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California 1 A • June 7-June 20, 2022

With Love From Cali!

June 21, 2022

Hi everyone!

We are so sad to be touching base with y’all for the last time since that means we had to return your kiddos back to you. They are all safely in the air on their way home, hoping for flight attendants that’ll give them maximum unaccompanied minor snack access. The final few days of the trip flew by, but we made the most of every moment! Saturday night was definitely one of our favorite nights yet. We split the group into two teams for Iron Chef and charged them with creating a three-course menu for everyone to enjoy, and for us to judge! Piper and Griffin were elected by their teammates to run into the grocery store to gather everything they needed for their menu. One team’s menu included Caprese salad (perfected by Vivian), followed by spaghetti, which was carefully crafted by Ari and Griffin, and, for dessert, madeleines dipped in melted chocolate and Fruity Pebbles. Madeleine was the mastermind behind the madeleines (of course), and it was 100% Grace’s favorite dish of the night. Claire was the glue that held this team together with her positivity and giggles. The other team went a different direction with a starter of sausage queso dip and Lina-made chips! It was so good that Henry ate about half of the dip. Ellen and Tillman tag-teamed some incredible loaded nachos. This team’s dessert was a colorful candy-cuterie board! The food was great, but this night was one of the most memorable for us because it was marked by so many laughs, smiles, and moments of noticing just how close this group has grown. After dinner, we wrapped up the night with yet another sweet Moonup under some of the brightest stars we’d seen yet.

We started off Sunday morning with pancakes (Tillman’s favorite) and the kids writing letters to their future selves. After packing up camp, we made our way to a nice park, where we played some games and enjoyed sandwiches from a local market. We then headed to the absolutely stunning Point Reyes National Seashore, where we took lots of pictures and ventured to an iconic California lighthouse. From the seashore, we drove south and across the Golden Gate Bridge, with the Full House theme song playing in the background! We stopped at a viewpoint for some group photos, and Graham and James of course kept us all laughing with their poses and commentary. Our last full day together just kept getting better, because we went on our highly anticipated…THRIFT STORE VISIT! From yellow platform crocs and Paw Patrol coats to tutus and suit jackets, our group was dressed to the nines post-Goodwill. They got the best opportunity to rock their outfits at our delicious banquet dinner at a Mexican restaurant near our campsite. Overall, we had such a happy afternoon that wrapped up our trip in such a perfect way!

The night ended with a final Moonup, during which we discussed how thankful we are for the past two weeks together. We recounted funny moments and memorable views and noted the difference we saw in the group from day one compared to day thirteen. Your kiddos are leaving California with increased confidence, wider smiles, 13 new friends, a million stories, and hopefully a slight decline in cell phone usage 🙂 Thanks to all of you for taking a chance on Moondance and on us; we are so lucky to be a part of this community and are so happy that your kids are a part of it now, too. Don’t be surprised if they catch the bug!


Henry, Mary Gray, and Grace

2022 California 1A

Lake Tahoe Adventures

June 18, 2022

Hi everyone, it’s us again! We had the best two days kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Tahoe! It was a lot of the kids’ favorite activity yet. To start the day on Tuesday, we surprised the kids with chocolate chip pancakes. Tillman ate approximately 100 of them. Kayaking was a blast, and we were lucky to have two awesome guides who told us fun facts about the lake. Those fun facts continued to be told hours later, especially by Griffin, our resident historian. Speaking of Griffin, him and Graham won the ultimate kayak race on Lake Tahoe and proved themselves as the champions.

During our beautiful day of kayaking, we found ourselves eating lunch on Waterman’s Landing, which was a stone skipping heaven. James took the cake for the most stones skipped, while Piper led the charge for a nice lunch time polar plunge.  Claire and Madeleine really enjoyed laying on the stones and getting some sun, and Madeleine even said “this has been the best day on the trip so far!” After kayaking, we decided to surprise the kids with ice cream (ask Ellen how passionate she was about the birthday cake flavor). Then, we went back to our campsite for some much-needed Eno time as the kids had built the coolest Eno village we’ve ever laid eyes on. We cooked up a Moondance speciality for dinner: Southwest Mac and Cheese! Ari couldn’t have perfected more on cook crew. In fact, she did so well that we had our first night with no leftovers!

The next day consisted of paddle boarding at the same location as the day before. The sun was shining on all of us, and even made the cold water of Lake Tahoe enjoyable to jump into. Everyone took turns knocking each other off the paddle boards, except for Lina who stood her ground, showed her prowess, and never fell off her board. We ended the day by enjoying pizza on a beautiful beach with a sunset view. Everyone loved it, but especially Vivian, whose laugh could probably be heard miles away.  The laughs and jokes that the kids share with one another make us so happy to see and hear, and we cannot wait to see what the remainder of the trip holds for these special 11 children. All of us wanted to thank y’all for sharing your wonderful kids with us. The trip wouldn’t be the same without each of them. They make up such a fun group with a truly special dynamic, and we could not be more thankful for the time we get to spend with them!


Thank you so much for sending me on moondance!! It has been so fun!! Love y’all! -claire


Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! I have had a amazing time! -lina


Thank y’all so much for sending me on moondance! I have had so much fun! Love y’all ! -Madeleine


Thank y’all for sending me to moondance it’s been really fun.  Love y’all -Graham


I’ve had such a fun time on Moondance. I’ve made so many new friends. Love y’all. -Griffin


Thank you so much Mom and Dad, I’ve had a great time and I can’t wait to see y’all. I’ve made so many new friends and seen so much cool things. Love y’all.-James


Thank you for sending me on this trip we’ve had a great time and I’ve made some good friends can’t wait to see you and see the new house- Tillman


Thank you so much mom and dad for letting me come here. I know I was a little stubborn at first but I am glad you pushed me out of my comfort zone. Love y’all!!! – Ellen


Thank you for sending me on this trip and giving me this amazing opportunity. I have been having so much fun and can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. Love you! -Ari


Hey!! Thank you so much for letting me go on this trip I am soo grateful for it. I have made so many amazing and priceless memories that I couldn’t have made without y’all. Thank you so so much again and I can’t wait to tell y’all all the funny stories I have! Love and miss y’all!! -Piper


Thank you so much for sending me!! I am having so much I love you guys and can’t wait to see you!! -Vivian

Hello from Lake Tahoe!

June 14, 2022

Greetings from Lake Tahoe!!! We had a great past couple of days enjoying the Yosemite area, and are now super excited to be in a new part of CA. We spent the past two days learning to rock climb, and practiced belaying one another and rappelling down a wall. We had some awesome rock climbing guides to thank for a pretty perfect experience in one of the best climbing settings in the world. The kids had a really good experience throughout our time with them! Griffin went above and beyond what was expected of him by belaying his friends (and leaders) over TWENTY times over the two days!! We are convinced that’s got to be some sort of record. Tillman absolutely crushed it on both the climbing and belaying and gets a special shout-out for belaying leader Henry. We were SO proud of Lina for stepping out of her comfort zone by trying out rock climbing despite being nervous. After climbing on Saturday, lots of the kids went down to the nearby lake beach with Henry and Grace. Piper brought the energy and excitement for some beach spike ball, while Ari, Madeleine, and Claire had the best time relaxing and chatting on the beach. The views of the alpine lake were unreal! Our experience after climbing on Sunday looked a little different, as the Yosemite area was experiencing some super high winds and gusts! After some trials of keeping our tents up, we decided to make the best of the situation by sleeping under the stars. Some of the kids said it was their best night’s sleep yet! The next morning consisted of surprise donuts and some fresh berries from our picnic (chicken fingers and Chick-fil-A sauce!!) the night before. Everyone loved it and it gave us the energy we needed for a car ride full of music and singing (shoutout James for making sure we always listen to Swag Surfin). Once arriving at Lake Tahoe, Ari was quick to pick up our newest purchase, a volleyball, and impressed us all!! While some of us played spike ball, volleyball, or football, the cook crew “cheffed us up” the best chicken and cheese quesadillas we have ever had. Graham, Claire, and Madeleine are definitely in the running for the most talented cook crew Moondance has ever seen. It made us smile as they perfected the dilla-flip while laughing together! Henry took one bite of a quesadilla and asked Claire “Did you cast a spell on this?!”  After a nice afternoon meal, rest, and play, we took a hike to Rubicon Point in our last couple hours of sunlight. The view from the Point was the highlight of many of our days!

We feel really lucky to get to hang out with this awesome group of kids. We appreciate how Graham keeps the group in good spirits with his relaxed demeanor and constant jokes. Piper’s energy is contagious, and we are thankful for her laughs and giggles (even though they are still a little hoarse from losing her voice on day two!) We think Ellen is a star and we are proud of her for adjusting to the Moondance life more and more every day. Vivian is the best encourager we know, and we appreciate her constant positivity and lightheartedness. Our group would not be the same without each of these 11 incredible kiddos! Thanks for sharing them with us 🙂

Until next time,

Mary Gray, Grace and Henry

Now…they have some shoutouts for y’all!

Ari: “Good luck to Web in lacrosse!”

Madeleine: “I’m having the best time! Love y’all!”

Lina: “I’m having a great time! Love y’all! Yeah, yeah, yeah!”

James: “I’m having so much fun. I miss y’all and can’t wait to see y’all. Happy birthday to Clara”

Ellen: “I’m having the best time! Thank you for letting me come. Love y’all!”

Piper “Hi! Miss and love you all so much! Hope you are having fun at the new house! Say hi to Bram for me! Thank you so much for this!”

Vivian “I love and miss you all! I’m having so much fun! I hope you had fun in Rhode Island!”

Graham “Hey mom, I ate avocados. I’m chillin.”

Griffin “Sup! How are you doing?”

Claire “hey y’all! I’m having so much fun! I miss you! Say hi to Charlie Brown for me!

Tillman “Hi mom and dad tell Granny and Old Dad hi! Thanks for working so hard on the house.”

Surfs Up Cali!

June 11, 2022

Hello everyone!! We are off to a fantastic start here on our California 1A trip. To start off, every student (and every student-sized duffel bag) successfully landed in San Francisco on Tuesday. Griffin and Piper really set the stage for the rest of the trip as they were the first ones to land and still haven’t stopped laughing or cracking jokes.

After getting to know one another in the fabulous SFO baggage claim, we headed to our first campsite. During the drive, someone pointed out some mountains in the distance that the group was in awe of. Tillman excitedly said, “I don’t get to see mountains that much. They’re so pretty!” Since then, he is always first to celebrate the beautiful views we pass on each drive. Tuesday night was marked by laughing, bonding, and enjoying a stunning Pacific Ocean sunset during our first Moonup of the summer! Moonup is a special tradition for us here at Moondance where we discuss the day we had, get to know each other better, and look forward to the day ahead. Despite being tired from a long day of travel, it quickly became clear that this group was going to get along great and laugh a lot along the way. On Wednesday and Thursday, we visited Pacifica State Beach. We were lucky to have some awesome surfing instructors that gave us first-timers the basics, and the pro surfers (shoutout to Piper and Graham) lots of encouragement. We were so proud of everyone for getting out of their comfort zone to try surfing, and especially of Ari for shredding waves even after everyone else went back to the shore on Thursday! Graham showed us all how to skimboard like he does in Florida, while the others cheered him on!  Other highlights of our time by the coast included our incredible cook crew, Ari, Ellen, and James. James kept us smiling with mentions of his Italian grandmother as he helped cook up some delicious chicken Alfredo! On Thursday afternoon, we got on the road to Yosemite! Despite it being a long time on the road, Lina, Ellen, and Vivian shared so much positivity with stories, riddles (some VERY mind-boggling), and jokes. They were sure to keep our minds active throughout the journey! To make the long drive a little more exciting, we made a surprise stop at In-N-Out for dinner! Graham and Griffin began the conversation that started a fun debate, In-N-Out or Five Guys? We had some very strong opinions and persuasive arguments from the group. After dinner, we finished up the drive, set up our campsite at Oh Ridge, and rested up for our hike in Yosemite. During the hike, Claire had such a positive attitude and helped keep the group morale up as we scrambled through boulders, caves, and rocks. We saw Half Dome and other mountains in Yosemite Valley – overall unreal views for our first day of hiking. Overall, we have been impressed by how helpful everyone is, especially Madeleine who is consistently the first to lend a hand and spread positivity by simply being herself. Every person in the group creates such a fun and interesting dynamic—the group would not be the same without the spunky personalities of each person. We are so excited to see what the remainder of the trip consists of as we venture throughout California!

Talk to you soon! Love these kiddos already!

Mary Gray, Grace and Henry

Safely in San Francisco!

June 7, 2022

Hello California Families!

The whole group arrived safely in San Francisco today and they are on their way to their first campsite. We have heard from our leaders this evening that the trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.

Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!

– Moondance HQ


  • Claire
  • Tillman
  • Lina
  • James
  • Griffin
  • Graham
  • Arianna
  • Vivian
  • Piper
  • Madeleine
  • Ellen