There is nothing quite like a Dick Sesler story.
It is nearly impossible to not get engrossed in every detail as he re-counts twists and turns using a great sense of humor, humility and a twinkle in his eye.
We just had to share this version of how our core team family was born.
Nine months before the start of our first camp we had just one team member (me) and one camper (my son Brent) – and a signed contract with Camp Harrison , which has a capacity of over 100 beds.
How we were able to attract 62 campers and volunteers and then put on an unbelievably successful one week camp is a good story.
It starts with the annual CampMinder conference in Western North Carolina. CampMinder is the premier youth camping software for on-line camper applications and medical reports, plus much more.
At the conference I was clearly an oddity – my campers were adults, they had developmental disabilities and I didn’t own a physical camp.
One participant heard my story and quickly introduced me to one of her colleagues, Liz Golembeski. I liked her immediately – plus she was highly qualified to be our program director. She worked for Adventure Treks leading young people on challenging camping adventures in the Western States and had experience working with children with Autism. My wife, Betsey, and I met with Liz and she soon signed on. And then she left for three months somewhere in the mountains of CA, Oregon and Washington before returning a month before camp!
I met Rebecca Blecke (now Rebecca Hilinski) through the land broker who was helping me find a place to build a camp – an idea that fortunately was dismissed in favor of renting existing camps in their off season. Rebecca reached out to me to ask if she could help. I knew her incredible skills of organization and detail – not my strong suits – and so I immediately found more work for her than either of us anticipated.
She quickly assumed responsibility of our online donor management system, CampMinder, our books and records and our Foundation reports – plus a hundred other things that any small business, for profit or not for profit, requires. Rebecca missed the second half of our first camp to get married – bad timing. Somehow we made it through and she is now Assistant Director.
My goal for each camp is a ratio of one volunteer for every two campers. With less than six months before the first camp I had successfully recruited less than a handful of volunteers – mostly those people who could not say no to me (at least the first time). These included my sister, Becky, three of my fraternity brothers (class of ’71) and one of my best friends in Charlotte.
Mary Tinkey’s name was given to me by Kathi Knier, the Development Director of InReach, an agency in Charlotte that serves adults and children with developmental disabilities. Mary and Kathi are former presidents of the Junior League. Mary and her husband have three teenage children and she is involved with multiple school endeavors. Somehow Camp Blue Skies sounded like a good idea and once the momentum gathered, Mary’s hard work and drive convinced over 60 qualified and enthusiastic volunteers to help with camp!
I must have asked everyone in Charlotte to help me find someone to help with our medical service needs. Then Kit Sluder appeared and suddenly Camp Blue Skies was complete. Not only was Kit an experienced RN but she had worked in the camping world for many years including Camp Thunderbird, the sister camp for Camp Harrison. Our team quickly learned from Kit that we had a long way to go in the medical service area. She successfully recruited volunteer nurses and a doctor and then helped each parent and guardian complete our health forms. Then she developed our medical and emergency protocols. At camp, it was clear to me that Kit made camp a safe place where medical needs and emergencies can be handled professionally and without fanfare.
So there you have it. Our Blue Skies family was born and the rest was history.
Our family tree is growing daily and we believe we have the best family reunions in town!