By William Fallon
In the heart of Virginia’s George Washington National Forest, along the beautiful, serpentine Cowpasture River, lies a placid camp. Over the summer, this 92-acre scenic camp is a peaceful home to 155 different boys, 90 per three-week session. Camp River’s Bend (CRB) is located in Millboro, Virginia, and neighbors the historic Nimrod Hall. Its 92-acre piece of land, in the bend of a river surrounded on three sides by national forest, allows for all kinds of outdoor activities. Campers take part in horseback riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping, riflery, painting, woodworking, crafting, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer, and other sports and recreational games.
Camp River’s Bend was created in 2015 after the closing of the well-known Camp Virginia in 2014. Many alumni from Camp Virginia came together to create CRB, but two, in particular, are Collegiate’s own Middle School history teacher Matthew Richardson (‘07) and Middle School history and English teacher Charlie Williams. Richardson, as Camp Director, and Williams, as Associate Director, led the creation of the camp and make it happen each year.
“I was motivated to help start CRB because of the wonderful camp experience I had growing up. The friendships, experiences, and lessons learned have stuck with me, and I felt it was important for younger generations to be able to experience those same opportunities,” says Richardson on his motivation to start camp. “The biggest struggle that first summer was time and logistics. When we announced we were starting CRB, we had over 100 people sign up in 48 hours. At the end of those 48 hours, we realized we had an entire camp to build in five months. That short of a time frame made it a race against the clock to get the permits and facilities in place to welcome folks for that first summer. The only way we did it was because of the support of the entire camp family. They made it happen. It was a truly beautiful thing.”
Fishing at CRB is a highlight of the summer sessions. The camp offers many fishing hikes throughout the George Washington National Forest to lakes, rivers, and streams. The fishing hole is also open to campers and Counselors In Training (CITs) during free time each day, after each morning and afternoon activity. Boating and swimming are also available during this free time. Each activity has its own spot on the Cowpasture River perfectly designed for its use.
One of the many things taught at Camp River’s Bend is upholding core values. According to Williams, every morning the entire camp has a morning devotion, and every night every cabin has a nightly devotion. During these devotions, they go over the core values of camp and read passages from A Paratrooper’s Faith, a booklet of prayers and stories created by Virginia native Anne Tullidge to comfort her son George when he went to fight in World War II.
“The values we try and instill in not just our campers, but also our counselors are simple, yet timeless. Integrity, respect, community, sportsmanship, gratitude, overcoming obstacles, and service are some of the ones that we really emphasize,” says Richardson. The camper or CIT who follows these values the most is given the Spirit of Hope Rock Award at the end of the summer. Their job the next year is to be Stewards of the camp.
This past year’s Steward was Marshall Campbell (‘20). Marshall’s favorite devotion is “How you were great yesterday, but yesterday is over,… because it talks about how you are never perfect and emphasizes that you have to strive to be great each day. I relate this to the Spirit of Hope Rock award because you win the award because you are great that year, and they think you will continue this greatness. The next year you can’t coast; you have to continue to be great because everybody at camp is looking up to you.”
Next year’s Stewards, Andrew Kauders (‘20) and George Ahearn (‘20), significantly represent the camp’s central values. Kauders’ favorite devotion is “Have you left something?” Kauders says, “This is my favorite, because first impressions, and all impressions in general, can be very important. The way it is worded is also very clever, with the priest asking the complainer, ‘Haven’t you left something,’ and replying to the complainer’s response with a clever, ‘I believe you have left a very bad impression.’ I use this devotion when meeting all new people, and I try to leave behind the best impressions that I can.”
Other Collegiate students who have attended CRB include Reid Coleman (‘22), Patrick Brennan (‘22), and my brother Owen Fallon (‘22). They all say that the most important lessons camp has taught them are brotherhood and respect for your friends and family. Junior counselor Jordan Leibowitz (‘19) said that the most meaningful part of camp to him was “how everyone, camper or counselor, has a place and an equal value within the community.”
After talking with many camp attendees, alumni, employees, and thinking about my own experience, I realize one of the most meaningful aspects of camp are the bonds that you form and how they go beyond the camp boundaries to extend into connections that will last a lifetime. A handful of the counselors at CRB Upper Schoolers at Collegiate. This allows many of the campers to see their counselors outside of camp and helps create role models for younger kids. “I think that there is nothing better for a younger child than having a great role model that’s an older kid, because 11 and 12-year-olds want to be like 17-year-olds. So if the 17-year-old is well-behaved, that is the behavior they are going to learn, and I think that matters a lot more than what their 30-year-old teacher says,” says Williams.
All photos courtesy of Camp River’s Bend.