July 31, 2017
Greetings Mountains to Sea families,
First of all we would like to brag about your exceptional kiddos that you sent with us on this adventure. Speaking from our hearts, we cannot express how life-altering this trip has been for us leaders because of the students that we had the opportunity to lead over the past two weeks. The once timid and unsure group that we had in the beginning has bloomed into a family that is inseparable in nature. We have been blessed beyond belief to lead them and learn from them, and we could not be more proud of all of the progress that they have made!
We were able to spend our last day of activities at the white water center in Charlotte, zipping down zip lines and conquering ropes courses towering over rivers below us. It was very encouraging to watch students conquer their fears of heights and begin to trust in the gear that was holding them above the ground. Often times we do not have the opportunity to lead students who are so brave and courageous like this special group. Also, we experienced several of our students use such powerful, encouraging words over the course of this day. It truly propelled our group forwards throughout the day when they would do this, and even us as leaders were encouraged by it. Our time at the white water center came to an end, but that did not mean our group was not in for one more treat to end a spectacular last day. We took showers, loaded up into the van, and made our way to the local Goodwill to have a little fun. Everyone picked out their outfit of choice, ranging from lacrosse players to an incredible Spongebob Squarepants shirt with a cape on the back. After making fools of ourselves, we decided to take it one step further as we entered the local Mexican restaurant in our eclectic apparel. We feasted on countless bowls of chips and salsa along with burritos, tacos, and many other dishes stacked across our table. We made it back to our campsite just in time for Moonup before we went to sleep for the night. Our final Moonup was the most meaningful because of all of the truths that flowed from our tight knit circle. Every one of us said an encouraging few sentences about every, single person in the circle, which lead to tears and more laughs than we have ever heard at a Moonup circle. We finished our day with happy tears in our eyes and sure thoughts about how meaningful this trip has been for our lives.
We cannot thank you enough for giving your kids the opportunity to come on the trip of a lifetime! We also hope that every one of our students will go back home and share their experiences, take-aways, and stories with everyone they encounter. Our small, but mighty Moondance family all experienced what it looks like to truly “live in the moment,” and there are not many more life-lessons that can trump that. Thank you once again for giving us the best summers of our lives.
Will, Emily, and Grace
July 30, 2017
Early Wednesday morning, the MTS crew embarked on a sea kayaking adventure to Capers Island! We met with our kayaking guides, Olivia and Kevin, who introduced us to our double kayaks and showed us how to paddle properly. We teamed up and loaded our gear into the kayaks before we started our paddle out to Capers, traveling through tall grasses and marshes. Everyone worked together and paddled in tandem, which is necessary for a successful kayaking trip. As we approached Capers Island, rain came upon us, and we had to pull our boats over. Our LOD’s, Jay and Maddox, kept everyone in good spirits and demonstrated bravery in the face of the rain. We ended up being on the opposite side of the island when we pulled over and when the storm passed we realized that our boats got stuck on land since the tide had gone out. We were landlocked, but this did not stop us from reaching the other side of the island where the beach was located!
We traversed through the forest and did some bushwhacking to successfully reach the other side of the island and make it to the beach. While we sat on the beach later that day, Zoe said, “I’ll for sure look back on this day in fifty years” with a smile on her face! The special memories we have made together on this trip are undoubtedly lifelong. At the beach, we swam in the ocean and saw tons of dolphins, or “dolfriends,” swimming in the water. Later that evening, Jay and Maddox led Moonup and asked the question, “If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be”? Jay and Maddox elected C.C. and Chris for our next day’s LOD’s! The following morning, we woke up ready to kayak back to Charleston for our town day. We took down our tents and said bittersweet goodbyes to our beach destination campsite. C.C. and Chris motivated the group to paddle back to Charleston with a purpose. Lucy and Zoe were in the lead kayak the whole trip back. Elizabeth and C.C. followed closely behind! Everyone did an amazing job and we back to Charleston with no storms this time. Back in Charleston, we got to explore the historic city and spent time in the markets and on Rainbow Row, which is a street lined with houses in every color of the rainbow. At Moonup that night, C.C. and Chris had the coolest Moonup topic yet. They asked everyone to go around the circle and say something positive about the person to his or her right. It was so encouraging to hear the glowing things everyone said about each other. David and Remy were elected LOD’s for the following day!
Yesterday morning, we woke up ready to take on surfing at Folly Beach! Learning how to surf isn’t an easy task, but your kids were champions and took to the sport extremely well. They concentrated on everything the surf instructors told them and it definitely paid off. We were so proud of everyone for giving the activity 110%. Elizabeth, Myles, Nick and David rode nearly every wave they paddled for- it was amazing to watch. Lucy was always going for waves and did an incredible job riding them in all the way to the beach. Nick proved his creativity by taking an amazing video from his board on our GoPro camera! Remy and Laine got up on so many waves as well! We could have surfed all day! However, we had to make it to our paddle boarding activity! We paddle boarded through the Folly River and had a fabulous time. The waters were calm and the sun was shining! We all paddled together and even had the opportunity to be on the same paddle boards together, which was a blast. For Moonup that night, Remy and David asked the thought provoking question, “What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime”? They chose Jack and Laine to be our LOD’s for the following day, which was today!
This morning we woke up and got ready for our second surfing lesson, which everyone was stoked about. The conditions were rougher than yesterday, which proved to be a great test of our newly acquired skills. Everyone did an amazing job and larger waves did not lead a single person to back down. Surfing was a great close to our time in Charleston and we traveled back to Charlotte after our lesson ended. For Moonup tonight, Jack and Laine asked the question, “What is your most vivid childhood memory”? It is our second to last night together and we are cherishing every moment. Will, Grace, and I are so grateful for our experiences with your children. Each one has contributed something that has made this trip amazing. We are headed to the whitewater center in Charlotte, NC tomorrow and can’t wait! Will be back soon with another update!
Zoe: I’m having such a great time and I love you guys a lot and Thea!
Lucy: Love y’all feeling better having so much fun!!! So sad to leave! Tell Cate I said hi!!
Chris: I can’t wait to see you I love you hope you guys are still doing well 🙂
Remy: Having fun! Be home soon 🙂
Laine: I am so excited to see you guys!
Myles: Having a great time here in Charleston! Can’t wait to see you guys in a couple days! I’ll call you at the airport.
Jay: Can’t wait to see you soon!
Nick: Having lots of fun can’t wait to see you!
David: I’m having lots of fun! Miss everyone!
Maddox: I’m having fun and miss you!
Elizabeth: Miss you all hope camp pickup went well can’t wait to see you soon!
C.C.: Miss you hope Sophie has fun in Peru! I’ll call you when I get to the airport!
Jack: Have afterbite and Zaxby’s at the gate. Love you and no crossfit.
July 25, 2017
The last few days have been nothing short of amazing! Our days have been full of fun activities and lots of laughter. On Saturday, we strapped our Chacos on and headed to the Ocoee River to whitewater raft. We were so lucky to be able to raft not only the middle section of the Ocoee, but also the upper, which contains a section of whitewater where the 1996 Olympic slalom kayaking event was held! For our rafting day, Lucy and Nick were LODs and cheered everyone on through the rapids. Their encouragement demonstrated the strong camaraderie between our group. C.C. and Elizabeth came up with a number system to make paddling in unison easier. We all screamed out the numbers when we needed to paddle all together. Maddox fell out of the raft during the Olympic section! However, she handles adversity extremely well and got back in the boat and was the most enthusiastic student the whole trip! We went over countless class three and four rapids throughout the river and no one wanted the day to end. Later at our campground, we played an epic game of kickball where Remy dominated! For Moonup that evening, the question was, “What is your favorite place in the world?” Nick and Lucy chose Elizabeth and Myles to be Leaders of the Day for our next day, because of their great attitudes and ability to make everyone laugh.
We started off our day “duckying” on the Nantahala strong as a result of Elizabeth and Myles’ fantastic leadership! The sun was shining down our entire time on the Nantahala River, and we went over the rapids with huge smiles on our faces. Each student paddled their own ducky, which is like an inflatable kayak, and we were so impressed with their ability to work independently. We had splash fights from our boats, combat boats, if you will, during flatter portions of the river, and everyone got soaked. At the end of the river, there is a class three rapid called Nantahala Falls. Navigating the falls is no easy task, but everyone did it successfully!
In the afternoon, we did a ropes course at the Nantahala Outdoor Center! David and Jack did the zipline four times! Laine, Chris, and Zoe challenged themselves on the ropes course and went out of their comfort zones. We were so proud of them! Elizabeth and Myles led an awesome Moonup and asked the question, “What is your secret talent?” They chose Jack and Remy as the next day’s LODs because of their great leadership and confidence that day!
We rock climbed in Asheville, NC and had the best time! Everyone climbed like spiders up the climbing walls and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Afterwards, we rewarded everyone with Chick- Fil-A! We have since arrived in Charleston and are eager to begin our sea kayaking tomorrow!!! Will catch up soon!
Zoe: I miss you guys and I love you so much! I am having a great time.
David: I made 35 dollars! Having a blast!
Nick: Love you and miss you guys! Having fun!!
Maddox: Love you and miss you! Having fun!!!
Lucy: Having so much fun love y’all! Really miss my dogs
Laine: I love you and miss you all!
Elizabeth: Love you miss you having a good time! I’d rather fly than drive to Rhode Island! I sat front seat on river rapids!
Remy: Miss you!
C.C.: Miss my sisters and dogs and pets but I am having a lot of fun and I hope my sisters are doing well at JO’S!
Jack: Doing good miss my dog! See you soon! Please have Zaxby’s ready at the house for me.
Myles: I’m having a great time here! I miss you guys a whole lot- can’t wait to see you guys in a week and I’ve been thinking about you guys. P.S. Don’t touch my lacrosse stick.
Jay: Love you and miss you! I’m having fun!
Chris: Hi fam! Miss ya and love you!! Hope you guys are having a good time in Fairfield because I am having a good time on Moondance.
July 21, 2017
The start to our trip has been nothing less than incredible. Airport day started our trip off with a bang – we have an amazingly diverse group of kids from California, Georgia, Arizona, Connecticut, and beyond! We waited at the airport and got to know each other through exciting group games and meaningful conversation. The last members of our family arrived and we were off to our first night’s campsite. The van ride was bustling with enthusiasm and lots of laughter. No one even noticed that their phones weren’t glued to their hands anymore! It’s cool to recognize that we don’t need technology to keep us entertained. In addition to collecting phones, we collected watches and introduced our students to the live in the moment philosophy that is essential on Moondance. It’s impossible to live life to the fullest if you’re not appreciating the present. We arrived to our campsite and showed the kids how to set up their tents! It’s important to learn proper tent care because these tents become your kids’ homes for the next two weeks. We were intensely proud of their ability to soak up all this new information and set up their tents with no problem at all! Afterwards, Will, Grace, and I had the great privilege of introducing our students to the cornerstone of the Moondance experience, Moonup! Moonup is an everyday ritual, rain or shine, where we talk about the day, ask a daily question, and choose LOD’s, which are leaders of the day. Moonup is crucially important to our group dynamic because through Moonup we learn more about one another and have the opportunity to share things in a safe space. For our first Moonup, Will, Grace, and I asked the question, “Why are you here?” We were thrilled to hear the excitement behind the kids’ poignant answers. Will, Grace, and I will do everything in our power to help your kids accomplish their goals! For the following day, we chose David and Zoe as leaders of the day because of their friendliness and ability to bring the group closer on our first day together.
The next morning, Zoe and David woke up the crew by banging ladles on kitchenware and poking people in their tents with spatulas. It was quite effective. Everyone was called to the kitchen by the smell of bacon and eggs and joined together to eat a great breakfast and get ready for backpacking prep! We taught our students about planning and preparation by divvying up food items and group gear to put in their backpacking packs. The kids also packed their own items and learned the importance of layering and keeping their clothes dry in the backcountry. Myles was an enormous help in packing and assisted us greatly by carrying heavier items like peanut butter and cans of chicken! Our backpacking section consisted of three days in the backcountry surviving off of the things on our backs. It is freeing to leave the frontcountry and live in the wilderness! On our first day of backpacking, we hiked out to our beautiful campsite. We set up camp and Maddox suggested that we play a game called Camouflage. It has become a fan favorite among our group members and we had so much fun playing for hours until we had to stop for dinner. Zoe and David led a great Moonup with the question, “What do you want to accomplish over the next two weeks?” Zoe and David then elected Maddox and Chris as LOD’s because of their ability to keep up everyone’s spirits during more difficult portions of our hike. We went to bed ready to wake up and summit Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, the next morning!
Everyone was ready to summit Thursday morning and our leaders of the day, Maddox and Chris, gave everyone the confidence boost needed to make it to the top. On our past two sessions, there has been fog blocking the view from the summit, but this session was incredibly lucky to have crystal clear skies on summit day! There wasn’t a single cloud and the sun was shining down on us the whole way up. We were able to see the most incredible view from the summit overlooking mountains from all angles. It was absolutely breathtaking and we were in awe of the beauty surrounding us. Before hiking back down to our campsite, we enjoyed some hot chocolate at the summit and spent time admiring the view. On the way back to our campsite, C.C. and Chris belted out songs and Nick, Jay, Lucy, and I stumped one another with riddles. When we made it down, Remy initiated a game of capture the flag. It provided hours of fun and Jack made everyone laugh throughout the game. After dinner, the sun began to set and Maddox and Chris began Moonup under a blanket of twinkling stars! They chose a great question, “What is the most defining moment of your life?” Elizabeth had us all in stitches laughing with her hilarious answer. Maddox and Chris elected Jay and Laine as the leaders of the day because of their fantastic attitudes and ability to seize the moment.
Today, Jay and Laine led us with confidence back to our van after we packed up our campsite and said goodbye to our backcountry home. We are on the way to the Ocoee River where we will whitewater raft tomorrow. Our time together just began on Tuesday, but it seems as though we have known each other forever! It is only day four, but the close bond that this group shares is outstanding. The great kindness and humor that we have witnessed within each child has provided an incredible foundation for true friendships to form. Will, Grace, and I are so fortunate to be with your amazing kids! This group is spectacular and we could not be happier with their ability to embrace every aspect of our trip and the Moondance experience as a whole. Thank you for sharing them with us. We will be back in a couple days with another update- stay tuned!! Lots of love from us and the MTS3 group.