“An artifact that best describes who I am today is my silver dogwood ring from the summer camp I attend, Ton-A-Wandah (TAW). TAW is a small girl’s camp hidden in the mountains near Hendersonville, North Carolina. The ring has a simple band, but supports a beautiful dogwood flower. It’s significant to me for two reasons: it reminds me of how fortunate I am, and of how much I’ve grown and developed as a person in the summers spent at TAW. I was nine years old the first time I went to this camp. I loved it so much, and had such fun, that the only summer I missed was 2020 due to COVID. My five summers at TAW are full of treasured memories with some of my very best friends. At the end of each session, campers attend an Honor Assembly during which the camp directors bestow gifts to longtime campers. In 2022, which was my last year as a camper, I received this dogwood ring for attending camp for five summers. Throughout this time, I matured and changed for the better. I am fortunate to have been a TAW camper for five years. This symbolic piece of jewelry reminds me to not take things for granted, to live in the moment, and to enjoy the little things.”

Response from Camp Ton-A-Wandah

Bea’s back in school and her first assignment for English class was to select an artifact of significance to her and write a paragraph about it. She wanted to share her essay with her Camp Ton-A-Wandah family and we thank her for doing so.

“For the past nine years, since the summer I turned seven, I’ve spent three weeks of the summer at a small camp in Hendersonville, North Carolina, away from my parents and any form of technology. I returned year after year, just like my grandmother, my aunts, and my mom. This past summer was my final one, and as I look back and reflect on my time spent there, I find the one aspect that kept drawing me back was the peace and comfort I had found in nature. As author Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of his life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth (Nature, 505).” Emerson impeccably described the freedom I always felt returning to the mountains, in knowing I was able to be as child-like and tranquil as I pleased. ”

Response from Camp Ton-A-Wandah

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“Camp Ton-A-Wandah has always been like a home away from home to me. It’s just that feeling you get when the gates open up and you see the rays of sunlight glistening on the lake. Behind all of its beauty, there is a very strong sense of comfort that fills your heart when you look at it. Camp Tonawandah has provided me with so many opportunities, smiles, memories, and so many amazing people. I can’t even begin to describe how thankful I am for all of the bonds that TAW has created, and how many life lessons it has taught me. Tonawandah was so special this summer because it was my place of escape. It gave me a breath of fresh air and a way out of reality. I was able to reunite with such special people and return to the best place on earth. All of these things are more than I could ever ask for, and it is such a blessing that I am able to be writing this. I can’t thank the TAW staff enough for providing me such a special place that will be a part of me forever. ”

“It’s hard to put onto words what TAW means to my daughter . It is the highlight of her year . We call it Bella time . It’s three weeks that she gets to get away and try things new and make life long friendships. She talks daily about camp . As she gets older she gets more emotionally invested in the people and the traditions . She is a true Cherokee girl and would wear her colors daily . I’ve had people question sending someone so “young “ “away” for three weeks. I just show them the pictures of how happy and confident she looks .”

“TAW is my home away from home. I made so many great friends. I’m already counting down the days to my return.”

“15 years ago, I drove up to Camp Ton-A-Wandah a shy little girl in the backseat of my mom's van and cried many "momma's girl" tears as she hugged me good-bye. Two weeks later, when she showed up to pick me up, I cried even more "I don't want to leave!" tears and begged her to leave me at Camp for the third week! Every year after that one, I spent all year looking forward to my three weeks at Camp Ton-A-Wandah. Now, years later, I'm a school teacher and several of my students spend their summers at Ton-A-Wandah. They love running back to my classroom on the first day of school and telling me all about their summer away at Camp! I can't wait until I have daughters of my own so they can experience the same incredible summers as their mommy did at Camp Ton-A-Wandah!”

“Camp Ton-A-Wandah strips away all outside factors, like social media and the internet, to reveal our inner souls and the cores of our hearts. Getting away from the craziness of our everyday lives for 3 weeks is not only refreshing but enlightening as well. In those 3 weeks, over the years, we meet our soul sisters (I know I’ve met mine). We make memories that last a lifetime, and become closer with God. TAW has watched me grow up throughout the years and grow into the person I am today. Being able to go this past summer meant so much to me because I got to experience my last year as a camper. Even though it was not what I expected I wouldn’t change it for the world. Women like Magaly Rosales, Kennedy Mirocha, Kelsey Craythorne, Julia Van Warner, and Ann Mills Cobb are women of substance, who I constantly find myself looking up to. TAW is my home away from home and I can’t wait to be back this summer as a C.I.T!!”

“I first came to TAW when I was 19 and had just finished my first year of college. I knew that I was ready for a new experience and to make great memories, but I had no idea how much this place would impact my life. Though Ton-A-Wandah, I have met some of my absolute best friends. Some who I have only known for a few weeks, but I know will have my back for my entire life. Through my experiences as a counselor, I have been given many perspectives on life, and because of that, I have learned countless lessons from others. TAW is the type of place where you get to be your best self, and I feel grateful because it seems like those places are getting harder and harder to find. I am so thankful for the two summers I have spent here. I wouldn't be who I am without the empowerment that camp has given me.”

“Ton-A-Wandah is so much more than just an overnight camp - it is an environment that allows girls to be themselves, to try new things, to challenge themselves and to make memories that will last a lifetime. I am incredibly grateful for TAW for introducing me to so many amazing people, counselors and campers alike, who support me unconditionally and encourage me to believe in my better self. From swimming in the lake and cheering on your tribe at various tribe events, to sharing popcorn at movie night and laughing in the cabin whilst painting each other's nails, being at Ton-A-Wandah provides endless opportunities to have fun with wonderful friends. Despite having only spent one summer at camp so far, TAW will forever have a place in my heart.”

“As a long time camper and counselor, I can safely say that Ton-A-Wandah is my home. It has given me confidence, a safe place, and my closest friends. I am so blessed and thankful to have these experiences and this beautiful place in my life!”

“There is truly no place like Ton-A-Wandah! At camp, everyone is encouraged to try new things and push themselves outside of their comfort zone. It is a place where people are genuinely interested in you and want to see you succeed. I know that the memories I have made while at camp and the people I have met here will stay with me for the rest of my lifetime. I can honestly say that Ton-A-Wandah has made me into the woman I am today.”

“Being from Scotland, I didn't know what to expect from a traditional American summer camp. But, by walking through the gates of Camp Ton-A-Wandah this summer, I was given so much more than I could ever imagine. Being able to work with an amazing group of woman to provide equally as amazing young girls the confidence and the ability to become their truest selves is so rewarding. Every single person who walks through the gates at TAW is special, and this camp gives them the opportunity to try new activities, be pushed out of their comfort zone, learn important life skills and make friendships that are so strong. Being part of the Ton-A-Wandah sisterhood is so special and seeing young girls grow in to independent and beautiful young woman is a gift in itself. TAW is a unique and exceptional place that always will have a place in my heart, and is also in the hearts of anyone who has experienced the magic that can only be found here.”

“This past summer I spent at Camp Ton-A-Wanda and I wouldn’t have it any other way! It was filled with more laughs and more memories than ever. Ever since I was 7 years old I have been attending TAW and this summer being my 12th was by far the greatest. Ever single person no matter what their interests and or where they come from is able to share this common love for this incredible place which is so special! I return every summer for the girls and my fellow Co workers, for every single one of them has made such an impact on who I am today. Camp gave me the ability to try so many new things including sliding down a water slide in a kayak! Whether it be the tribe events, the cabin bonding, the evening programs, etc. the kind of support and love at camp is like no other and I will always cherish all my memories from this summer and the past 12 as well!”