A message from former camper, staff member, volunteer, and friend – Kelly Finke

From the very beginning, I knew Sherwood Forest was something special. As I rode on the bus through the front gates that first time at 9 years old, I could already feel that camp was going to stay with me. My twin brother had attended camp earlier that summer and spared no detail of the fun he had. I went to camp expecting campfires and friendship bracelets. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for just how much going to Sherwood Forest would open up my world and show me my truest self.

I was a very shy and introverted kid, but camp and its community of support quickly gave me confidence to share my voice. For nearly 10 years now, Sherwood Forest has been my safe haven, my home away from home, my soft place to land. Camp taught me to be strong, independent, and empowered me to become a leader. I never would have thought I could start a fire or create an outdoor shelter, much less embark on a 10-day hiking and canoeing trip. Each year, I was challenged to do more than I thought I was capable of and which every summer I realized more and more that there was so much I could do. Amid a number of school transfers that would later follow, camp became my constant. Sherwood Forest and my camp family were always there to lean on during tough times and to celebrate the good times.

It became a non-negotiable that I would spend my summers at camp, so after completing the Leadership Training Program I became part of the summer staff as a counselor, volunteered regularly, and even completed my college practicum with Sherwood Forest. I wanted to be able to give young campers the experience I had while also laying the groundwork for my future in the camp field. Initially, I had no intention of going to college following graduation, but Sherwood staff encouraged me to explore my options, even helping me with school research and applications. I’m now a senior at Missouri State studying Recreation Sports and Parks Administration with an emphasis in outdoor education. I’m now looking forward to applying everything I’ve learned to make it possible for kids to have the same experience I did at camp. I would love to run my own camp someday as a director or possibly work for the American Camp Association. While I’m still figuring out the details of my future, I know all roads lead back to camp life. While I may not always be at Sherwood Forest, it will always be with me wherever I go.

Had it not been for Sherwood Forest, the opportunity to attend a residential camp would have been entirely out of reach for me and my family. It wasn’t until much later that I found out the typical month-long program costs in upwards of $7,000, which prevents the kids who would benefit most from ever taking part. It’s devastating for me to think about a child never getting the chance to become immersed in nature, create lasting friendships, or to lay under the night stars truly feeling free. Camp creates a ripple effect that resonates in so many ways. It shows you who you are, what you are capable of, and what you want. Despite life being full of unknowns, I learned at Sherwood Forest to be confident in who I am and what I stand for.

Despite life being full of unknowns, I learned at Sherwood Forest to be confident in who I am and what I stand for.

Your gift today to Sherwood Forest changes the lives of campers now and in the future. By supporting their programs, you are giving them a love of nature and the outdoors. You are teaching them self-love, patience, and the skills to overcome life’s challenges. You are helping them learn to feel secure in themselves and the decisions they make, even when they are far from home. You are enabling them to strengthen their emotional intelligence, understand their feelings and those of others. You are providing them a judgment free place to make mistakes and learn from them. Camp is not only for the campers, but the young staff taking on important responsibilities for the first time, navigating their futures, and feeling the reward of helping others. By supporting Sherwood Forest, you are helping a generation of young people, just like me, grow into resilient, self-assured people who dream big and lead with their hearts.