Volunteer Spotlight on Matt Banner

Volunteer Spotlight on Matt

Hi, my name is Matt Murphy, I’m 28 years old and I’m from Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.

My adventure with Experience Camps began in 2015. I was working the summer at a camp called Kennybrook in Monticello, NY. My camp director, Colleen, approached me one day at the lake towards the end of camp and asked if I had anything planned for the week after camp. She explained about this incredible opportunity to volunteer for a week at something that was starting at Kennybrook for the first time called Experience Camps, a camp for children who had experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver. I jumped at the chance to help out. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, and to a degree, neither did anyone, as this was the first summer of this camp. Regardless, the idea of spending an extra week at the camp with some incredible kids was something I couldn’t pass on. Though I had not experienced grief to the depths that our wonderful campers had, I knew I could still support the kids and be there for them.  They needed staff who would be outgoing, caring, full of energy, and most importantly; live, breathe and sleep FUN! Sounded right up my alley.

Since that first year, I have unfortunately joined the real world and got a regular 9-5 job. I no longer spend 7 weeks sat on a lake, paddling canoes and stand-up-paddle boards in the sun. Now I build financial software for a living. Experience Camps is my one perfect week in the year. I get to fly back to camp and spend 24 hours a day surrounded by some of the most incredible people I have ever had the blessing to meet. I get to play silly games, attempt belly flops into the lake, climb the high ropes course (and try not to visit a town a little south of throw-up) dress up as a unicorn (but that’s a whole different story), cheer, clap, laugh, cry, high five until my hands are sore, and hug until my heart feels fuller than I would have thought possible.

Matt being held by campers

I’ve spent 5 of my 6 years with the same bunk, and they have all grown into incredibly kind, caring, young men. I will continue to be proud of them every single day. This summer marks their final year as campers with Experience Camps, and it’ll be a summer that will be vastly different from normal. It’s a week that we have all looked forward to since our first day back home after camp in 2019, and it’ll be their chance to graduate from the Experience Camps Leader in Training (LIT) program.

Experience Camps has taught me so much over the past 6 years. It’s taught me that it’s okay to feel all the feelings. That it’s okay to express positive feelings as well as negative ones. It’s okay to feel sad and it’s okay to not. It’s okay to throw yourself into something, even when you may feel nervous because chances are, there will be someone next to you who you can lean on for help. Most importantly, it’s taught me that even when we feel down, even when we feel like there is no one else around us that understands what we’re feeling at that moment, sometimes we can feel so much better from a warm hug, and a freezing cold Steve/Stephanie Hirsch milkshake.