June 20, 2023
Family and Friends,
Wow. What an unforgettable past two weeks it’s been with the most incredible group of individuals. Belize and Costa Rica were a dream, but it’s always the people that make the place. The students were what made this trip so special. They made more of an impact on us than they’ll ever know. As us leaders reflect on our special time with each student during the trip, we can’t thank y’all enough for sharing your kids with us. We all feel so lucky to know and love them!
We enjoyed a final banquet dinner at the Adventure Inn in San Jose where we ate some delicious food, laughed a lot, and added some final photos to the cameras. People who were strangers just two weeks ago have now become best friends and it has been so surreal to experience it!
Our final Moonup was nothing short of special. With Prescott and Eleanor as our LOD’s, they posed the question: How has this trip with Moondance helped you with an obstacle you’ve been facing back at home in the real world? Listening to each student’s answers, the leaders were blown away by how much the students have grown in their vulnerability with the group and comfortability in talking about their emotions. Students poured their hearts out and shed a few tears before concluding our final Moonup with one last group hug.
Dunning and Prescott fostered a lifelong friendship and learned to never judge a book by its cover. Peyton learned that you never truly know what people are going through, so go out of your way to treat everyone with kindness. Sage learned the importance of being yourself and surrounding yourself with people who love and accept you no matter what. Abbey said that this trip made her laugh harder than ever before and to not take life so seriously. Georgia reiterated how special it is to take a break from everyday life and build connections with people through your kindness and actions. This trip showed Collin the importance of having fun with new people. Charlie learned to not stress about the little things, but rather focus on what is happening right now. Ann Reid saw how cool it is that she can thrive in an environment where everyone is different, but all work together as a family. Eleanor found that people aren’t always what they seem at first and that such different people can become so close in such a short amount of time. Holt learned that living in the moment and being yourself is the best way to make new friends.
To the parents, thank you again for sharing your wonderful children with us for the past two weeks! We cannot wait for them to share all their stories and laughs with you! Belize and Costa Rica forever!!!!!
Spencer, Caroline, and William
June 20, 2023
Our final days in Costa Rica were better than we ever could have imagined! After having a great night’s sleep digesting some savory Chinese food, the group hopped back onto the bus for one last activity. With the ‘Graylist’ bumping, we made our way to the Pacuare River where we would raft about 20 miles in total. At the start location, we got off to an interesting start. Dunning was quite excited about the whole experience, and the group divided into three different teams to get ready for rafting.
Abbey, Prescott, Dunning, Ann Reid, and Spencer’s raft, the ‘Sailing Spencer’s,’ only had a few casualties. Prescott was the first one overboard, getting sucked into the water instantly during one rapid. Dunning, on the other hand, decided he kind of just wanted to jump out. His eagerness to get thrown out resulted in him getting sucked under the water for a few seconds during one rapid but came up to the surface laughing! Abbey also got flown from the raft, while Spencer and Ann Reid remained aboard the whole day. All team members contributed greatly with positive attitudes and constant jokes that made the day perfect.
Eleanor, Sage, Charlie, and Caroline were all a part of “The Ohioan Ops” team, poking fun of Eleanor and Caroline who are both from Cincinnati, Ohio. Sage was a star paddler and only left the raft to do some cool tricks into the water. Charlie was reactive to every little wave we hit with a scream that had the entire group giggling. Eleanor almost peed herself from laughing so hard when our guide, Esteban, had us surf a wave in our raft.
Holt, Collin, Peyton, Georgia, and William were in the best boat AKA William’s Brothers. With Holt and Georgia manning the bow, we went forth into the treacherous waters ahead. Collin was a natural by showing off his paddling skills and swimming abilities. Peyton on the other hand was a little less inclined to keep her paddle in the water but kept the boat smiling. Georgia, by far, was the MVP of the boat with her prior experience really shining through. Holt got soaked the most and Esteban laughed every time, making it that much funnier to watch.
We stopped at our hotel for the night, which was a jungle river resort that looked like it was plucked out of an HGTV show. The hotel was only accessible from the river and had food that Prescott and Sage deemed “the best food yet.” Instead of doing Moonup in a room, the group decided to spice things up and do our second to last Moonup outside in the pouring rain while listening to the river rush below us. The group has become incredibly close over these past two weeks, however, this rainy and chilly Moonup truly brought us closer than we had ever been before, emotionally and physically. We laughed about our favorite memories from the trip and shared what we will all take with us from our once-in-a-lifetime experience together.
We woke up and continued rafting the next day, each of us ready to conquer the 14 miles of paddling ahead of us. We switched up the teams for our last day so that students could get some last few memories with each other. Georgia remained the MVP, Sage did some more tricks, and Charlie screamed just as loud. However, day two brought many more falls off the raft and into the water. Eleanor fell in twice, with Spencer ‘rescuing’ her both times! As we approached the end of the 14 miles, we entered a long canyon with the Costa Rican jungle surrounding us. Out of nowhere, it began to torrential pour and students immediately embraced the weather. Prescott was at the front of the raft leading his team with a smile and encouraging words. It was truly incredible to see each student’s perspective and attitude only improve when the rain became an obstacle.
Thank you all for sharing your kids with us, it’s been a magical trip!
– William, Spencer, and Caroline
June 20, 2023
Hi friends and family! With all our wonderful Belizean memories still twinkling in our heads, we made it to Costa Rica after a long travel day. The burden of travel day was lifted with card games and silly plane ride conversations. It was difficult to keep the kids quiet on the plane when they were making us laugh harder than they were. Holt (aka Baby Holti) at one point had a few water bottles stacked on top of his head after being one of the first kids asleep on the plane. Dunning, who has completely come out of his shell, was quick to order yet another Coke on the plane. After landing in San Jose around 11 pm, we told the students we had a three-hour drive and to prepare for a rough night’s sleep on a basketball court in Costa Rica. To their surprise, it was just a 15-minute drive to our air-conditioned hotel!
Our second-half trip activities started with some morning zip-lining through the Costa Rican jungle. The 12 zipline cables gave us a beautiful view of the mountains. Abbey had extra fun going upside down on cable 6 looking like Spider-Man. After ziplining, we transferred to Uvita where we got a group surf lesson. Georgia and Ann Reid were easily the most excited to surf and absolutely killed it! Sage was also deemed a ‘shredder’ despite having some of the best wipeouts. Georgia came out of the water saying that “her cheeks hurt from smiling so much.” Holti, Collin, and Spencer commenced in a few intense rounds of full contact ‘battle waves’ where Collin came out on top. He was surprisingly evasive even though Spencer and Holt were both aiming to take him down. Honorable mention to Abbey for representing the ladies in one round of ‘battle wave’. Prescott showed off his surfing skills with a headstand on his board that ultimately ended in a massive back flop, but it was still rad. Despite having some trouble standing up at the start of the day, Dunning persevered and rode several awesome waves with the help from our surf guide and encouragement from other students. Peyton looked like a natural on the surfboard and we all agreed that it wouldn’t surprise us if she moves to Costa Rica later in life. She did say if she could do anything in life, she’d want to open up a salon in Costa Rica 🙂 ! At the end of the surfing day, in retaliation to a prank from the leaders, the boys filled Caroline’s backpack with 12 friendly hermit crabs.
After mixed feelings about the leaders’ playlists over the past week, we collected each students top 5 songs and created a group playlist, or as we like to call it “The Graylist.” The playlist ranges from Ann Reid’s obvious choice of Taylor Swift to Charlie’s love for Beyoncé and all the way over to Colin’s rap songs. In order to listen to the ‘Graylist,’ students agreed that the only way a song can be skipped is if the person who chose the song allows it. Playful arguments about whether to skip or not have made the bus rides very entertaining for all.
The LOD’s for Thursday, Peyton and Sage, came up with the ultimate Moonup question, one that the leaders want to include in next year’s staff manual. Each student would pick a superpower then the person to the right of them had to come up with their kryptonite. This led to many heated debates which kept us laughing all night long!
We transferred to El Brujo the next day where we began the service section of our trip. El Brujo is quite literally in the middle of the rainforest. The group took a 1.5 hour ride in 4x4s and crossed a swinging bridge over a running river in order to reach Buenaventura. The students were excited to get right to work. The first task the group was given was to sift through dirt and plant cacao trees. We even got to crack open a cacao plant and try the seeds! Most of the group weren’t the biggest fans of the taste, but Peyton and Eleanor ate them like they had just discovered their new favorite candy. We continued our service the next morning after a 45-minute hike to a nearby community that Moondance has been working with for years. We got to bring the baby cacao tress that were planted by Moondance students from last year to community members who help with reforestation in the town of El Brujo. Dunning, Colin, Abbey, Charlie, and Georgia showed off their artistic skills by painting the inside of a kitchen in one of the town buildings. Prescott, Baby Holti, Sage, and Spencer gathered large rocks from the river and transported them for the future construction of a sewage system. Eleanor, Ann Reid, and Peyton worked hard raking and pulling weeds to tidy up the field for our pickup soccer game.
After a couple hours of service work, the group was divided into two teams: The Costa Rican Cats and The Bathroom Toads. The Cats had an early lead with Eleanor and Prescott scoring the opening three goals. However, the lead dwindled with Sage, Georgia, and Holt coming up big for the Toads. Sage was the MVP for the day, especially after he megged Caroline and scored a crucial goal right after. With the score tied at seven at the end of regulation, we had no choice but to finish off the game with some intense penalty kicks. Each team picked their three best players, but after three shots on goal, the Costa Rican Cats were the champions after Colin scored the game-winning PK. We hiked back to Buenaventura, but Ann Reid, Georgia, and Caroline hiked a half mile passed the house because of their poor sense of direction! Despite the extra-long hike, we all made it back safely and filled our afternoon with plenty of games to pass the time. We introduced the games Banana Grams and President. Holt had a lot of luck in President, so maybe he should consider running for the real thing. Prior to dinner, Harlow, the owner of Buenaventura, hosted a chocolate making class where students learned to “experience” chocolate through appreciating all the steps required to make their favorite chocolate candy bars. The students got to roast, peel, and grind the cacao seeds, then try a “golden ticket” chocolate bar, courtesy of Harlow.
To top off the jungle portion of our time in Costa Rica, we enjoyed The Avatar Adventure Waterfall Tour. It consisted of a 45-minute uphill hike to a waterfall called ‘Toucans Rock’. The students covered themselves in mineral infused blue clay and painted cool designs on each other. Charlie had a lot of fun putting the clay in his hair to give himself a sick mohawk. All the students made unforgettable memories and enjoyed a refreshing morning swim before conquering the rest of the day as we traveled to Turrialba. We can’t believe this trip is coming to a close, but we’re so excited to keep the energy high as we begin white water rafting for the last two days!
Caroline, Spencer, and William!
June 14, 2023
Hello Family and Friends,
The start of this Belize and Costa Rica trip has been absolutely electric and we’re excited to share some of our favorite parts!
Right off the jump, we could tell this was going to be a great group! After a hectic arrival and some yummy airport cheeseburgers, we embarked to the Royal Rat Hostel in Placencia, Belize. On the bus ride there, we played the name game and 20 questions, during which Prescott described Michael Jackson as someone who “didn’t release music before the 2000s.” Upon arrival at the Royal Rat, Dunning was instantly drawn to the pool and all of the amenities the hostel had to offer! With no AC and temperatures around the 80s at night, students were eager to sleep under the stars with Peyton paving the way and setting up her ENO as quickly as possible. Due to the groups love for outdoor sleeping conditions, bug spray has been our savior. In order to encourage students to embrace the environment and truly live in the moment, any time they mentioned their ‘bug bites’ the person who said it would have to dance in front of the group. Charlie has been the most frequent, yet best, dancer so far.
On paper, the Royal Rat is a hostel, but the students quickly made it their home. Holt was the big winner of the first pool game with an outstanding comeback in Jackpot. Late night Marco Polo and ‘birdie on a perch’ games filled the Royal Rat with laughter and put smiles on all the student’s faces. Some boys also played an intense game of in-pool route running with Collin, Sage, Holt, Prescott, and Dunning all blaming their lack of receptions on the quarterbacks (the leaders were the quarterbacks).
We got to spend our first four days scuba diving in the beautiful country of Belize and exploring one of the world’s most beautiful coral reef systems. We were warmly welcomed by Splash Dive Center who became our family during our scuba training. All the students were eventually given nicknames; Curly (Charlie), Sleepy (Dunning), Justin Bieber (Prescott), and Holtie (Holt) just to name a few. Georgia was a quick learner and looked like a scuba natural in the water. On the other hand, Abbey and Eleanor were faced with some challenges, forming a team which they coined “The Scuba Struggles Squad.” Over the next few days their unwavering determination and humorous attitude allowed them to master the proper skills, resulting in them swimming with seven Nurse Sharks in one dive! After breaking the surface on that same dive, Sage claimed that swimming with the sharks “was the coolest thing he’s ever done.” Collin and Prescott made their dives extra fun by playing a few games of rock, paper, scissors underwater. During our second day, a yell could be heard underwater. Upon looking around, everything seemed fine! When we went up to the surface, the yell which the group thought was Eleanor’s, turned out to be Dunning’s. He was just very excited to see a shark. In between dives, the group would eat lunch on one of the many picturesque islands surrounding Belize. Everyday, the students were treated to what they called “Momo’s Chicken”, rice, beans, and some sort of salad. Momo, the leading dive instructor, never cooked the food. They all just thought it would be funny to say he did. During our 4 days of scuba, the sight of sharks became a normality. Barracudas, Lionfish, and parrot fish were all favorites as well; however, Ann Reid specifically was a joyfully spooked a little by the Ramouras. The group all shared a big laugh when she jumped in the water off the boat and there was one right under her feet. On the last day the students were lucky enough to see some sea turtles, eels, and a spotted eagle ray in a large group dive.
During our free time at the Royal Rat, we hosted the First Annual 2023 Moondance Dart Tournament. Teams were randomly selected, pairing a guy and a girl together to encourage group bonding. Each team brainstormed an iconic team name (most of them being inside jokes from throughout the trip), selected a walk-up song, and created a handshake. Charlie’s introduction was by far the best, given that he rapped the entire song “Super Bass,” with the rest of the group cheering him on. The students absolutely loved this part of the night and were all-in during the tournament. There were laughs, surprises, and upsets, each of them adding to the unforgettable experience. Abbey led herself and William to win the championship after scoring 107 points in one turn. The next night Dunning and Sage worked their way to the top with Dunning raking 126 points also in one turn. It looks like we have some professional dart players in the making!
After a rewarding, yet exhausting four days of scuba diving, the students were surprised by a day of island hopping on a catamaran. Georgia caught up on some precious sleep while basking in the sun (she had sunscreen on, don’t worry). When we got to the island, we drafted teams and played a big game of sand volleyball. The teams were pretty even—having Dunning’s killer serves on one side and Ann Reid’s legendary blocks on the other. We could tell that Peyton was living her best life solely based on the smile that never left her face the entire day.
We’ve had a fantastic first week in Belize and can’t wait for many more adventures in Costa Rica! Here are some shoutouts from the kids below! Woohoo!
Caroline, Spencer, and William
Collin- “Bro Belize is so amazing. Scuba was so epic we saw so many cool things can’t wait to get home and tell y’all about it.”
Prescott- “I had a blast scuba diving. My counselors are amazing. They are some of the best I’ve ever had! Can’t wait to see you! Word.”
Georgia- “Hello! I miss you all very much but I’m having a ton of fun. Scuba diving was amazing and I got to see so many sharks. We had a super fun dart tournament even though I wasn’t the best. Love y’all!”
Sage- “What’s up I’m having a lot of fun. Everything has been great, and I love and miss you guys. I’ll see you soon.”
Ann Reid- “Everything is so fun and I’ve made good friends. Love and miss y’all.”
Charlie- “I’m having so much fun. I miss my bed but I miss you guys more.”
Holt- “Dad I’m gonna strike you out. Mom, dad, and hunter love you.”
Abbey- “I’m having the best time in the world with the best people ever. Little nervous at first but have made some lifelong memories and friends. Miss y’all!”
Dunning- “I’m having a great time with all the activities I’ve done. I miss y’all very much! See you soon!”
Peyton- “I’m having so much fun and scuba diving was super cool! Love and miss y’all!”
Eleanor- “I’m having a blast. My counselors are great. My group is great. I’ve been laughing a lot! Love and miss you guys!”
June 9, 2023
Hello Belize + Costa Rica Families!
We heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in Belize! 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!