Our story begins in two opposite parts of the world, brought together by the common experience of LLYC.
I’m from a small town in West Texas and was introduced to LLYC towards the end of the camper career. And although I wasn’t introduced to Laity until high school, I was lucky to have 2 years as a camper in Cabin #4. Even though I was a late comer, I could never have imagined how this camp would change my life.
Just as I could see the importance of this place and how God was changing me from the inside, my future settled right before my eyes when I was selected to be on the Echo Valley Work Crew for the summer of 1996.
I must admit, I was pleased at the thought of getting to know the Work Crew girls for 5 full weeks! When it came time to be introduced to them, I remember thinking these girls were great, but that something missing. Since I knew that wasn’t the real reason I was there, we began getting the camp together for Session #1 and engulfing ourselves in our daily tasks. However, during that week, I kept hearing the girls talk about this other girl who was arriving late. Her name was Kelsey. I was drawn to the way the girls and guys were talking about her. What particularly caught my attention was the positive energy and impact she had on all the people at camp. Before I even met her, I felt a pull to this girl that had such a caring and kind bond with so many. I had to know who she was.
A few days passed, and it was time for her to arrive. I remember the first time I saw her. We (both boys and girls WC) were in the break room when she walked in. She immediately lit up the room. Watching her and seeing the power of her presence with the others confirmed my early attraction. Little did I know this girl would become the center of my life 8 years later.
Looking back now to that point in my life, Laity Lodge was one of the most pivotal places in my life that I credit for the start of my life’s unbelievable journey. It’s where I first allowed God to take over my soul, it gave me a foundation of unbreakable faith, and it’s produced a love that I couldn’t ever have imagined.
I’m a girl that spent my entire childhood living overseas, and started as a camper at Singing Hills when I was 10. We went with our good family friends, the Andersons, who had once been our neighbors in Corpus Christi. For the next 8 years, I enjoying moving through every summer afterwards (except the one dreadful summer where we missed our much sought-after Session 2 registration).
Camp was my “American” experience, since I spent my childhood as an expat child living primarily in Jakarta, Indonesia. During my summers at Laity, I made friends, found pen pals (these were the days before email), explored my faith and created relationships that have lasted a lifetime. I was able to see the best side of faith and the foundational role God plays in strengthening our lives.
In all my years at camp, I never had a “camp boyfriend”—I much more enjoyed making friendship bracelets, learning how to feather bangs or hang out with everyone at the Sugar Shack. Every summer I took away a new mug full of signatures. I talked about camp all year and found such joy in having LLYC to look forward to every summer.
The summer after Cabin I, I was excited to be accepted to be part of Work Crew—even more grateful that they understood I would be a few days late because my school in Indonesia didn’t end until after work week had begun. I remember walking into the break room and immediately seeing the most handsome guy, with the sweetest smile and adorable dimple. He was sitting on an old mustard yellow recliner and I instantly drawn to him.
With the security and tone of LLYC in the background, we quickly became friends who had a connection we could not ignore. We were never camp boyfriend and girlfriend, but we had an undeniable link from that point forward. After the summer, I went back to Indonesia and during our senior year in high school email was “invented” and we would email each other once in a while on our family AOL accounts (how times have changed) or send letters in the mail (Jared’s mom found one I wrote a few years ago in his closet).
Over the next six years, we were always in different places geographically. Jared was at A&M, while I went to UT in Austin. Periodically over the next 5 years, we would turn to each other to talk about our most recent life development. The summer after my first year in law school, Jared reached out to me, telling me he had graduated and taken a job in Austin. We decided to get dinner and went to Shoal Creek Salon. It was the perfect summer. The ins and outs of the following year eventually led to an engagement in England where I was attending a semester of Law School. It was at a hotel where I spent months of my childhood creating memories and it was special to add one more. We married in 2004, started our family with the birth of our daughter Lyla in 2010 and then our son Pierce in 2012.
Once the chaos of starting a family had settled, we started hearing about how wonderful Laity Lodge Family Camp was and decided to check it out. As a family, we have attended LLFC for the last three years and have finally been able to introduce our children and family friends to the beauty, the value and unexplained perfection of the Laity Lodge Community. Every time we drive in those gates, the nostalgia of our history combines with our excitement of creating new memories. We have gotten to experience Blue Hole with our children and take them to both Singing Hills and Echo Valley. Next year, for the first summer, Lyla will be attending Singing Hills! We are so excited for her to begin her faith-filled journey of life, love and friendship.
On our way home from LLFC last summer, we stopped for lunch at Mamacita’s to show our kids where we remembered eating on our day off between sessions 21 years ago. The kids love hearing stories about where we met and often ask for bedtime stories “about our childhood.” Including our children in the journey that started over two decades ago has been such a blessing.
We look forward to making more memories and watching our children experience the joy, community and faith that Laity Lodge brings into their lives.
A little about us today:
Jared is owner of Trailway Builders, a family owned real estate firm in Austin, Texas. As a family, we flip houses, renovate homes and offer realtor services. Follow our adventures at: www.trailwaybuilders.com
Kelsey is owner of McKay Training & Consulting and has recently started the non-profit, RESPOND Against Violence. She travels nationally to educate the criminal justice community about domestic violence and sexual assault. Follow her at www.RESPONDagainstviolence.org or www.mckaytrainingconsulting.com
Lyla is a second grader and Pierce is a kindergartner!