Volunteer Spotlight on Courtney Banner

Volunteer Spotlight on Courtney

I attended an overnight camp for six weeks every summer for nine years and I grew up hoping to own that camp. Later on, that dream transformed into a goal to start my own camp. Every person that knows me – camp friends, hometown friends, friends from college and from studying abroad in Spain, and even coworkers – knows I dream to own a camp one day.

Fast forward to my 27th birthday: I hosted this big camp-y weekend and called it “Camp Court.” Thirty-five of my friends from all over brought my vision to life at a day camp west of Boston. We spent the weekend playing get-to-know-you-games, eating camp-y food, sleeping on the boathouse floor, battling it out in camp olympics, making tie-dye t-shirts, and enjoying the late summer sun.

Camp Court group photo

On Saturday night, as I grabbed my towel to go lay on the docks to look up at the stars, my mom asked me to call her – she told me my Dad died that day. What had been the best weekend of my life quickly turned into the worst.

I discovered Experience Camps six months later. I signed up to volunteer as soon as they opened applications for summer 2020 and immediately felt connected to the ExCamps staff and volunteers. I was thrilled to be going back to camp – and knew this camp was exactly where I needed to be.

Unfortunately, we all had a lot of plans canceled in 2020. For me, this included my first week at Experience Camps and the third year of Camp Court. I asked all 50 of my friends who attended Camp Court previously to donate their $50 “registration fee” to Experience Camps in order to send one grieving child to camp. We achieved the goal in less than 48 hours (and I started to question if I had set my goal too low!) Later that season I joined the Experience Camps Boston Regional Advisory Council and found yet another extension of the welcoming and supportive community.

I am passionate about Experience Camps and what we do because it is an organization that combines two of the most transformational experiences in my life: camp and death of a loved one.

I have felt how isolating grief can be and I have witnessed the healing power of being in a community with individuals who “get it” and individuals who empathize to try to understand. There is so much power and empowerment that comes from being in our emotions – be it grief or joy – with one another. I know firsthand the lifelong impact that camp can have on a child – to come back year after year to the same safe space to make memories alongside the people that become your camp family. I believe that the combination of the camp community and the power of connection in grief is one of the strongest bonds imaginable.