Half of our story started waayyy back in 1986 when Stan Whites and Tina Grant fell in love at Echo Valley. Their story isn’t mine to tell, but they married and had two sons, Dayton and Sloan, both of whom were campers and later counselors at LLYC.
My love story begins in the Summer of 2009. Dayton Whites and I were both counselors at Singing Hills. I remember him as the new counselor who always wore a cowboy hat. Truthfully, that’s about all I remember about him from that summer, but he assures me that we did talk at least once. Three years later, I was chosen for the internship program at LLYC. During a recruiting trip to Midland, Chandler Pruitt was lamenting the fact that we didn’t have a Singing Hills Guys Director lined up for the upcoming summer. Dayton was one of his top choices, but he said Dayton had to take summer school and get a “real job” instead of working at camp. As a last-ditch effort, Chandler suggested I shoot Dayton a text and bat my eyelashes at him to see if I could change his mind. And whatdayaknow, it worked! Dayton was hired as our Guys Director.
The summer started off as perfectly chaotic, the way camp usually is. During first session, Singing Hills endured a sweeping norovirus (not so lovingly referred to as “the plague”), and Dayton and I got to work together on a tightly knit staff the way Singing Hills tends to be. On switch day, halfway through the summer, I confessed to one of my best friends, Christi, that I was afraid I had gigantic crush on Dayton. We squealed and laughed and I told her stories of our summer. A week later she came to visit camp and witnessed the huge goofy grin I could not wipe off my face when I saw him.
From that point on, the only word to describe my feeling was lovesick. He drove me crazy in all the best ways. Suddenly I couldn’t focus on anything. I found myself always wanting to be with him. “Planning activities for staff” turned into flirting in the sound booth. “Working slides during round up” turned into drawing on each other with permanent marker and missing our slide cues. One time his arm brushed against mine and I think my heart actually skipped a beat. Needless to say, one night when he knocked on my cabin door and asked if I wanted to go on a walk later, I could hardly breathe, let alone speak. I must have squeaked out a “sure” because after cabin time, he came to get me.
Our walk through the river that night was the first of several meaningful walks through the river for us. It was our first almost uninterrupted conversation (mid-way through we had an awkward encounter with a truck full of Cabin I girls on a sneak out). He told me some of the sweetest things—that he thought I was the prettiest girl at camp, that he constantly had to resist the urge to hold my hand, and that he wanted this “camp thing” to be something more. That night after waking up my co-director, Emily Ballbach, at 3am and gushing with her, I lay awake in my bed for what seemed like hours with my head spinning, wanting to remember every detail of the night.
The next few weeks contain memories of our first date—a day off together consisting of a movie and nutritious dinner of queso and frozen yogurt in San Antonio, more late night walks, riding along with him when he needed to run errands in the canyon (basically finding any excuse to be together), getting attacked by fire ants in the dark, butterflies, long sappy goodbyes, trying to stay focused on what we were hired to do at camp, and thinking Dayton Grant Whites might very well be my husband one day.
We dated for the next year and a half. Dayton planned another walk through the river for us in February of 2014, which ended with him on one knee and a diamond ring on my finger. We got engaged on the Singing Hills rock bridge. The same place we fell in love.
After a few years of us living all over the Texas hill country, we now find ourselves back at the foundation working full time for LLFC. Dayton is the Assistant Director of Operations, working closely with William Collins and the college staff to make sure camp runs smoothly. I’m in charge of planning and leading the Arts and Crafts activity. I still like to tag along on his errands in the canyon and he still asks me to take walks with him through the river; we still look for any excuse to be together.
Camp means everything to us. I met my Savior and my husband there—my two best guys. It’s been a wild and unexpected ride, and I don’t reckon it’ll slow down any time soon. We love our little life in Kerrville and hope to someday have children of our own that we can send to LLYC on their own adventures.
We owe it all to the Lord, with a little help from Chandler Pruitt.