by Melissa Yonan, Alumni Director
When I was an undergraduate student at Indiana University in the 1980s, my second semester highlight was the Valentine’s Day package that arrived from Hope Church (Wilton, CT). Moms would collect smallish boxes for weeks and bake dozens and dozens of cookies. They met in the Fellowship Hall before Valentine’s Day and put their assembly line to work. Every college student at church got one of those loved-filled packages. Sharing these cookies with my friends and the simple act of being remembered was priceless.
While I was living in Washington, DC, I invited several friends to come over and make cookies for Valentine’s. Our cookies were going all different directions. One friend was putting a care package together for her boyfriend’s young daughter, another baked for her niece and nephew in Colorado, and another baked for one of her pediatric cancer patients. My packages were destined for college campuses, to the Deer Runners, women I first came to know as Junior Unit campers and had mentored when they were on staff.
Since our inaugural Operation Valentine in 2007, Camp has sent 1,157 care packages to our college-aged Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost alumni who have attended camp for many summers. We started small in 2007. I invited my Bible Study (in Washington, DC) to come up to camp to bake cookies. They bought plane tickets, flew up, and the rest is history. None of us will ever forget it (Hello, sundae bar). Set up in the “New Wing,” we rolled out cookies, assembled our heart shaped cookie cutters, sprinkled colored sugar, and baked away. It was a precious time for each of us and together as a group: camping out in the Loon, hanging out by the fire in the Dining Hall, and snowshoeing out to Plum Island.
We put Operation Valentine in the Weathervane, and shortly thereafter, an alumna contacted me and said, “I want to come to Cookie Camp!” Of course this should be an alumni program! Since then, Deer Run alumnae and camp moms spend the weekend at camp, making hundreds of homemade Valentine cards, baking over 3,000 sugar cookies (hearts, deer, moose, and trout), and assembling boxes with devotionals and candy. To all who have been a part of Cookie Camp and Operation Valentine over the years, bakers and postage donors, THANK YOU! We “love” and “like” the social media thank you’s students post after they get their packages. It’s more than homemade cookies, or the cheesy camp one-liner, “We miss you s’more,” it’s about the act of being remembered, and that the Lord, their God, is the real deal when it comes to LOVE.
P.S. I’m beyond thrilled that one of my friends from the 2007 Cookie Camp (DC friends) sent her son to Brookwoods for the first time last summer. How awesome is that? I think he liked the sundae bar, too.
Melissa (pictured far right, in 2007 with her DC Bible Study) has been a part of the camp family since 1982 and has been the Director of Alumni Relations since 2005. She can name all the past Deer Run Directors in order! She is responsible for our vast alumni network and serves as Editor for the camp newsletter, The Weathervane, as well as the Director for our annual Alumni Camp weekend. These days she is busy planning for the Brookwoods’ 75th Anniversary. If you have camp stories you’d like to tell, she’d love to hear them, contact her here.