Person of the Week
When you are in high school or college and during the summer, think of something you could be doing. It might be nice to sit at home but think about coming out to a SummerShine location. It really makes a huge difference. What I love about it is that our goal is truly to help people have the best vacation possible.
1. What led you to the mission of being a KOA SummerShiner?
SummerShine is a ministry based program within KOA (Kampgrounds of America). We are employed by KOA to do KOA work – maintenance, front store — and also activities for the campers and families. I first learned about SummerShine through people in my hometown who were really involved with the Summer Shiners. They were older than I am and would say, “Oh we get to go to Myrtle Beach and do all these activities for the summer.” I thought that that seemed so awesome. (To learn more about SummerShine, click here.)
When I graduated from high school, I had that gap between high school and college. I wanted to do something. I applied for SummerShine. I applied and got placed at Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks. It was wonderful.
2. What does this mission mean to you?
What I love about it is that our goal is truly to help people have the best vacation possible. Even if we are doing silly activities and games like Wacky Olympics, that is the thing families and kids remember. They’ll say, “That was a great vacation.” They will hold memories about when they were little and doing fun things with the family. Just to be a part of that memory and try to help people have the best vacation they can is our goal and what it means to me.
If we have a chance to share what we feel about it is a double bonus. We build those relationships and keep people coming back. It is awesome to see people come back. There is a family that was here last summer and they have come back for a whole month this summer. We are on a first name basis and talk all the time.
3. What was your best day being a KOA SummerShiner?
My best days are those days that you have those activities going all day and at the end of the day you are dog tired. You start in the morning with an activity. You see all these kids and start talking to them. You say, “OK we have tie-dye at 11.” Then you have hundreds of people come through tie-dye. You just keep talking to people. They see you all over the campground. They remember and say, “You rent out bikes. You tube down the river.” We get to say, “Yeah. It is awesome.” You keep seeing the people throughout the day and you get to ask, “What is your favorite part of the day?” They might say, “Oh, tie-dye.” You say, “Yes. That is awesome. Tie-dye is great.”
So that is the best day. You run around all day. They are like crazy days when you get to interact with a lot of different people. Activities are going well. There are lots of people at them. There are lots of kids. There is a lot of energy on the campground.
4. What was your worst day being a KOA SummerShiner?
My worst day is a day with a lot of challenges. There might be a group of people that no matter what you do, they are not happy. That is frustrating to a SummerShiner. A bad day is letting people down activity wise. It can be frustrating or difficult. There isn’t a specific time. It’s just a day when you are going, going, going, Yåou feel like you are going in circles trying to do all these things for people but sometimes you fall short and can’t please everybody. You have to graciously accept this.
5. How did you survive your worst day?
Even though you can’t please everybody, it is the small things that really make a difference on those busy days. Again using the tie-dye example, one kid comes up to you and says, “I love this shirt. I’m going to wear it all the time.” That’s what you hold on to. You think, “OK. I’m doing something. This is great.” So you might have these crazy busy days when one thing might not be going well, but you still get to talk to people and ask, “Are you having a good time?” Continuing to talk to people helps you get through those rough patches. You know that there are going to be more activities tomorrow. We learn from it and know that we are going to keep going. We are going to make that activity better.
6. What advice do you have for someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
When you are in high school or college and during the summer, think of something you could be doing. It might be nice to sit at home but think about coming out to a SummerShine location. It really makes a huge difference. You have a blast over the summer.
I tell kids that if you think of really fun things that you do like in a PE class, start building up an inventory of activities that you could do with others in the summer. Even when you are little, try to remember all the favorite things you have done. Think about all these fun things you did and what can be applied to camp for others to do. Get excited about the summer. You get housing provided. This could be your first job. It is really exciting.
When I talk to people at school about why they should consider it, they might say, “Well that’s not my major. I don’t know.” I tell them that we are doing customer service stuff. You can apply that to almost anything you do. It is so important. You learn how to live and work with the same people. You have to work as a team or you are going to have a long summer. Teamwork is huge.
When you get to the point where you are planning and designing activities, you are taking inventory of what you have and coming up with new ideas and testing them. It’s just lots of fun. It’s a summer where there is a lot of work involved, but it is really rewarding. It’s one of those things that when we go back to school, we really miss summer. I think, “I really miss summer. I really miss being up there and being outside and being with people.” I’m so glad I found it.