How teen camp helped Holly learn to love herself in a way most teens never do.
If you’ve seen the front page of our website, you’ll know that Holly is one of our teen camp’s greatest success stories, and now one of its most important facilitators. Holly came to us in the summer of 2007 the way a lot of teens do – unsure of how she fit into the world beyond what others thought of her. Now? She’s creating the magic of teen camp for countless teens every summer. We’re so thrilled to share her story with you now.
About OTC Love, in Holly’s Own Words
“Middle School was the worst. For three years I had done everything in my adolescent power to please other people – my friends, my teachers, my parents – and no matter how hard I tried, peers would still make fun of me and friends would still exclude me. The only thing I wanted in the whole world was to be liked and to be special. By the time I finished eighth grade, I was deeply unhappy and dogged by a constant sense of inadequacy. One day, while flipping through one of my mom’s alternative health magazines, I came upon a bright pink, full page ad for some teen camp in the Hudson Valley. After a few minutes of in-depth research on their website, the scrolling list of activities and events had me convinced. I walked up to my mom, pushed the ad into her hands and said, “I’m going here next summer.” The teens in the ad and on the website didn’t look like the kids I had grown up with, they had pink hair and wore jewelry that looked homemade – they looked happy. Little did I know that I would soon be lucky enough to get a piece of that happiness myself.
Four months later I found myself, my sleeping bag, and my giant duffle riding in the back of my mom’s car as it traversed the winding roads and rolling hills leading to Patterson, New York. The trees lining the long road to campus looked greener and richer than any I had seen before and the sky was a brilliant shade of blue. After checking in at registration and saying a swift goodbye to my parents and dog, I joined a small group of campers walking up the hill towards the main camp. In that moment I made a decision: I was starting fresh. I was going to be friendly and I wasn’t going to be scared or shy and I was going to make this the best two weeks of my life. Of course, I didn’t have to try very hard to make that happen because OTC was waiting for me with open arms.
Within the first two days I realized that this place was nothing like the school environment I had left behind. Of course, being thirteen, there were some tendencies I just couldn’t leave behind, one of them being my inherent boy-craziness. Two of the girls in my cabin already knew some of the other campers from a previous camp and I will never forget the moment I turned to them and said, “WAIT! You know boys?!” Those “boys” and the girls who were in my cabin ended up becoming some of the best friends I’ve ever had and I’m still in unconditional friend-love with all of them eight years later. We would eat grilled cheese and tomato soup together at lunch, make mugs and earrings in the art hut and stay up laughing far past lights out. One time we all sat on the steps of our cabin and dyed my hair pink with a jar of manic panic – a habit which I have not been able to kick since.
For the first time in my life I didn’t know what I was “supposed” to be. There was no standard to meet or certain “look” to attain. All I had to do was exist and be open and happiness found me. That freedom from “should” and “shouldn’t” gave me the power to step into myself, unapologetically. I realized that maybe not everyone in the world had to like me, but if I liked me that was all that mattered. I think back on my first summer at OTC and a smile immediately comes to my lips. I remember laughter and cannon balls and body paint. I remember feeling free for the first time in my life. And it was the memory of that unbridled joy that carried me through the winter and the trials of high school. I couldn’t always be happy at school, but I always had that light at the end of the tunnel, that glimmer of excitement and that flutter in my stomach as I drove up the winding, tree lined roads knowing the OTC was waiting for me.
Since 2007 I have returned to camp four times, three more as a camper and last summer I had the immense privilege of coming back as a counselor. I didn’t think it could get better than being a camper and, boy, was I wrong. The only thing more joyful than finding myself, was helping a whole new crop of teens find themselves just like I did. Helping pass on the legacy that Adam Simon began thirteen years ago has been the one of most gratifying efforts of my life and I cannot wait to see what this summer has in store.”
Hope to see you this summer at teen camp!
Thank you so much, Holly! Our OTC family is so lucky to have you here to help create the same magic you experienced.
If you’re excited to come and see Holly this summer, don’t hesitate: register now! We’ve extended our early bird registration discount to February 28th – so if you register between now and then, you’ll get %15 off of your (or your teen’s) session at camp!
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I’m Adam Simon. I started teen camp eighteen years ago with the vision of creating a space where teenagers would know they are safe from bullying or negative judgments and would feel free to show who they really are and to become their best selves. Let’s connect, discuss, engage…