What was your experience as a Youth Lodge Keeper at summer camp? 

"Well, my biggest take away from camp was that, I grew up in a very traumatic home and a lot of abuse-emotionally… whatever. And when I was young, when I went to camp it was the only time that I  was kind of free; I was just free to be me, to get out, get away from everything that was going on at home and I kind of did that healing. Especially in the young men’s camp I would see them and the progress they made from the first day to the last day and it was like black and white how far these kids came. And I thanked them when we were all in the sweat lodge together and I said, “I believe that creator puts people in our lives and kind of gives us mirrors in a way to see things and to heal through other people.” And they teach us things and so I thanked these young boys. All the healing that took place in these young men, I saw myself in them and it helped me heal that little boy inside of myself and I was so grateful to them. And I don’t have enough good things to say about it. I’m just speechless for some of these young men that came. There were some that never even lit a match before in their life. And by the end they were helping me work out there. We set up a sweat lodge together, taught them how to cut firewood, picking medicines, speaking to the elders, offering tobacco, everything. There were lots of times that I cried, right, because it was almost like I was living through them and I saw that little boy and it just made me… Like there was a lot of void earlier in my own life where I just checked out and I can’t even really remember anything from my childhood because it was so messed up. It was like they gave me that opportunity to do that and I am just eternally grateful to them. There were lots of times where I cried. These boys they meant so much to me. The experiences we had together: sweating with each other, swimming with each other, especially listening to some of the words and some of our conversations with Patrick around the campfire. I’ll never forget those time sitting around the campfire together. It moved me in ways in which words can’t really explain."

-Ricky Tompkins, Pathways CSA Youth Lodge Keeper

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