Meet Cole, Volunteer Cabin Counselor! Cole joins us from Toronto in Ontario, Canada where he is the Store Manager at Abercrombie Kids. Cole joins us through the Volunteer Camp Counselor Program at Abercrombie & Fitch. The corporation created the Volunteer Camp Counselor Program in 2015 to give associates an opportunity to support campers firsthand, while learning valuable leadership and mentoring skills. Cole is one of approximately 50 associates that volunteers for a week-long camp session at one of the SeriousFun Children’s Network camps around the world.
In 2016 the SeriousFun Children’s Network, of which Double H Ranch is one of the 30 camps and programs worldwide, announced a special partnership with Abercrombie & Fitch. Through this special partnership, A & F has committed to raising funds for SeriousFun and is also the official apparel sponsor of the SeriousFun camps. Here’s Cole’s story…
What inspired you to volunteer at Double H Ranch through the Abercrombie & Fitch Camp Counselor Program?
I have had the opportunity in the past to work with children who live with illnesses. I was impressed, and pleasantly surprised, that Abercrombie and Fitch focuses their philanthropic efforts into a similar cause with the SeriousFun Children’s Network and Double H Ranch. The fact that the Company does so much in helping these children to focus on just being a kid is so heartwarming and rewarding. When presented the opportunity that I would be able to give back as a Camp Counselor and help make memories that would last a life time – I couldn’t pass it up!
Why do you think it is important for a company to allow time off for their employees to volunteer?
It really shows that Abercrombie and Fitch is interested in giving back to the community. What better way to do so than in the eyes of children? Abercrombie and Fitch has always stressed diversity and inclusion. Allowing me to take time off work and participate in this volunteer opportunity at camp made me feel like they are honest and true to their culture and values.
How do you think the culture of Abercrombie and Fitch correlates with the Double H Ranch/SeriousFun Camps?
Abercrombie and Fitch is dedicated to giving back to the community of its customers and associates, while fostering diversity and inclusion in whatever they do. Their Vision of Diversity and Inclusion is a culture that advances respect and inspires unity, which correlates directly in the work that Double H does every day. Double H Ranch’s purpose is to enrich the campers lives and provide camp experiences that are memorable, exciting, fun, empowering, physically safe, and medically sound. While at camp I have never seen more respect and sincerity that each camper had for one another. It is enlightening to see both companies embrace and exemplify their values.
What is one of your favorite memories of volunteering at Double H Ranch?
My favorite memories of camp were just getting to know the campers. Every night we would have cabin chats around the fire. It was a safe space to be open and talk about things in our life. Being in the older boy cabin allowed for more mature and meaningful conversations, which evolved into deeper bonds between the campers and counselors. To provide this space was very special as a lot of the time feeling vulnerable and open is not always easy. I was so humbled and privileged to hear these kids’ stories and watched them grow and develop as the week went on.
Is there a camp “lesson” that you will apply to your work/everyday life?
Never sweat the small stuff and don’t forget to have fun! In our daily lives we face challenges that we think are so important and sometimes we allow it to ‘ruin’ our day. After being at camp and seeing the positive attitudes that these kids have, despite what they may be going through, really puts everything in perspective. I have to remember that everything at work is fixable and that there is more in life than simply punching in and punching out.
What is the one thing you want people to know about Double H Ranch?
The work that Double H Ranch does makes a huge difference in people’s lives. Going to the camp I was under the impression that it was all about the campers, and it was. We were there to make sure they could focus on simply being a kid and to just be themselves for a week. Little did I realize was that being at camp was just as beneficial for me. I was able to learn so much about myself and really take lessons from the campers. I will forever be thankful for what Double H does for these kids and the lasting impression that it has made for me.
Tell us about a particularly powerful moment you had while volunteering.
The last night during the wish boat ceremony after we had set the boats sailing we were huddled in a circle and the entire camp began to sing “This Little Light of Mine.” It was very emotional as it was signifying the campers last night there and that tomorrow they would have to say goodbye to their new friends they had made over the week. It was time to reflect on all the special memories they had made and one of the campers came over to me during the song and just came in for a hug. He thanked me for always supporting him this week. Knowing that I was able to help create memories for this camper means the absolute world to me, and really made me appreciate the work that Double H is doing.
How has your experiences at Double H Ranch made an impact on your life?
It has given me a new perspective on life. Seeing what these campers go through daily and yet getting to see their incredible positivity shine is amazing. Witnessing them have so much fun, despite the hardship that they go through, really puts our own lives into perspective. One camper who sometimes uses a wheel chair said to me he wanted to walk with the rest of the group. “I either use it or lose it” he said, referring to his legs. He’s right. People always say life is to short and we have to take advantage of every moment. These campers exemplified this sentiment perfectly.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experiences with Double H Ranch?
If you are able and given the chance to volunteer, do so! It is an amazing experience that you will not regret. If you are unable to volunteer but can find a way to donate, you can make a difference too. The work that this camp does is incredible. What they do really does change lives and really matters.
To me, camp is…
An escape! Life always seems so hectic. For a week I was able to unplug from the outside world and simply focus on having fun with these campers and make magical memories that would last a life time. The experience has been so rewarding and has given me a new perspective on life.