We had the immense pleasure of interviewing Katie Moore this summer. Katie is a senior at Penn State, majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. Camp Forget-Me-Not/Camp Erin DC 2019 was Katie’s first time volunteering for the Wendt Center and we were honored to have her.
How did you get involved with the Wendt Center?
I am a student at Penn State and I was trying to figure out what to do with my summer, to incorporate something meaningful into it because I’m studying Human Development. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and Camp Forget-Me-Not popped up as an option. So I looked into it. It was actually my career adviser on campus. I was super excited and I came home and talked about this experience like, “this is going to be really great. It’s in the area. It’s perfect.” And then I realized it was connected to the Wendt Center which is so funny because my family has been connected to the Wendt Center for awhile. So that’s how I found out about it.
What is Human Development?
The whole title is “Human Development and Family Studies.” It’s this broad major for my undergrad that can hopefully lead to the social work track or nursing or law school. If you want a job that’s out there helping people, this is a cool thing that my school offers.
Where do you want to take it?
I’m hoping to look at social work as my next path. I think a Masters in social work would be awesome. I’ve actually changed my major a bunch of times. So I’m still figuring out exactly what the future’s going to look like and this is a nice way to not know for sure yet, but this is the world that I want to be a part of.
What kind of volunteering have you done for the Wendt Center so far?
This is my first time doing anything for the Wendt Center. So I was just a volunteer for Camp this year, for the summer.
How was it?
Oh, it was amazing! It was amazing. I was super nervous. I feel like sometimes I don’t feel like an adult yet, you know?
I do know.
Right? [Laughs.] Not the kid at summer camp. The adult at summer camp. So, I was getting ready to go and not sure what it was going to be like and just not knowing what to expect at all. Was the grief part going to be too intense or too hard? And, I don’t know, I just left [after the closing ceremony] and it was like…I actually saw a couple of us volunteers, as soon as they got into our car, just started crying. [Laughs.] Just how intense the weekend was. But it was not [intense] in a bad way at all. The whole weekend was just beautiful.
What surprised you about Camp?
I ended up in a group of seven and eight-year-olds. And I wasn’t sure what to expect from them. So, the two hours or whatever…it felt like forever…waiting for them to show up on the bus, I just wasn’t sure what to expect from seven and eight-year-olds, grieving, at summer camp, away from home. Just the whole thing. So, I think, my biggest surprise of Camp was talking to these little people and hearing their stories and hearing how they can tell their stories. And they were all just so brave. We adults, we all obviously had our own stories to show up there with and I felt like they were just able to tell their stories the way we were but almost better. I was just so impressed by that.
Would you volunteer at Camp again?
Oh yeah! I’m already recruiting. [Laughs.] Trying to get my siblings. My brother’s not 21 yet, but I’ve been telling everybody who will listen about Camp. Yeah, I’ll definitely be there next year.
So, what motivated you to get into Human Development? And work with people who need your help?
Like I said, I’ve really bounced around with my career path. In high school, I volunteered with my fire department. I was an EMT and a firefighter there. Truthfully, I did that not to be at home. There’s the serving the community part, of course, but it wasn’t that I knew I wanted to be a firefighter or I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I just did it for fun. And I totally fell in love with my role there and the responsibility that place held and stuff. So that’s how I got started helping people. And then I went to different schools. Like I went to American University first and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was there for a semester. I ended up actually leaving because I really did not know what I wanted to do. So I was living at my fire department full time and just doing it all the time.
Yeah. It was awesome. And then I ended up going back to school, trying to figure out what I was going to do. And then my mom died while I was in school. She died suddenly. It was unexpected. So I ended up taking another semester off. In that time I was trying to figure out the whole thing, like what does it all mean? What do I really want to do? You know, how can I make this experience that is such a big part of me mean something? Then I ended up looking more into social work, which I kind of always talked about but never went for. Then [Human Development] appeared as an option. I was already at Penn State. It was a winding road to get there, but that’s how I ended up there.
What year are you?
This is my senior year. So, now I’m committed finally. [Laughs.]
In addition to your passion for human service, what do you do for fun?
Gosh. I just got back from living at the beach this summer so that was pretty fun. You know, I like to read and hike and stuff like that. I’ve just taken up cross-stitching. I’m not good at it yet, but I like to keep my hands busy.
I’m curious, what hurdles did you experience at Camp this summer?
I wasn’t sure with talking to my buddy, what the grief talk was going to be like. I was definitely a little anxious about that before Camp started. Once I actually got there, the grief groups let the kids express their grief in that isolated moment. I don’t know how it was for the other groups, but ours was very art oriented. So they were doing something that expressed their person or their feelings and then talked about it with a physical object. That was pretty cool. They told us [at the volunteer training] there wasn’t going to be a lot of pressure on the volunteers, you know, we’re not professionals. But you’re still alone with this little person. You don’t know what they’re going to talk about or not talk about. But it ended up not being like that at all.
What was it like spending time with your buddy?
My buddy was a very strong little person. She wanted me to be her friend and her equal. She didn’t need anyone to carry her bag for her or her water bottle. She’s just like this tough person. I really admired that. I thought that was so awesome. It was kind of like I was there with my little friend. You know? [Laughs.] It was funny. But all the girls were so different. It was three girls and three boys in our group. It was so interesting to see how the three of them, as different as they were, really had each other’s backs the entire weekend. I had family members when our mom died who did not have friends that understood what was going on in their life at all with that kind of experience. So, I think all these kids having that mutual understanding — all of them had mom, or dad, or mom and dad, or dad and uncle — there was just this mutual understanding by every kid that was there and I thought that was just so awesome. That was really cool to see.
You said you were trying to recruit the people in your life to come volunteer at Camp. What do you tell people when they ask why they should?
I’ve been telling everyone that the weekend was so powerful for me. And fun. You know, saying that you’re going to grief camp for your summer camp is kind of heavy and it sounds hard. I was surprised how fun Camp really was. And how much of my own journey I was able to work through there too. So I definitely talked about that with my little brother especially because we had the same experience of losing our mom. I definitely pushed that it was so fun. Stuff like this you sometimes worry it’s going to be too heavy or hard or intense. I didn’t have that experience with it at all. You could see the intention behind everything that we did all weekend. And so much of it embraced that this is hard and weird. You know, like the very first activity we did with the kids was shake up soda cans and spray each other with them. Everyone was a little tense and then that activity set the tone for the rest of the weekend. It was this relaxed, we can do this, we’re in it together thing. I’m just trying to say that it really was incredibly meaningful. That’s how I’m recruiting.
Anything else you’d like to add?
So, of course, feeling very positive. [Laughs.] I guess the other thing I was thinking about when thinking about my Camp experience was how important mealtime was, which I wasn’t expecting. And for our age group, especially, the responsibility of being a hopper was so serious. [Laughs.] They were like well this is my day and my time and they all knew. You know there was so much pride being the one to get to do that. I thought that was really cool. And the family-style dining was really important and I thought that really added to the weekend too. I don’t think I would have really grasped how important it was before seeing it first hand.
I was also thinking, for the hurdle question, there was one girl in our group — I think her mom had sent her — and her mom had not prepared her with the stuff to be able to be at Camp. And that was something that I was so touched by. As a volunteer, as someone who had raised the money for Camp, you could see exactly where that money was going to — that she could show up to Camp and not feel any different than the other kids. And have her stuff, and have a blanket, and have a sheet, and have a pillow. That was awesome. Because that made a completely different experience for her. That was a hurdle I wasn’t expecting before getting there. And then it was like, oh my gosh, problem, and then we all were like oh, there are like 50,000 resources here to fix this. And it was so seamless. So that was really cool. That was awesome!
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Katie!