On a rainy day last spring, I stood outside the admissions office at Guilford College, waiting to do an interview that would change my life. It was for the Bonner Scholar program. If accepted into the program, I would get a full ride to college. If rejected, that was it for my dream of attending a four-year school. I was shaking. I knew that if I entered my interview without confidence, I was going to do an awful job.
Then I thought about Clapping Hands Farm Camp. I pictured myself sitting in our stone circle where we all come together at the start and end of each camp day; I could feel the peace. I could hear kids laughing, playing games, bare feet, in the field. I could see amazing hugs happening as campers were getting picked up at the driveway, along with a ukulele serenade. I could feel the breeze on our hot summer days. I could see and feel joy spreading as we covered ourselves in glitter and paint. I pictured myself walking through the Fairy Forest, stopping to listen to the drumming. I could feel Camp Magic; it was so powerful and so real that my whole mindset began to shift.
I began attending this camp when I was six. Eventually, I became a counselor and administrative intern for CHF. Over the course of these years, my home life was very turbulent. My family endured extreme poverty, homelessness, and multiple moves between North Carolina and Mexico. In the midst of all this, Clapping Hands Farm was one of the few consistent parts of my life. I learned valuable life lessons there that I would have never learned at home. As a camper at Arts Focus Camp, I had the opportunity to spend a whole week learning about intuition and trusting my gut. The many unexpected events in my life had resulted in very little time and head space to actually think about myself and the ways that the world had shaped me, making this kind of lesson incredibly important for my growth. Later, as a counselor, I listened when Louise encouraged all staff members to honor our limits and take care of ourselves and others. I was raised to think that self-care was selfish. It has always been difficult to say no to things. I tend to overwhelm myself with commitments and responsibilities. At CHF, I learned to take care of myself in every way—emotionally as well as physically. I was given the space to explore my limits, to honor them, and then to teach other counselors and campers to do the same.
Over the years, Clapping Hands Farm has had such an impact on me that it has become not just a physical space but also a psychological one. When I am feeling anxious, I find myself thinking about the feelings I experience at CHF—safety, support, and love. I carry this place with me in my head all the time.
Standing outside the admissions office waiting for my Bonner Scholar interview, I began to think about Clapping Hands Farm and all the beautiful memories I have there. I remembered conversations I had with camp directors and artists and parents over the last year while I was applying to college; people who had known me since I was small and knew my story and TOTALLY believed in me now. I immediately began to feel so much more comfortable and relaxed. Walking into the interview, I confidently shook the hands of everyone in the room. By the end of our conversation, we were exchanging hugs and laughter. I felt like I had taken the magic of Clapping Hands Farm and spread it to a space where I had previously only felt scared and uncomfortable.
On May 2, 2019, I got a call from the admissions department at Guilford College, offering me a full ride and acceptance into the Bonner Scholar program. I’m now a college freshman majoring in Peace and Conflict studies—a decision I made while reading the course descriptions and thinking, This just screams Clapping Hands Farm! I cannot overstate the influence that camp has had on my emotional well-being, my academic success, and my dreams for the future. Clapping Hands is a tiny, perfect world with a culture and magic that I hope to carry with me everywhere I go.
But CHF’s enormous impact would not be possible without its scholarship program. Clapping Hands believes that in order for camp to be camp, it must include every child who wants to be there, regardless of their ability to pay or how much money CHF has in the bank. No child is turned away from camp; this is the only reason I was able to attend. And so when I ask for your support today, it’s not in order to give one particular child a chance to go to camp. It’s to allow camp, in all its sparkling, irreplaceable magic, to continue into the future.
With gratitude for Louise and the Clapping Hands Farm family, and for you,
Lenore Ramos Juarez