This is Lily’s summer 2020 story. Hers is a shining example of how Aloha is not just a place—it is a choice. Aloha is being a friend, giving to others, believing we can, making thoughtful choices. We create Aloha.
The day Aloha announced camp was cancelled was not a great one. I was really sad because I had been looking forward to our monumental ‘Club’ summer. It’s so special to everybody. I had been looking forward to seeing my friends and all being together for the longer, seven week period. It was hard to imagine summer without Aloha…I had been going there for eight years.
I slowly came to accept it, though, and began thinking about what I could do instead. I had wanted to hike the Long Trail (which runs the length of Vermont, from Massachusetts to Canada) for a long time. I can’t remember exactly when I first learned about it, but it seemed like it combined all the things I love: backpacking, spending time outside, being in Vermont, and setting a challenge for myself. As I started to embrace the idea, I began feeling grateful for the opportunity to work towards something that seemed hard but achievable.
National movements and conversations around racial injustice were sweeping the country at the same time. I started thinking about different systems in which race factors in how people can pursue healthy, happy lives. I thought about the inequities not just in police brutality but also environmentally. People of color, and low-income communities, suffer environmental inequities at a much higher rate such as limited access to clean air and clean water, and greater exposure to pollution. There is also a divide in terms of spending time in nature. Gear is expensive and access to the outdoors can be challenging. I wanted to help bridge that gap and find an organization to support that was trying to address both of those problems. So I dedicated my 272-mile hike on the Long Trail to raising funds for the Sierra Club’s environmental justice initiatives.
The many trips I’d taken as a camper at Aloha were important preparation for my journey, not only in being comfortable on the trail and giving me all the technical skills that I needed, but my camp experience also helped me with collaboration and understanding how groups work effectively together. For even though I undertook the trip independently, I wasn’t alone. Friends and family joined me for different parts along the way. I adapted my plan and pace to accommodate everyone. Reflecting on how people had worked together on my camp trips helped me be able to make it work for everybody who joined me.
Two of the people I got to share the trail with, Maggie and Caroline, were former Aloha counselors. I actually had never met Caroline and barely knew Maggie before, but it didn’t matter. Our friendship felt instantaneous because of our shared Aloha experience. The stories and inside jokes made the miles fly by, and camp songs got us up more than a few mountains. I also got to spend a few days on the trail with Mark, a counselor who led many fun trips while I was at Hive and who’s been part of the Aloha community for years. It was great to hear lots of stories about the camps and learn more about Aloha before I was there. Also, going from Hive length trips with Mark when I was younger to a much longer time on the trail was a very full circle experience!
I missed being at Aloha last summer, but I feel like it still shaped my experience and was with me the whole way. From the special people and community Aloha helps create, to the sense it instills of a common good, a greater whole, to the importance of reflection…Values like perseverance and kindness, as well as things we learn about and focus on at camp like teamwork, have been important to making me a better person. This summer helped me see that I have the ability to shape my future, even in the face of adversity.
Aloha is what we choose, share, and build together. Please consider supporting it with a gift to the 2020 Annual Fund.