Alumnae Spotlight April 2013 Paula Rainey Benson Purple

How did you find out about camp?
Toni was my step-mom’s cousin and we went to Carysbrook for a family reunion during the late fall of my senior year of high school. I fell in love with camp… the fields, forests, and cabins that weekend and was thrilled when Toni offered me a job at Rec. Sports for the following summer. Two weeks in, I actually traded activities with another counselor and worked at Outdoor Living Skills (where I worked for the next 4 summers).

Describe your first summer:
My first summer at camp was purely amazing. We built 1-match fires and made lots of s’mores; stayed up late, camping under the stars to watch meteor showers; canoed down the Little River; sang songs after every meal; and experienced the magic of Saturday night Campfire. Though the purpose of Carysbrook is to provide a wonderful camp experience for the campers, the staff is provided the same experience, just through a slightly different lens. I can be a very shy person, but I was encouraged to share my interests and talents. Carysbrook really helped me to establish who I am as a person without all those media-driven ideas that we are bombarded with on a daily basis at home. I was introduced to people and cultures from around the world and made amazing friends (friendships that will last a lifetime)! And not least importantly, I was encouraged to be silly… to have fun… and to play in one of the most beautiful places imaginable.

Counselor Days
I was a counselor at Carysbrook from 1997-2000, teaching Outdoor Living Skills. In 2002, the summer after Toni passed away, I returned, along with lots of former staff members, to do anything I could to help keep the light of Carysbrook burning. I came back again in 2003, and then from 2004-2007, my family lived at Carysbrook as the off-season caretakers of the property. I was also able to work during those summers as the CAP instructor. I consider myself to be unbelievably fortunate to have experienced Carysbrook year-round, and that my son, Ethin, could spend three of his formative years growing up at Camp Carysbrook.

My first 2 years of college, I studied Outdoor Education at Montreat College, in the mountains of western North Carolina. I transferred my junior year to Columbia College in South Carolina, where I earned my BA in studio art. While living at Carysbrook, I earned my MFA in studio art at Radford University. And, I actually just recently completed my K-12 teaching licensure in art education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.