciate, now with this incident raging around us . . . we were just glad to have some people up here.’ And so she says, ‘I’ve decided to accept your offer.’” — Jimdaddy Miller

Pray Really Hard

Jimdaddy had secured 125 acres from Miss Prettyman, and had lofty dreams of building cabins, a dining hall, tennis courts, a shower house, a rifle range, a ball field, horse stables, swim docks and a rollercoaster in one of the lakes — and open Falling Creek Camp in the summer of 1969. But many obstacles lay ahead — lots of them.

In February of that year — with four cabins built and some excavation and concrete work done here and there for the other amenities — a deep freeze blasted Tuxedo.

“It snowed for four days. Then the temperature dropped to minus ten. This cold set in and lasted three weeks. The clock was ticking. We needed 11 cabins, but only 4 were built. The dining room, not one piece of wood had been put together. The stable wasn’t even cleared for the horses. We had excavation for the athletic field and the tennis courts, but there was nothing there. We were leveraged to the hilt, we had borrowed money on everything. I couldn’t find any carpenters . . . For the first time in my life I’m scared to death, I’m thinking we’re going to lose it all.” — Jimdaddy Miller

A little tyke at the time, Jimboy recalls riding in his dad’s yellow Jeep up to the camp site and actually driving out onto the lake; everything was that frozen. “The project was way behind schedule and my dad was under a whole lot of pressure,” Jimboy says. “I remember him being excited about it, yet scared to death about it all at the same time. He was trying to convince people to send their sons to camp, but he couldn’t even show them a picture of the dining hall because the dining hall hadn’t even been built yet! He had said, after the fact, that it was the hardest time of his life, and I’m certain that is true. There is no way he was sleeping well . . . it was a pressure cooker. I think he felt, it may be hard, it may be stressful, but in the end it will all come together and work out; all you’ve got to do is just work really hard and pray really hard about it, and it will work out.”

Ray of Hope

March sunshine and melting snow meant all systems were go, but Jimdaddy was having a difficult time finding carpenters, because most of the good ones worked for the bigger construction companies in Greenville and Asheville. Finally, he came across a good, honest man and excellent builder named Ralph Beddingfield. Jimdaddy said, ‘Ralph, is there any way you could come?’ Ralph replied, ‘I maybe could come, and maybe my brothers, too.’ Jimdaddy perked up. ‘How many brothers do you have?’ Ralph said, ‘Four. Three skilled carpenters and one rock mason.’ Needless to say, Jimdaddy could have cried.

When Jimboy thinks of how his dad undertook the task of building Falling Creek from scratch, he shakes his head. “It boggles the mind to think that someone would jump into that abyss,” he says. “I can’t imagine. In a big sense, it was like the biggest roll of the dice he ever made in life.”

JimDaddy Miller, Mrs. Hanna, and Libby Miller of Camp Greystone.JimDaddy Miller, Mrs. Hanna, and Libby Miller of Camp Greystone.

To add to the challenge, Jimdaddy and Libby were buying Camp Greystone from her parents at the same time, so they had to make regular payments for that. “My grandfather said, ‘If you miss a payment, then your loan will be considered in default, and we will take Camp Greystone back,’” Jimboy says. “He told my mother and father very clearly that he thought it was a bad idea to start this boys’ camp. He said camps are not a very good business, they take a lot of money, starting from scratch is going to cost a lot more than you think, and I don’t think you are going to find that you have enough money to pull this off. And if you find this is not working, don’t come to us for the money, because I’m telling you, I’m not going to support you in this. This is your deal. You have got to make this work on your own or see it fail on your own. And if it fails you are the one pay the consequences on this.

“So my dad really did put everything on the line and his line of credit was tapped out with Greystone,” Jimboy says. “And he had no line of credit with his father-in-law, and he didn’t have money of his own, and didn’t have friends with money. He came all the way down to the point where the carpenters that were working on the job self-funded the thing for a little bit… I think he came right up to the brink of financial calamity at Falling Creek.”

“We felt if we were going to make a go of it as a business we were going to have to have a bare minimum of 100 campers. The first of March we had 13 campers enrolled. I had built a camp for 100 campers and we had 13 boys enrolled and camp was three months out. There’s two families that represented Greystone — one was the Turner family from Sarasota and the other was the Monroe family from Cincinnati. And I called and I said, ‘You know, we really need some campers.’ They were strong Greystone supporters and so they said, ‘We’ll help you.’ We prayed every night for the needs of the camp and that the Lord would provide.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Building Camp . . . on the Fly

Falling Creek Camp's legendary camp roller coaster into our swimming lake.

Sure enough, 113 boys signed up for camp that first summer of 1969, but Falling Creek was far from ready, and was still lacking a program director. Then a track coach at the University of Missouri named Bob Teel, whose daughter attended Camp Greystone, called Jimdaddy and said he’d heard about the opening for a program director and said he had a great camp man on his staff named Jim McGregor. Jim came over and took a look at Falling Creek, which had an unfinished dining hall and no tennis courts. Miraculously, Jim said, ‘You know, I’d like to give it a try.’

When Falling Creek opened there were signs posted that read, “Horseback Riding – to be announced,” “Tennis – to be announced.” There was no electricity in the cabins and the campers were actually helping build the camp, doing landscaping, gardening, cutting paths, and building the campfire area. “My dad always felt and had a profound sense of life-long gratitude to those first-year camp families,” Jimboy says. “If they had not given him the benefit of the doubt, he could have lost everything he’d been working on and it would have been a devastating thing.”

“Some of the guys said, looking back, it was the best year, learning about camaraderie and team effort. Growing is not easy. And looking back, there have been some bumps in growing Falling Creek. We have to die a little to grow, and that’s been true of Falling Creek, and true in my life and true of most people. But there’s never, ever, ever been any doubt in my mind that the camp was an enduring, lasting entity. And in my opinion, even now I think that the spiritual and moral values of a good summer camp is more important than the programs. And I think any institution founded on those principles will have a lasting legacy.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Under the leadership of Jimdaddy Miller, Falling Creek Camp quickly gained a reputation as a safe, secure, fun-filled camp where values and morals were lived out, where enthusiasm and positive attitude were modeled daily, and where stability and excellence could be relied upon by parents, families, and boys across the country.

One of Jimdaddy’s true gifts was storytelling, and he often used lore and song as a vehicle for sharing the message of the Christian faith. “He did not really put a lot into sermons and that type of thing, he did more with inspirational stories,” Jimboy says. “He would tie the Gospel to poignant stories of heroism, of great deeds done of sacrifice, he taught us that all of great stories lead back to the great story of redemption. So he would introduce us to Christian ideals in an entertaining and inspirational way. Everyone loved my dad’s stories. He would paint the pictures just beautifully and the stories would really come to life. It felt very much like great entertainment to sit through one of his campfire talks.”

Passing the Torch

Boys tubing the Green River at Falling Creek Camp

In order to keep up with their obligations at Camp Greystone, Jimdaddy and Libby sold Falling Creek Camp after having owned it just over three years. “During the three years it was probably always, financially, a very difficult thing to do,” Jimboy says. “I don’t think he was ever seeing any money out of it and I think he was under a tremendous amount of pressure. Plus, once he showed that he could start his own camp, my grandparents started entrusting him with more management responsibilities at Greystone. So he was in over his head.”

Since Jimdaddy and Libby opened Falling Creek in 1969, the camp has changed hands just three times, from the next owners Yorke and Barbara Pharr, to owners Chuck and Jean McGrady, and to the current owners, Yates and Marisa Pharr (no relation to Yorke). Jimdaddy continued to promote the camp and to come visit, read, and sing with campers for a number of years after it sold.

“My dad was thrilled with the success the camp had over the years,” Jimboy says. “My dad very much felt you have to improve camp — both the facilities and the program — all the time. He particularly felt it important to invest strongly in the facilities that make up a camp. Such commitment inspires confidence in the future of a camp and the vision of the directors.

“My dad liked the fact that Yates and Marisa aggressively improved Falling Creek’s property each year. That’s always been the way he liked to run a camp. The camp community really does delight in such projects. The campers love the fact that you care about it and the parents love the fact that you are not just trying to make a buck, you are investing in the place that they love and they appreciate that attitude. Yates and Marisa are running camp the way my dad would have liked to have done it. He would have loved that gymnasium. My dad would have said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s exactly what I would have done.’”

Indeed, with each owner, Falling Creek has enhanced and added new facilities, and increased enrollment. Jimdaddy’s original 125 acres have expanded to 675 acres of remarkable beauty, where boys from the U.S. and beyond come to meet again each summer, and to bond in unity and brotherly love.

Jimdaddy passed on in 2010, but many of the roots he planted almost 50 years ago have become time-honored traditions at Falling Creek, including the verse of scripture that is still recited at the opening of each Sunday night at campfire beneath the starlit sky: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” — Psalm 133:1

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Living Life by The Code

Sure, when you spend the summer at Falling Creek, you’ll have the chance to roast marshmallows around a campfire… improve your game and climb the tennis ladder… dash through the woods on Wild, Wild West Day, and a thousand more incredible opportunities. But did you ever stop to think that one of the best things about being a camper at Falling Creek is getting to spend your summer with a bunch of really great guys?

If you had to pick, who would you say is the most important, really great guy at camp? Your first reaction might be to name your favorite counselor, and that’s a nice thought. But hang on. Think again…

Could it be that the most important “really great guy” at Falling Creek is you? Not because the world revolves around you, but because if you choose to follow The Falling Creek Code, you can have a positive influence on everyone at camp. How great is that? After all, there is no better feeling than making someone else’s day.

Positive Attitude

Campers wear white polo shirts on Sundays.

Having a positive attitude means being fun to be around, living with enthusiasm, and focusing on the positive. Let’s make sure you’ve got that straight, the rule at Falling Creek is to have fun and be enthusiastic. Seriously? Yep, your job when you are a camper at Falling Creek is to be fun to be around.

So, joke around, be silly, and don’t just chuckle, but laugh out loud with your cabin-mates and at yourself, and at the goofy skits in the dining hall. Sing at the top of your lungs at Morning Assembly. Encourage your teammates on your ultimate Frisbee team. Laugh it off if you lose. Congratulate the winners. Have fun out there. And most importantly, be grateful for God’s blessings. Stop and look up at the clouds. What do you see? A dolphin? A dragon? Appreciate the breeze on a hot day. Delight in the cool lake after you’ve worked up a sweat in the game. Enjoy the lullaby of the crickets and bullfrogs at night. God’s creation is magnificent, and you are right in the middle of it. Notice and be thankful.

Warrior Spirit

Campers walk under The Code sign during the day.

Hmm, that’s certainly not a phrase you hear every day. What exactly does it mean to have a Warrior Spirit? Here at Falling Creek, it means to “live with courage, to persevere, and to always do your best.” Not a day goes by that you aren’t presented with a chance to demonstrate courage while you are at camp. Even on Opening Day, it takes courage to hug your parents goodbye and settle into cabin life with a group of new friends. It takes courage to try something new, like taking a hairpin turn on a mountain bike. And it takes courage to stand up for what is right instead of what is popular.

Without ever using the word “persevere,” a camper from Chattanooga perfectly summed up the Warrior Spirit when he described his love for rock climbing. He said, “Climbing is really fun. It teachers you to overcome obstacles. When you’re in the middle of a rock and you have to finish a really tough move, you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this. It’s way too hard!’ That’s how life is sometimes, but you’ve got to just push through it. Commit yourself to getting to the top of that one move. And then get to the top of the next route. And then all of a sudden you are on top of the rock. Celebrate and just let go! You find that you can make it to the top of almost anything if you set your mind to it.”

Servant’s Heart

To have a Servant’s Heart is to treat everyone with respect, and to treat others the way you would like to be treated. It means taking the initiative to help someone without being asked. Demonstrating a Servant’s Heart can mean doing something really simple, like putting the balls away after you play basketball or helping the counselor clean up the arts and crafts supplies before dashing off to your next activity. It can mean introducing yourself to the new camper and suggesting that he join you on a trip to sliding rock. It can mean inviting someone to meet you at the lake to swim during the afternoon free choice period. Having a Servant’s Heart means making friendships a fine art!

Moral Compass

Campers have a laugh at our traditional morning assembly.

Last, but certainly not least, the FCC Code expects our campers and counselors to have a Moral Compass, which means to act with integrity, to tell the truth, and to take responsibility for our actions. Here’s an example. We offer a can of Cheerwine at the weekly cookout of hamburgers and hotdogs. We have enough Cheerwine for everyone to get one. Could you cheat and sneak a second can? Of course you could, we operate on the honor system around here. So the question is not could you take a second drink but, should you? No way! You know better than that, and you shouldn’t dare your friend to break the rules either. While daring your friend to sneak a Cheerwine is not the biggest disaster in the world, daring your friend to break other rules later in life can have serious consequences. So why not practice pointing your moral compass in the right direction when you are young?

Here’s another perfect example — You hear a few other boys whispering about a fellow camper. They approach you, wanting you to chime in on their unkind comments. “That isn’t cool, guys,” you say. “Keep it positive.” That’s acting with integrity, even when only a few people are watching. That’s what it means to follow your Moral Compass.

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