Elliot Bliss has been a part of Holt camp for more than 14 years as a camper, counselor and now Holt post-adoption services staff member. Hear about his experience, and why he thinks Holt Adoptee Camp is beneficial for every adoptee!
You name a way someone could have a connection with Holt Adoptee Camp, and Elliot Bliss has it covered. He is a Holt adoptee, adopted from Korea in 1997. He attended Holt camp as a camper from ages 9 to 16. Then as a 17-year-old, he participated in Holt camp’s counselor in training (CIT) program. Finally, he went on to be a counselor for three years and on camp leadership staff for two years!
Today, Elliot works for Holt International as the post-adoption programs lead and co-director for Holt camp summer 2023! Elliot’s long-standing commitment to Holt camp is a testament to the impact this unique program has on the lives of adoptees. It also speaks to Elliot’s character and dedication to fellow adoptees. We all love and benefit from having Elliot on the team!
Recently, we sat down with Elliot to hear a little more about his experience at camp as a camper, counselor and now as a Holt International post-adoption services staff member.
What kept you going back to Holt camp so many times?
I didn’t have a community where I felt like I belonged growing up. There were hardly any Asians, hardly any adoptees. Going to Holt camp gave me a community where I could talk about adoption and feel understood. I also kept coming back because of all the amazing friends I made!
What were some highlights from your camper days?
A highlight for me was always seeing which counselors return year after year and hoping that my favorite counselors would return! I am still in contact today with some of them. A lot of the counselors were just super great, and they gave me role models with similar backgrounds to me that I could identify with and learn from!
When you were a camper, did you think you would come back as a counselor?
I really wanted to come back as a counselor, which is why I did the counselor in training program when I was 17. Being a camper for a lot of years, it was a community that I wanted to belong in. I saw the impact it had on me as well as the impact it had on other campers. So, I wanted to give back to the younger generations and help adoptees thrive. I really saw the impact of hearing adoptees talk about adoption and racism — camp was a catalyst for some of those difficult conversations.
What are some highlight of being a counselor and staff member?
From the staff perspective, it was really fun training with the other adoptee counselors for one to two weeks and then getting to travel with them all across the country. It was the most fulfilling job that I’ve had. It was really interesting to see the cultural differences of each camp too, from Georgia to Wisconsin to Oregon to New Jersey. I’ve kept up with some campers over the years, too. It’s so great to see them grown up and following their dreams and going to college and getting jobs! You kind of feel like a parent, seeing them grow up.
Had you ever thought about working at Holt?
As an adoptee, I had always wanted to work with adoptees. I had thought about working at Holt, but it was never the right time in my life. But at the end of 2022, I saw that the job position had been posted, and I was really rethinking my life and what direction I want to go. I needed a change and I wanted something impactful! I love getting to talk to adoptees about their birth search and their journey and identity. It’s all just been super rewarding to me, especially getting to work with adoptees and helping them thrive!
Is there anything else you want to add?
I think that every adoptee should go to Holt camp! It plays such a pivotal role in adoptees’ experiences and their ability to form lifelong friendships and connections. A lot of kids think going to adoption camp sounds stupid, but it’s still a fun summer camp where you do fun activities. I have yet to meet a camper who came into Holt camp not wanting to be there and left still feeling that way. They were all glad they came and have wanted to come back.
Elliot will be co-directing Holt camp this summer with Holt’s camp director, Nate Schiffer, and he is excited to be involved in this capacity and spend more time getting to know fellow adoptees.
Registration for Holt Adoptee Camp 2023 is now open!
At camp, adoptees have the chance to try new things, make new friends and share their experiences with other adoptees! This program is available to all domestic, international, transracial or transcultural adoptees, ages 9-17.