Alumni Spotlight: Marz

From the outside looking in you don’t understand it, but from the inside looking out you can't explain it! -unknown

I was 7 year old little girl taking her sister to camp, excited to have a free week without her. That is until I saw what she was going to be doing all week, I couldn't let her have that much fun without me! So my parents went all the way back home and packed some stuff while I stayed at camp. I obviously couldn't miss the first day! Driving up camp lane for one of the first time I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Who would have known this is place would be my home for the next 18 years of my life.

When I first started going to camp I was not the loud, energetic, outspoken, somewhat crazy person some know and love; I was actually the polar opposite! I remember sitting in Fox cabin with complete strangers thinking to myself what in the world am I getting myself into! I was surrounded by girls who I'm sure we're thinking the exact same thing! Once everyone in the cabin had arrived it was time for the tour, you know the classic this is the bathroom; you shower and brush your teeth here kind of thing. I wasn't even there a day and I would come back next year! This was a place I wanted to be! This was a place I needed to be.

Let’s jump forward a few years! Let's say 2007, this would be my 6th summer at camp and my first year as an SDP! I was still in absolute awe by this place and couldn't see my life without it! In the 6 years I spent as a camper I found my so you say calling! I stepped out of my comfort zone because I wanted to be just like the amazing people who taught me everything I know! Shout out to T-LER, Daisy, Bucket, Punky and so many more. By this time I had met some of the most important people in my life that to this day I still look to for support and friendship. Camp friends and be best of friends and will never leave, even thought they could be half way across the country.

Moving on to 2008 this was my 2nd-ish year as a SDP and the first summer I spent more than one week at Camp, I think I was there for a total of 6 weeks give or take! This year was when I figured out that Camp was where I belonged, I didn't care what I was doing as long as I was at camp, I was happy! That year I worked in the kitchen and had an absolute blast, having Air Band jam sessions to cleaning very dirty on camp!

The next year was even better it was my first year on staff! I remember the day I got the call, I was walking around downtown New Orleans. It couldn't get much better than that! This year was the year that really pushed my out of my comfort zone, I did all the things I was scared of… well let's be real the only thing I was scared of was when both my feet were off the ground. This would be the year I found my love for all things ropes. I remember it just like yesterday it was Staff Orientation, we were going around camp learning and doing all the activities. At the time I was maybe 15 working with about 20 adults I had looked up to for years! I couldn't have been with a better group of people to push me to try something new. That year was the first time I ever Repelled, Rock Climbed and Zip lined! Getting to this point was life changing I was terrified to repel and wanted to back out but Tooth Brush talked me through the tears and I finally had the courage to jump.. Literally jump off cliff backwards! To my surprise I love it! Years later I was the ropes manager and even crazier I went skydiving. If Toothbrush hadn't pushed me that day I probably wouldn't have been able to do either!

For the next 8 years I would work some of the most amazing people and be that person to so many kids. I would strive to make every week the best week of their lives, and helped them step out of their comfort zone! My goal was to have the loudest cabin on all of camp, host the most dance parties and most importantly be the person that gets them to fall in love with camp!

Camp has truly made me into the person I am today, without it I don't know where I would be. So if you are thinking about sending your child to Benson don't think twice about it! I promise when you pick up Sally 6 days later you will see the effects. Camp is the community you want your Sally to be a part of, it will teach her how to be strong both physically and mentally and to be the best that she can be!

Where am I today? As most of you may know I left camp a little over a year ago! During my time at camp it taught me to appreciate what the world has to offer, and because of that it given me the opportunity to travel and see the world in a different way! Most importantly it shaped me into the dedicated, hardworking, passionate and to always be a kid at heart person I am today! Over this past year I have had some pretty sweet opportunities! I was able to work at a camp in South Carolina and teach outdoor education and travel to Washington State to chat with a Y about their programs! It was an amazing experience and rekindled my passion for working with kids and teaching them to be the best version of themselves! This past week I accepted a new position here at the Y in Sterling as the Challand Middle School; After School Coordinator! I am extremely excited to see where this takes me and really put my skills to the test! This just shows to never give up on your passion even if it takes a little while to get you to where you want to be!

Ps. I added up all the weeks I spend at camp and it was over 102 weeks, that's almost 2 years! This isn't even counting the countless weekends I spent there! Camp is a place where everyone BELONGS!

Camp On

Marz (:

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YMCA Camp Benson

16355 Scenic Palisades Rd.

Mount Carroll, Illinois

Have Questions?

Please contact Gwyn “Mama G” Bemis”

Camp Director


Madison “Pawz” Vandersee

Assistant Camp Director


YMCA Camp Benson