I’m not sure why you are reading this. Maybe you are a parent, concerned about your child travelling to camp this summer. Maybe you are a prospective camper, curious about the different activities or sports that the KYW has to offer. Or maybe you are a fellow leader, looking back on my journey through the KYW with fond memories. Regardless of your situation, I would love for you to follow along as I recount my experience with the KYW so far, hopefully lending you some wisdom along the way!
Hi everybody, my name is Eoghan McGee and I am one of the Assistant Senior Leaders of the Knockadoon Youth Week. If you don’t know me by name, I am the guy usually running around camp with the camera, oftentimes wearing a silly hat. Knockadoon has, for all intents and purposes, changed my life. Alexandra Stoddart once said that “When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go”, and I believe this to be true for Knockadoon. Knockadoon is a beautiful place, but what makes it even more beautiful are the people we are lucky enough to share it with. It is the spirit of these people that I carry with me wherever I go, their kindness and compassion shaping me into the person I am today.
The matching Hollister tracksuit. The Bieber-esque side fringe. The year was 2013. As a regular attendee of the Friary Youth Club, Knockadoon was a word that I had often heard but did not understand. Through chatting with friends I deduced that Knockadoon was a summer camp along the coast of Cork, a place where I could spend a week with friends. Once I heard about the discos and “living away from your parents”, I was sold. When the application forms went live, I was first in line! (Literally, in line. There were no online applications back then.)
Funnily enough, I actually travelled to camp for free in 2013. That year, the KYW were running a competition for a free spot on KYW’13. Under their most recent post, we were asked to comment the reason why we deserve to win a free week on camp. The comment with the most likes would win, with bonus points being awarded if we could get our campaign backed by a celebrity. Jade Ellis (Season 9 of the X Factor) really came through for me and, with her help, I travelled down to Knockadoon for free!
I will never forget my shock when I first set eyes on camp. “Where are the bunkhouses?”, I thought. “Are we staying in that rusty caravan?”. My friends reassured me that it was a lot nicer than it looked. This camp was far from the 5-star retreat I had
imagined it to be, though as the days progressed I came to realise that I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Knockadoon 2013 was nothing short of magical. ‘Levels’ by Avicii was the soundtrack to the week. My three best friends and I made memories to last a lifetime, from singing our hearts out at the bonfire to cleaning vomit off our bunkhouse floor (long story). As much as I cringe looking back on my photos, we were just being us. When you are 13, there is a lot of pressure. Pressure to conform, pressure to grow up too quickly, but in those moments, we were our authentic selves. We were kids. We promised to return every summer, but unfortunately, life can get in the way. It was 2015 before I would see Knockadoon again.
I was nervous about returning to Knockadoon in 2015, mostly because I was afraid that I had missed out on so much from 2014. Our close group of 4 had expanded to around 12 and I was worried that the magic would be gone. I could not have been more wrong.
Green facepaint. Green wristbands. Green everything. We were the Roses Boys and we were going to make it clear. St. Rose’s, a bunkhouse on camp, holds a dear place in my heart as it had always been the bunkhouse I stayed in as a camper. From making silly bunkhouse videos to telling ghost stories, those walls have watched me grow into the leader I am today. My friends and I all had the same love for this bunkhouse. It was ours. As we were getting older, we were growing unsure if our friends would be able to return the following year. 2015 was our last year together as a full group and we made sure to appreciate every last second of it. The sense of community, the sense of friendship, and belonging was something I had never experienced before. We eventually won Bunkhouses Wars 2015. I was so proud to be “one of the Roses Boys”.
In 2016 I was set to return to Knockadoon, but this year was different. In January of 2016, I received a phone call from Chris Lawson, asking if I would be interested in becoming a leader at the KYW. I was shocked. Why did they choose me? What had they seen in me that I didn’t see in myself? As a camper, I had always looked up to and admired the leaders. These people, these heroes in red that worked tirelessly to ensure that we had the best week possible. I was excited to be for others what leaders like Niamh Lennon and Hannah O’Hare were for me. When I was 16, this was the one thing I wanted most in the whole world. To have that red jumper. I wanted the opportunity to give back to the place that has done so much for me. Little did I realise that for the next 7 years as a leader, Knockadoon would do so much more for me than I ever could for it.
Since joining the leader group in 2016, I have progressed through a number of different roles in the KYW. In 2016 I joined the media team, working on many of the videos you see on our Youtube page and the KYW social media such as highlight reels, etc. I then worked alongside Neasa Cumiskey as the Assistant Head of Media (affectionately known as ‘The Dream Team’) for two years, before becoming the Head of Media in 2019. Upon completion of my run as head of media, I was lucky enough to be offered the role of Junior Assistant Senior Leader in 2021, before being offered the role of Assistant Senior Leader in 2022.
If you were to tell shy, 16-year-old me that this would be my leader journey, I would not have believed you. The encouragement, love, and support that these leaders have shown me over the years, both as a camper and a leader, is something for which I am eternally grateful. Even now at 23, those 4 weeks in summer are when I feel my happiest. When I am authentically myself. I could be perched on the pier drinking a cup of coffee, watching the sunset behind Goat Island. I could even be dressed as Mr. Burns, making a mockery of myself in front of all my friends. Though the Knockadoon experience is different every single time, one thing never changes. That glow. That warmth. That familiar light I recognise in every camper, every leader, and even in the mirror.
Parents, your kids are in the most capable hands. Prospective campers, this camp will be the talking point of your entire year. And fellow leaders, I count my blessings every day that I carry a piece of you wherever I go.
All my love, Eoghan <3