The Walking Stick

By Sara Huffman

Sitting around a lunch table in the fall of 2013, our administrative team brainstormed to come up with a new tradition. We wanted to reward the commitment of our long term campers in a ceremonial fashion, and we wanted the reward to be acknowledged both within their immediate camp community as well as their community at home. It had to be special and it had to represent all the Green River Preserve holds dear. “Well,” said Steve, “we walk the land.”

Some of you might have already heard about the GRP Walking Stick through the grapevine or from your campers. We award Walking Sticks during the Upper Council Fire on the closing night of camp through something we call the Journey Ceremony. Campers and staff members are able to earn their Walking Stick after 4 years of summer programming at GRP and can earn additional medallions each summer after, including trips with Expeditions.

It’s a cool gift – we know! – but it’s not just the physical token that is the reward for our brothers and sisters. What these recipients probably won’t be able to convey is the pride they have in remembering when they received it, when they were honored in front of their camp family and they became a part of something cyclical and everlasting. This now-sacred program creates the heavy feeling of time as these individuals share their experience with one generation of people before them and many more generations to follow.

A blog post from Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania captured this same sentiment:

“Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., Syracuse University, defines….ritual as ‘symbolic communication’ that has ‘continuity in meaning across generations’…Dr. Fiese says that children will often revisit memories of rituals in order to ‘recapture some of the positive’ experience. This perhaps explains why so many camp rituals remain sacred to campers far passed their camping years.”

Michael Thompson also described the importance of tradition and ritual in his book, Homesick and Happy:

“The great genius of camp is the creation of ritual…Children crave ritual; they need it to guide them and help them harness their feelings. Camp is trying to fill that unspoken need…”

We are excited to announce that we will be able to share this experience with all of you at the 30th Anniversary celebration this fall! As part of the weekend’s schedule, we will host a Council Fire on Friday, Sept. 29th to present Walking Sticks to any alumni who attend and wish to participate in the Journey Ceremony. This, too, will honor these brothers and sisters for their generous giving of time and self to GRP.

If you would like to purchase a walking stick and participate in the Journey Ceremony, please contact sara@greenriverpreserve.org before June 1, 2017. Each Walking Stick is $40.00.