Trip Finder

Creating Moondance Magic: A Look Ahead to Staff Training 2023! By Veteran Leader, James Kelley

May 2, 2023

I have never been so grateful for a sinus infection in my life – that was the reason I went to a physician in Dadeville, Alabama who introduced me to Moondance. She spoke with conviction about how it was a transformative experience for her daughter, I knew I had to investigate.


I am entering my seventh summer as a Moondance leader, and I have not lost any excitement or fervidness for the summer. I am giddy thinking about Staff Training and meeting all the new leaders who are about to experience the best summer of their lives to date.


2016 was my first summer as a leader and I still remember the blend of anticipation and excitement upon arriving at Staff Training, and my stomach doing somersaults. That feeling has not changed. I love it more and more with every new summer.


Staff Training is one of the highlights of my year, the culmination of months of hard work from the office staff, the stories, and anecdotes from returning staff, and the fresh eyes and energy from the new leaders. The atmosphere is electric every single day. Strangers become best friends in less than a week, this is where Moondance magic is generated and then every leader goes off on their respective trips giving the kids on their trip that same magic.


It is a challenge to encapsulate all the words that describe a Moondance summer. Starting off in Flat Rock, NC. Meeting your co-leader, reading, and learning about your kids, learning the ins and outs about your trip. Understanding why we do what we do, learning more about yourself. You go to bed every night – exhausted, but you wake up with a sense of purpose and renewed energy every day because you are surrounded by people who only want to make you better and people who love you for who you are. Not ever have I been a part of an organization like this one.


What makes Moondance the incredible thing that it is are the people, the people are why leading stays exciting. The kids are kind, funny, adventurous, and looking to grow. The other leaders are motivating, captivating, and want to be your friends. Everyone in Moondance craves and seeks out genuine connection – this is what makes it so unique.


I do not ever expect to lose the magical feeling for Moondance. No matter how many summers go by – when Memorial Day comes around, I’ll hear cicadas and my friends singing at Moon-up, I’ll smell Pine, I’ll yearn for time outside, for people who are passionate about living life, for people who want to squeeze the juice. My heart and mind will be with Moondance.


–James Kelley, 7x Moondance Leader, 2016-2023