This year, we celebrate our 60th anniversary on Old Forge Mountain. We have thousands of Camp Highlander alumni all over the world, many of whom have continued the Highlander tradition within their families. Each month, we’ll profile one family who has come to the mountain for generations and experienced the magic and long-lasting positive effects of camp.
Our family in the spotlight this month are the Finlays. Rebecca (Becky Bordelon) Finlay was a Cabin Counselor for three summers (1988, 1989, 1990) and attended Family Camp in 2013. Her children have been campers for four years, and this summer she will be a Camp Mom for Session A.
What has Camp Highlander meant to you? Why have you attended for so long?
Camp has a very special place in my heart. As a counselor, with my family for Family Camp, and most recently through my children, I continue to fall in love with Camp Highlander. There is something truly magical about this place, and I can not wait to be part of it once again as a Camp Mom this summer. As a counselor, I saw how camp would change a quiet, shy camper into a confident, energetic individual. In hindsight, I realized that camp changed me. Through my experiences with campers and fellow staff, this quiet, shy, insecure, south Louisiana girl learned confidence, self-esteem, and the satisfaction of a job done well. The Highlander environment fosters these qualities all while allowing you to be yourself.
When my family attended Family Camp, I had the joy of sharing a glimpse of this magical mountain home. From conquering the ropes course together to competing for the best shot in riflery/archery, to watching their mother in a pie eating contest (orchestrated by Gaynell, of course), our family grew closer and many wonderful memories were made. As my children return from camp each summer, I eagerly await the stories of friendship, conquering fears, learning skills, being silly and trying new things. Even though I haven’t been physically at camp with them, I have relived that camp excitement through them each and every summer. This year I have been given the opportunity to return to the mountain as Camp Highlander Staff. I am grateful and thrilled to be part of the camp magic again!
How have you seen your children grow from the camp experience?
Hayden, Emma, Wyatt, and Gracie have all attended camp. The benefits gained from this camp experience are far to numerous to list, but most importantly, I feel that their camp experience has helped them all to be very grounded individuals.
I see my children happily marching to the beat of their own drum, and this gives me joy. I think this “down time” away gives them perspective on what is important. Also, going to camp together has made them closer. I love when one child begins to tell a camp memory and another one finishes it or when I hear them singing camp songs together. Anything that helps to unite my crew is a blessing.
What are your favorite memories of camp as a camper/staff member?
Color War and campfires! Watching the staff and campers come together during Color War was always exciting. With everyone finding their niche, whether for sports, the play, the banner, etc., each Knight or Devil would do their very best. With every event, the emotions were real. I would have never imagined burning a rope could be so intense. And, if you’re wondering, WK all the way!
Campfires were always a special time for the entire camp to come together. The first campfire of a session was exciting – old friends were reuniting and new friendships were beginning. The second campfire was much more mellow – everyone was enjoying each other and our mountain home. The final campfire of the session was heartbreaking – to say goodbye to your campers and friends was always hard. And the very last campfire of the summer was the hardest. Singing “Going Home”, “There’s More to this Mountain”, or “Leaving on a Jet Plane” would bring everyone to tears.
How have you seen camp evolve through the years?
It is different but still the same – if that makes any sense. The physical camp is much nicer. I do not think anyone misses sharing one toilet in the cabin or taking a cold shower when the hot water ran out! The activity choices for campers are much more varied and numerous. Also, when I read the bios for the incoming staff, I am amazed by these young adults. I do not think this unaccomplished, quiet southern girl from almost 30 years ago would make the cut today. These guys and gals are top-notch! With all that said, camp is still camp. The love for one another and this mountain is still shared by all. I see this in my children when they return each summer. The wonderful stories of friendships and experiences are the same for them as they were for me.
Anything else you’d like to add about camp and your experience?
To staff and campers: your summers at Highlander are gifts. Many seemingly insignificant moments will become treasured memories over time. A song, smell, phrase or picture will erase the time past and bring you right back to this happy place. Like me, you may find yourself in your 40s under a pile of laundry or cooking dinner when “Carolina in My Mind” plays on Pandora, and a wonderful feeling will come over you. You will be right back on the mountain even if it is for a brief moment.
Most importantly, I could not have made this Camp Highlander journey without the love and support of my husband, Darrell. Darrell was never a camper or staff member. However, through numerous stories and a bit of nagging, I did convince him to go to Family Camp and send our oldest to Session A the summer of 2013. He experienced and saw first hand the magic of camp. After that first summer, he has embraced my desire to send our other three children for the past three years and now has given me the green light to return to my mountain home with them this summer. I can’t thank him enough. I am a lucky woman!
One Love ❤️
Did you attend Camp Highlander as a camper or work as staff and now you send your kids to CH? Tell us your story! Email CH alum, Julia Ade, at today, and you could be our next Highlander Family Spotlight!