Summer camp is a wonderful world, and I have been so fortunate to grow up in one. When we assembled our 100th anniversary book in 2016, not only were we celebrating 100 years of being in business, but we were honoring 100 years of my family. Keystone was founded by two women, and in our long history of 4 generations of directors, my father has been the only male to lead Keystone. Daddy had great respect for strong, capable women, and he wanted the same for me and for the girls who attended Keystone. At no point in my life did I ever hear my dad tell me I could not do something. I worked along side him as he rebuilt Keystone and developed and expanded our programs and our property. The support and confidence he instilled in me from a young age serves me well to this day, and I strive to do the same thing with Keystone girls today. There are no limits to what we can accomplish, and opportunities abound. We work together on understanding the choices we have, the control we possess and whether or not fear is justified. (I just love collecting snakes and spiders to show the girls that when you are able to identify what is in front of you, there is no reason to fear!)
Keystone prides itself on knowing each and every one of our girls. Each girl is a unique individual who brings a piece of herself to us. We value and honor the contributions of each girl. Our tight-knit camp community functions as a large family. Our program intentionally provides opportunities for our girls to interact across ages and interests.
When we reach the end of each session, and we assemble to watch our girls perform on the final nights of camp, the sounds of the cheering for each performer by name can be deafening. We are here to support one another through challenges, accomplishments and our shared experiences.
Our tight-knit camp community functions as a large family.
Growing in our camp community means understanding our need to work together. We want to make contributions to others. We want the summer camp experience to leave a lasting impact on the character of our girls. We want to see them realize the joy of contributing to the well-being of others and to the well-being of a community. We want our girls to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. Camp is a continuum. The lessons learned and the experiences shared resonate throughout life. The number of former campers and counselors we hear from each year always mention the lasting impact that their time at Keystone gave them. They still feel a sense of belonging. Their memories are strong. Women from the early 1960’s like to remind me that they were here to hear the camp bell ring when I was born. Keystone is family.
We typically draw campers from over 20 states and 6-10 foreign countries. We want our camp community to bring together a variety of girls from all over. Very often we find ourselves living to meet the expectations of others. Girls camp is a place to be who we want to be; not who we are expected to be.
When I speak of “my girls,” I love to share stories of the camp friendships that continue long past camp: the girls who end up as bridesmaids in each others’ weddings or as godmothers to children, the camper from Louisiana and the camper from Florida who were freshman year roommates in college, the group of 6 girls from 5 different cities who would gather at a different house every Presidents’ Day weekend for an annual mid-winter reunion because their camp session just didn’t last long enough; the 3 Miami, Florida (population 450,000), girls who visit their dear friend in Sandersville, Georgia, (population 5700), and a camper from Bethesda who was given the gift of trip to Cincinnati to see her camp pal after Thanksgiving.
Camp is the common thread
The girls often describe camp as their constant; that their camp friends know them for who they really are. You spend weeks on end with each other, you share in all the same experiences and the friendships form quickly and for longevity. Life outside of summer camp is constantly changing: you might move, you change schools, you age out of organizations or programs. Camp remains constant. You belong, you are known, you have value and there are opportunities for you as you age.
Page is Florence Ellis’s (original founder of Keystone summer camp for girls) great great niece and a fourth-generation Director of Keystone. She is a graduate of Duke University and assumed the position of Director in 1984. Her father, Bill Ives, ran the camp from 1961 until 1984. Page grew up at Keystone and spent her summers as a camper, counselor, and Head Counselor before taking over the Director’s position. Page currently lives at Keystone with her husband and three children. She serves on various community boards in Brevard. Her love of Keystone is contagious!
Keystone Camp was established in the summer of 1916 by Miss Florence Ellis and Miss Fannie Holt, who brought a group of girls from Jacksonville, FL to Western North Carolina. By 1919, Keystone Camp found its permanent home on the current site in Brevard, North Carolina. Unfortunately, Florence Ellis died at an early age in 1926, but Fannie Holt continued to run Keystone until 1942. At that time, Catherine Ellis Ives, Florence’s niece, purchased Keystone from Fannie Holt and remained the director until 1961.
Catherine’s son, William (Bill) Maner Ives, assumed the position of director and ran the camp from 1961 until 1984. The current director, Page Ives Lemel, is Bill’s daughter and Florence Ellis’s great great niece.
Page became the fourth generation director in 1984 after her graduation from Duke University. Page grew up at Keystone and spent her summers as a camper, counselor, and Head Counselor before taking over the Director’s position. Her love of Keystone is contagious. Keystone is the oldest private summer camp still in existence in the Southeast.