Despite both of us attending Churchill High School in San Antonio, I did not meet Larry Gilbert until the summer of 1989 at LLYC. Truth be told, there was NO way I would have known Larry from high school b/c he was a freshman when I was a senior…go ahead…say it…I robbed the cradle! The story goes like this: I was a counselor in Cabin B, the oldest girls cabin at that time, with Bess (Cooper) Carsner, while Larry was a counselor in Cabin 4 with John Carrol, Kenny Stallman and John Iman. Given that our campers were the same age we found ourselves doing cabin activities and cabin times together. Early on, we liked each other. I thought he was cute and funny and he liked the way I looked in my bathing suit (traditional black one piece, as all the cool counselors wore. Attn: Merric Townsend, Susan Skaggs and Christi Harding) and thought it was cool that I could do flips on the trampoline. One day there was a huge food fight in the ranch house between cabin B and Cabin 4. For the record, Cabin B won. Larry and I were covered from head to toe with lunch, so we headed to the river to jump in. Once we jumped in and were free from our food-coverings, we stood on the dock facing each other. Larry put his hands on my face, leaned down and tried to kiss me. I, however, was conflicted. See, I had a boyfriend. In Canada. The previous year I had been an exchange student in Ontario. So, ultimately, I looked down and rejected Larry’s kiss. It was so hard!
As you can imagine, Larry pretty much ignored me after that. I cried to Bess each day about missing him. I knew I had hurt his feelings, but now I realize he may have been working a wise strategy. Absence makes the heart grow stronger and this solidified my decision to break up with the Canadian. The day after camp ended, Christi Stanton and I made a quick road trip to Ontario. Yes, this is true. I broke up with the Canadian so I could date Larry. The break-up needed to be done in person because the Canadian and I had dated for two years! Cell phones did not exist and neither did email. Yes, we are old.
Larry and I dated for 5 years, then we got married. We both attended camp and worked on staff for too many years to count. Our best friends are from camp and LLYC is where we learned what it means to be a Christian. We had both attended private schools in elementary, attended church and knew lots of Bible stories, but we did not fully understand how to have a personal relationship with the Lord until LLYC. Camp made being a Christian real and it gave us an amazing community of friends.
The thread of LLYC has remained a focal point in our marriage. Since Larry and I met at camp until now, LLYC (and now LLFC) continues to be vital to our family. When we got married, we were surrounded by our camp community. Bridesmaids and groomsmen were from camp and Dan Roloff spoke at our ceremony. Two years later we had our first child, Kate, and Frog officiated at her Welcoming Ceremony. Of course, when Frog blessed Kate, he accidentally put his fingers in a glass of wine instead of the glass of water next to him. True Frog style. We went on to have two more children, Olivia and Logan. Kevin Mayne officiated at Logan’s Welcoming and he and his amazing wife Judy have been loving friends and supporters of our family to this day. All three of our kids have attended LLYC since they were old enough to and, when family camp first started, they attended as babies. Chandler Pruitt always made fun of me on drop-off day at Singing Hills because I cried every time I left them. I cried because I KNEW what a tremendous experience they would have and I was sad that I would not get to watch them make lifelong memories and friends. Last summer, Kate worked on the media team as a photographer. This summer will be Olivia’s last summer as a camper, which is totally weird to me. Olivia and Robin Carsner, Bess and Clay’s daughter, have been in the same cabin together since their first day at Singing Hills!
For the past 12 years, I have served as the camp’s Mental Health Consultant during the summer and one of the staff trainers during staff week. I have had the true honor of getting to give back to an organization that Larry and I care about deeply and are so dedicated to. I had the honor of co-leading several mission trips LLYC make to Haiti. Everyone says mission trips changes their lives and they are right! There is absolutely nothing more fulfilling than being given the honor to serve as the hands and feet of the Lord. To know that the gift of Haiti came from LLYC is overwhelming to me. More recently I was asked to represent LLYC in the Foundation’s Legacy Film. A wonderful camera man and producer Nate Clark came to our house and filmed us going through a regular day and then filmed me at work. Despite the frantic house cleaning, the nerves of being interviewed on film (avoid sounding stupid or cursing) and trying to figure out what to wear, we were in awe of being asked. To say that LLYC has been a blessing to us, is a tremendous understatement.
Larry and I have been married for 21 years. We can honestly say that it has been our faith, which we owe to LLYC, that has held us together during good and challenging times. Our professional lives have been shaped by the relational approach we learned at camp. And our foundation for life rests in the belief that God loves us no matter what and he wants to have personal relationships with us. All of this, we learned at camp.