For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Megan Crilly. My closest friends would describe me as the most emotional person that they have ever met. Believe me when I say, it’s about to get v emotional up in here so look away now if high intensity emotion isn’t your thing..
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of living with and loving people in another place.”
For the past seven years, I have been attending Knockadoon Youth Week. It is safe to say that those seven years, as part of the KYW, have played a very crucial role in my journey to becoming the “adult” that I am now (or that I’m supposed to be). In the beginning, I would never have expected to gain such valuable insights, skills, and life-long friendships from what many folks would call “just a summer camp”.
The moment I was introduced to Knockadoon Youth Week in 2010, I was immediately sold. When I heard the words “holiday”, “disco”, and “no parents”, I was already there. This was the year in which the camp had closed down temporarily.. and there was a brief worry that it may never open again. However, thanks to a dedicated leader group the camp was re-opened in 2011: my very first year as a camper.
I had packed my bags to the best of my ability, having limited knowledge of what exactly I would need (I had heard Pot Noodles were essential). I was apprehensive yet overwhelmingly excited. Before I even set foot in the place, I knew it was special because of the reactions that the leaders and past campers had when word came out that camp was closed the previous year.
As we swung around the bendy roads and approached camp, the countdown from ten began. When we finally reached 0, everybody cheered and I laid eyes on camp for the very first time. I was in shock.
“Why the hell is everybody cheering for this dump?” I thought, but I told myself not to judge a book by its cover and give it a chance.. and I’m glad that I did!
Up until that first week of camp, I had never experienced such equality and inclusion between people my age. I had never felt such a strong sense of belonging and self worth. I had never admired a group of people as much as I had admired the leaders in red jumpers. Looking back now; the games, the discos, the competitions, the crab fishing, and canoeing all seem so trivial. When I look back to my first year on camp, I remember the songs, the personal jokes, the indescribable feelings and, above all, the people. I honestly don’t think I’ve gone a day, since I’ve come home from Knockadoon in 2011, that I haven’t spoken about the place.
I spent another 2 years as a camper in 2012 and 2013, where I got the privilege of staying on camp for two weeks both years.
During those weeks I bonded with my life-long friends, discovered who I was and who I wanted to be, remained champion of Just Dance, was inspired by others, and had found my safe place, my anchor to reality.
When I was 16, all I wanted more than anything in the whole world was to be a leader. Every camper looks up to the leaders of the KYW. Not me, no. I idolized each leader for all they did for me when I was a camper. I wanted to be a leader so one day I could give back and be the type of leader that I once idolized.
I often use the word “hero” to describe an ideal leader. A hero, to me, is someone who gives their life to something bigger than themselves, an ordinary person who makes themselves extraordinary for the benefit of others, and someone who helps you bring out the best possible version of yourself. This attitude did not change when I was handed a red hoodie. In fact, as the months went on it became more evident to me that my own personal heroes and inspirations worked alongside me as a leaders of the KYW (how lucky am I?).
I once heard a quote, used by another leader, that perfectly sums up how important our roles as leaders are:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I myself will never stop being grateful for the leaders and all they did for me as a camper and as a leader of the KYW. Being a leader is something that you make a part of yourself and when the virtue of leadership becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again.
The experience both as a camper of three years and a leader of four years is indescribable. What I can say about Knockadoon is that you leave each year feeling more confident and self assured than before. It is a place that helps you grow and develop. You leave with a broader outlook on life and a greater appreciation for what and who you have around you. Be it as a leader or camper, the place changes you. I can only wish for a world where every person gets an opportunity to go to this camp.
I cry every single time I leave Knockadoon, which isn’t shocking to most, as I cry at pretty much everything. But as I leave each year, I know that nothing will be the same as it is at that very moment. Who is to know what will happen one year from then, who we will gain or who we will lose in our KYW family. But I don’t cry because it’s a sad thing, I cry because it’s a very beautiful thing.
“You never really leave a place you love, you take part of it with you and leave part of you behind”
And when the day comes that I finally hang up my red jumper for the last time, I know there will always be an empty place in my heart and soul that can only be filled with the happy memories of the place and people that I loved.
That’s it from me, friends.
Love and hugs,