Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oh, my love is Mill Hollow

If you're an Elise's Pieces hipster, you may have been reading my blog for long enough to remember that I worked at a really stellar summer camp for 5 summers of my college life. (Maybe you don't have to be a hipster... maybe I still talk about it like it happened yesterday. You can take the girl outta summer camp...) Recently, I learned that the school district that owns and operates that summer camp (Mill Hollow) is considering shutting it down. I don't know much about school district budgets and the cost of running a summer camp, but I do know the value of Mill Hollow and the incredible effect it had on my life.

So, with that in mind, I drove up Logan canyon earlier this week far enough to be out of phone/data service and just wrote about how Mill Hollow changed and affected my life. It was kind of healing to write about this place that has had such a deep impact on me. When I got back into phone service, I sent the following to the superintendent and anyone else who may be involved in the decision making:

My mom is a teacher in Granite School District. As early as I can remember, she would always leave for a couple days each summer to take students up to Mill Hollow. When my mom would come back, she'd hand me a pink shirt with the Mill Hollow logo on it in a slightly bigger size than I'd received the summer before.
Once I was old enough, I went to Mill Hollow as a student. I have more pictures of pot guts (read: the grass in front of the lodge) than you can possibly imagine. I learned how to boondoggle, I ate popcorn and watched fire dance to "Puff the Magic Dragon", I gave my best friend a bloody nose and she, in turn, ended up with a free snow cone. I learned all about Aspen trees, how to point out an Indian paintbrush flower from a mile away, and I can still sing every word of "The Princess Pat" and tell you which counselor autographed my arm at the end of the week.

The summer after my first year of college I became Brownie. Cabin 4 was my home and I memorized the names of 30 adorable (and exhausting) little girls. It was one of the hardest, but most rewarding summers of my life. Four summers and a change of camp name (Sonny) later, I locked up the trading post one last time and handed Dave McOmie my hostess keys in tears.

Working at Mill Hollow changed me. I credit much of my sense of self-esteem to smelly, adoring 4th graders, hours of filling perpetually empty vending machines, and especially to the incredible staff members and managers who became my best friends. I still run into teachers who know me by my camp name and care about "what I'm doing with my life after Mill Hollow". I now run into all-grown-up 6th graders from my first summer on the Utah State campus. I don't know how they recognize me with more make up and a lot less dirt, but they do.

I can't bring myself to throw away my giant wads of boondoggle or my 12 Mill Hollow t-shirts and staff polos. It would be like giving away a piece of my heart. I think the real message I want to share is that Mill Hollow is so much more than an item on a budget. It's a refuge, it's a school, it's home. Children need a chance to be adored by exhausted college students. They need a chance to realize that there is more to life than Facebook and Snapchat. They need to learn that hiking up to Inspiration Point means so much more than sore feet and still not having cell phone service; it's about finding true beauty in this world and knowing that you can do hard things and it's always worth it when you do! These kids need to learn that who they are is wonderful, that they can spend 3 days without makeup and feel beautiful, that it's okay silly songs about turtles and jello without caring what everyone around you thinks. 

I promise that Mill Hollow will live on in the hearts of hundreds of camp counselors, caring teachers, and students no matter what happens. But I think if you asked any one of those people, they'd tell you that they want their children to feel what they felt and learn what they learned. Mill Hollow matters, it makes a difference. I know it does.

Thank you for your time,

I'm sharing this on my blog for two reasons. One: my love REALLY is Mill Hollow. That place has my heart on a level that can't even be put into words. Two: I want all of my friends who attended, visited, worked at, or listened to me obsess over Mill Hollow to know how they can help. Here is the information I found on Facebook: 

We should all email and write to the superintendent of Granite School District:
Martin Bates Mwbates@graniteschools.org
The following email addresses should all be copied in your email:
Kathy Goodfellow kgoodfellow@graniteschools.org 
David Garrett dfgarrett@graniteschools.org 
Mike Fraser mjfraser@graniteschools.org
Ben Horsley bhorsley@graniteschools.org 

Granite School District Board of Education 
Gayleen Gandy ggandy@graniteschools.org 
Terry H. Bawden thbawden@graniteschools.org
Connie Anderson clanderson@graniteschools.org
Connie Burgess ccburgess@graniteschools.org 
Julene Jolley jmjolley@graniteschools.org
Dan Lofgren dlofgren@cowboy.us
Sarah Meier srmeier@graniteschools.org

If you don’t like emailing, please call 385-646-4523. 

This is so important if we want the message to be clearly heard. Please share and let your voice be heard!

You may also be interested in calling the Granite Education Foundation 385-646-GIVE (4483) to learn about ways the foundation may be able to support keeping Mill Hollow open. 

The message we would like to share is that Mill Hollow is one of the most valuable assets that Granite School District currently has in its educational arsenal. There are private citizens, both former student campers, parents, and future parents that are so interested in saving Mill Hollow for future generations that we are willing to serve in a variety of capacities to find funding, understand the resource allocation and develop a plan for ensuring that Mill Hollow will continue to be one of the best outdoor education experiences for students far into the future.

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