I started attending Holt Adoptee Camp in the summer of 2004. I was an Oregon camper from 2004 until 2011. The summer of 2011, I had the privilege of attending both Oregon camp as per usual, but also attending the East Coast camp, which showed me a very different type of life, even in that one week.
As a young camper, I was excited to be in a place that I thought was magical. I had never seen so many Asian people that I resembled and had the same feelings toward adoption and life that I had. I think the most rewarding part of camp was meeting kids that were my age that felt the same things, in the same way. I came from a predominantly white community and only had one Vietnamese girl in my class as I went through elementary school. Therefore, I didn’t struggle very much as an adoptee, just the occasional “you don’t look like your parents” type comments. I looked forward to returning every summer. When July hit, I was marking days off the calendar. I packed way in advance. And over the academic year, I maintained communication with counselors and friends regularly. I made lifelong friendships with people I still talk to at the age of 20. As campers, we were able to form close bonds based on commonalities and that was something very special to me.
There were a lot of different aspects of camp. I loved many parts of it as I was growing up. It was a learning experience, but in a fun and nurturing environment. Part of me feels like I grew up emotionally, faster than my peers back at home. I was dealing with real subject matter, something serious. My favorite part of camp was hanging out with my friends, it didn’t matter what we were doing. We played games with each other, we did arts and crafts, we got to swim in the river. We joked about the Sandy River boundaries getting smaller and smaller as years progressed. I loved link tag and capture the flag. My friends and I would play spoons with our phones, since we didn’t have access to spoons. I remember one year, we even played with plastic knives, which we soon realized would give us battle scars. My friends and I would make bracelets out of string the entire week and by the end of camp, we had a wrist-full of bracelets. The adoptee discussions that we had were eye-opening at the time and rewarding. I never had ill-feelings toward my adoption. I knew that I was loved and my birth mother wanted a better life for me. I learned later that my adoption was organized from the beginning and I am thankful for that. Electives during the evening were always really fun. It gave campers an option of what they wanted to do with the variety of electives. I always did the dance one. There were a few years where it was hip-hop and then a couple years of K-POP. We would perform our electives for parents at the end of camp on closing day.
In my high school years of camp, the curriculum hadn’t changed. The adoption discussions had not changed a whole lot. I attended camp for one sole purpose: to see my friends and be with them.
My last year as a camper was really special because I got to attend both camps. One in Oregon on the West Coast and the other on the East Coast. They both happened to be the first and last camp. The staff that summer was extremely memorable. The girls that I met in New Jersey were some of the greatest girls I have ever met. It felt like an entirely different lifestyle though. Coming from Oregon, everything is relatively laid-back and contrasted to the East Coast where everything is fast-paced and ten times bigger than anywhere I had ever been before. It was a unique experience.
Overall, Holt Camp was an amazing experience as a child and I wouldn’t change a thing. It was very rewarding and gave me a chance to see different views of adoption and embrace the community that we have as adoptees. I have always dreamed of being a counselor for the summer for Holt Adoptee Camp, but have never been given the opportunity to fulfill that dream. I hope to someday, but for now it is just a time of fond memories.
Sara Levering | Oregon
Registration for Holt Adoptee Camp is open for any adoptee 5-16 years old. Check out this year’s schedule and register today!