By Jake Darling
Located on the banks of the Neuse River in Arapahoe, North Carolina, the YMCA’s Camp Seagull is considered more than just a camp by many of those who attend. Offering many activities and programs on both land and sea and employing counselors from all around the world, from places such as South Africa, Colombia, and Australia, there is no doubt that the camp community is something special. Founded in 1948 by Wyatt Taylor, a previous General Secretary of the Raleigh-area YMCA, the camp’s founding mission is to help young men grow and develop into adulthood. It does so by creating a safe and welcoming environment for kids while also teaching them different life skills. In the words of Collegiate alum Sully Lawrence (‘15), “Camp Seagull is a place that’s sort of apart from the real world; time has had very little effect on its atmosphere. It is home to one of the more supportive environments that I have ever been a part of.”
Not only does the camp provide a safe environment for people to grow and develop, but it allows campers to try new things that they may not have had the opportunity to do at home. Camp Seagull offers many different types of activities, including power boating, sailing, archery, riflery, golf, tennis, baseball, and it provides access to multiple lakes for activities such as a zip line and the blob. The camp sits in a nice, quiet, forested area with its own private river banks and lakes for the campers to play in, and almost 150 acres of safe wooded area for campers to explore. Wherever you are you will always be able to hear the younger campers laughing, screaming, and having a blast with their new friends.
The camp provides all the necessary equipment required for these activities, including one of the largest private fleets of ships, with over 60 sailboats, 20 motorboats, and three keelboats. The camp provides the proper training and certifications to legally operate these vessels. There are also teachers for the U.S. Hunter Safety Course, which allows to campers to go hunting and use firearms outside of camp.
Throughout the summer, camp offers multiple sessions of different length. There is starter camp for kids who are just beginning their experience at camp, four different Mariners sessions for those who only want to stay for two weeks at a time, and two four-week sessions for the campers who have discovered their love for the camp experience. Many campers return year after year, and when asked on why he continued to return to camp after nine years, Collegiate student Carter Gilbert (‘19) talked about how he largely returned for the friendship he had with other campers. Carter says, “We have known each other for so long that we have become brothers. I know some of these people better than anyone at home.”
After having spent the past eight summers attending the camp, I can attest to the camaraderie, the experience, and the environment. I have friends at camp who I feel like I have seen every day for my entire life. My brother Zach Darling (‘22) says, “It’s got a great community. It’s really a place like no other.” This summer I had the opportunity to take part in the “Camper In Leadership Training” (C.I.L.T.) program. I worked as a counselor in one of the youngest cabins, with campers around age seven. Working with the younger camps was a wonderful and hilarious experience. My favorite memory of this past summer is when I let my campers style my hair for one of the dances the camp holds with Camp Seafarer, the sister camp.
I had spent my previous summer as a C.I.L.T. on power boating staff and am honored to have the ability to return as a counselor next summer. Each year, as summer comes closer, I begin to get more and more excited to return to camp, and it will be no different next summer.