I went to Black River Farm and Ranch from 1976-1986 although if you count Alumni Weekends, I haven’t really ever left the BR!
I spent 5 years as a camper, 4 years on staff and then had the privilege of being the nanny for the family for 2 years.
I recently retired with the rank of Colonel from a 30-year career in the US Army. Some of that time was active duty, most was in the reserves to include three mobilizations, two of them to Iraq. In my civilian job, I am the manager of a rural library, responsible for a service area that spans a 25 mile stretch of US Highway 12 in East Lewis County, Washington. I plan programs, do outreach, partner with other community organizations and manage a staff as we provide outstanding library service to our patrons.
The BR influenced me in many ways both professionally and personally. Mr. and Mrs. Donovan (founders of BR) were excellent role models to me. I can still clearly hear their voices during challenging times in my life. Along with the voices of my parents, they still guide me in my decision making. Here are some of the things they taught me that directly influenced my success as an adult and Soldier:
- Be on time. Absolutely no excuse to be late. It is rude and extremely poor manners.
- Do your job well. When you love where you are, you are happy to help out to keep it that way.
- Take responsibility. We were 18 years old and responsible for a cabin of 8-10 young girls: their safety, their security, being good role models to them, teaching them how to care for and ride horses, and helping them to have fun away from home.
- Be a leader. One of the most important things I learned at camp was leadership: How to take charge, make decisions, speak/sing in front of a large group, establish expectations, delegate tasks and manage time. It takes a lot of work and a lot of teamwork to run a camp. Parents entrust their children to our care and we learned to take that role very seriously.
- Community living. This aspect helped me out when joining the military. I was already used to sharing an open living space with a large group of women from camp!
- Respect. Act like a lady always. Mr. D wrote a poem called, “The BR Girl That I Know”. Everything he writes about in that poem is what any parent would want their daughter to be. He set high expectations and we strove to meet those expectations
- “Have fun but be safe”. That means doing a risk analysis of your activity which is a crucial life-lesson.
On a more personal level, Black River has given me life-long, deep, meaningful friendships with many women. I have a few friends from high school, one or two from college, and DOZENS from camp. My BRBFFs (Black River Best Friends Forever) as we call ourselves are a support system different than classmates or family. Mr. D would talk to us often about what he called “The BR Spirit”…. It is hard to explain to someone who has never been to this camp, but it’s a feeling that bonds us all together, over decades and across generations. Those of us who have the BR Spirit have a kinship that makes us all happier, more fulfilled people. The Donovan/Ciferri family recognize how special this is and keep the camp open every other year for Alumni Weekends. Last year there were over 90 women aged 21 through mid-60s who came together for a weekend of sleeping in the bunkhouses, riding horses, singing around the campfire and strengthening our bonds of friendship. I don’t know of any other camp or organization that offers this kind of lasting experience.
Anyone is free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. The BR (and my parents) made me who I am today: a very successful, fulfilled and HAPPY person.