Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

The Magic of Camp Riverlea

September 15th, 2014

By Ben Harris

Each session, we welcome every camper into Riverlea’s fellowship of the ring. “Welcome to the fellowship of the ring”, we say, placing a necklace over a camper’s head. It was a privilege to help with the ceremony this year, certainly one of the best parts of my summer. I could never have accurately estimated the feelings of profound joy and pride I would experience while welcoming campers, orcs, and staff into the Riverlea community during this traditional camp ceremony

This Riverlea tradition can have different meaning to each child: another reminder about the importance of community; more encouragement towards mutual respect, gratefulness, and interdependence; just a colored ribbon with a cheap ring on it; an awesome colored ribbon with a real magic ring on it. When a camper chooses to wear her or his ring the following Friday, I can’t help but smile.

Beyond the symbolism of the ring’s circularity, different ribbon colors representing the passing of time, the metaphor of keeping the ring close to one’s heart, and the inevitability of camp experiences shaping a child’s interaction with the world around them, the magic ring ceremony means something to the counselors too. Many staff members were once campers, people with a strong connection not only to the Riverlea community, but also to the physical place. Somewhere in the Hobbit House, their names are covered up by those of more recent campers. They have memories of their old counselors, learning to swim in the pool, who they had a crush on, and what the old Shire looked like before it burned down in 2010. I have these memories. They are essential aspects of my strong connection to Riverlea. I like to think memories like this are being made each summer, that everyone’s connection to Camp Riverlea strengthens with each positive experience.

“Is it really magic?” a lot of campers ask me, clutching their rings. Some look skeptical, others captivated. “It is if you want it to be, but you have to really believe in it”. Usually this isn’t a satisfactory answer. I don’t expect any campers to will themselves into flight or invisibility, laser vision or super super strength, nor do I intend to convince them that belief alone can create something. “Yes” or “no” would be boring answers, ones that fail to call into question the nature of magic, the power of belief, and the relationship between the two. I don’t expect anyone, camper or staff, to really work that idea around in their heads while at camp, but I hope it finds its way into everyone’s consciousness sooner rather than later.

My belief is that the magic of Camp Riverlea is interpersonal. It happens on the playground, during activities, on the bus, in the Shire. It happens outside of camp, too, when friends get together to reconstruct Riverlea stories from memory fragments. Those, in my experience, are some of the most magical moments. I share them with some of my best friends, people I’ve known since we were campers.

In essence, Camp Riverlea is like most places. Things happen there that people can later remember. But what makes Camp Riverlea particularly special is that it’s a community of people willing to believe in, contribute to, and participate in the magic of the fellowship of the ring. I am both excited and proud to say that we spent a lot of time this summer developing a multifaceted and longitudinal plan to continue increasing the quality of Camp Riverlea’s magic for campers and staff alike. Riverlea has many magical years to look forward to. I hope I can come back for more of them.

Donut on a string challenge

August 28th, 2013

At the camp carnival this year, we had lots of fun stations, such as fortune telling, diving for rings, bean bag toss, and face painting. We also had the ever-popular donut on a string game, where campers attempt to eat a powdered donut off of a string while it’s moving. Here is a series of photos of two campers participating in this surprisingly challenging carnival event.

Summer 2013 Photos

August 23rd, 2013

Here are a few photo highlights from this summer. To see more, check out our Facebook page and check back here for more!


Having fun in with paint and macaroni in arts and crafts!


Pulling and eating carrots in the camp garden.


A camper and her counselor at the river.


Campers and counselors at Brandybuck.


Sustainable Agriculture at Riverlea

May 17th, 2013

Camp Riverlea rents some of its 100 acres to local farmers, who have planted corn, wheat, soybeans, and sorghum in recent years. You may remember seeing lovely rows of corn filling the fields as you head up the driveway towards the Shire. This year, in addition to the corn, you’ll see some different crops growing in two acres near the tennis court. Two sustainable small-scale farms, Little Sprout Farm and Dig It Farm, are leasing land from camp to grow produce for local markets.

Becca Wait started Little Sprout Farm in 2010 and is committed to using earth-friendly practices to grow a variety of delicious produce. She was a nature counselor at Riverlea in 2005 and 2006! You can find Little Sprout Farm at the Chapel Hill Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

After spending several years working on farms and learning about sustainable agriculture in California and in the Durham area, David Barrett decided last year to start Dig It Farm. Dave loves providing tasty, fresh produce to his customers and contributing to a healthy local food system. Dig It Farm sells at the South Durham Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

We’re happy that Riverlea is able to provide land for these farmers and that campers will get to see rows of colorful vegetables all summer long. Campers will get to pick and eat fresh food from our camp garden, which is right next to the farm fields. We can’t wait for summer to start!

A camp tradition for Durham area children

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