"May we help each young woman know that she can make a difference in the world," said Sister Ann M. Dibb, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency. More than 220 people gathered at Brighton Camp on Saturday, July 30, to commemorate the camp's 90th anniversary. They recalled fond memories and spiritual growth at the first LDS girls camp.
Mary Cook Edwards of the East Mill Creek 9th Ward, Salt Lake East Mill Creek Stake, attended Brighton Camp as a Beehive. As a 12-year-old, she said, it was sometimes hard to feel her worth. She was able to understand her importance for the first time at camp where counselors strive to help the young women recognize the Spirit and know of a loving Heavenly Father.
"I felt that I was loved by my Heavenly Father because I was loved by my counselor," Sister Edwards said of her first year at Brighton Camp.
Sister Edwards recalled she sat on a rock, determined to work at the camp as a counselor. After she served a mission and finished college she returned to Brighton Camp to serve in a capacity that had changed her life.
Brighton Camp is different from other camps. In 1856 President Jedediah M. Grant of the First Presidency blessed the valley "for the benefit of Thy people, for their happiness, that they may rest here and be safe." The first campers arrived at the Brighton House in 1921. President Heber J. Grant attended the grand opening held the following year. He voiced his approval of "erecting a home for the girls in the tops of the mountains for their entertainment and pleasure." Since then it has held approximately 76,000 campers and 2,000 staff members.
The camp also strives to help 12- and 13-year-old young women recognize and feel the Spirit. Most of the activities are about teamwork and communication and relying on the Spirit. For many of the girls it is their first time away from home. Brighton Camp strives to be a nurturing environment where Beehives can strengthen one another, learn life skills, increase self-worth, feel the Spirit and build testimonies and friendships.
Though much importance is placed on spiritual matters there is plenty of fun that occurs. Mandi "Wicker" Cullis Kerr loved her experience at Brighton. She recalled the soot fights and ash that would blacken faces. Sister Kerr of the Foothill 2nd Ward, Salt Lake Foothill Stake, said as a camper in 1978-80, she knew she wanted to be a counselor. Her daughter, Lauren, attended Brighton for the first time this year. Although snow covered much of the camp, Lauren's counselor made sure that they still enjoyed the experience.
"Our counselor, Bounce, when we would do activities and sometimes when we weren't feeling the Spirit, she would ask us to sing songs," Lauren said. "That way we would feel the Spirit more."
Sandra "Floss" Waltman of the Monument Park 17th Ward, Salt Lake Monument Park North Stake, served as Brighton Camp president for the past 22 years and was recently released. She said the main goal of the establishment is to provide young women a safe place where they feel loved and accepted. Sister Waltman said at Brighton Camp she felt loved and she hopes that all the young women feel the love of their Father in Heaven.
"I wish they could feel that all the time," said Sister Waltman, as campers sang "Edelweiss" in the background. "But, hopefully, a little spark is in their heart that the gospel is true. I am what I am today because of Brighton Camp."
Sister Waltman attended camp in 1955 and then again as a counselor in 1960-64. Her camp name, "Floss," was given because of her blonde hair. She said it is important that the girls feel of their worth when they come to Brighton.
"We want them to know that their Father in Heaven loves them, that they are daughters of God and they can do anything they want to do."
Kerry Zimmerman Marshall of the Walters Hill Ward, Mount Hood Oregon Stake, was recently set apart as the president of the executive committee for Brighton LDS Girls Camp. "Zim," as she is known at Brighton, was a camper in 1967 and worked as staff from 1968-75. Sister Marshall and her husband, Kuhn "Weazle" Marshall, served as a maintenance couple at Brighton Camp. Brighton has a special place in her heart because it was there that, for the first time in her life, she felt the Spirit.
"It was the pivotal experience in my life that set the course, the direction it went," Sister Marshall said. Last year Sister Marshall and her husband were in charge of the reunion. She said during that time each of them felt a witness that she would be called as the new president of Brighton Camp.
"We knew it was coming and we knew it would be the right thing," said Sister Marshall with tears in her eyes. The experiences at Brighton Camp changed her life and she wants to continue to guide the camp in a direction that Heavenly Father will be pleased.
"We just want to continue in the traditions that have changed lives and we want every girl to know that she is loved and that she is loved by Heavenly Father," Sister Marshall said. "We want them to feel the Spirit of their Savior here." She said many people have taken the lessons learned at Brighton and shared them with others. She is grateful for this and hopes that they take the spirit of Brighton everywhere they go.
"These mountains raised us, these mountains were our mothers," Sister Marshall said of Brighton, a place so many people call home.
Dorthoy K. Platt of the Rosecrest 2nd Ward, Salt Lake Canyon Rim Stake, was a camper at Brighton in 1933. She recalled the Brownie Hike, a walk through the magical "land of the little people," and recalled the beautiful wildflowers.
"I always felt very close to God when I got up in the mountains and the trees," Sister Platt said.
She slept on the second floor of the big lodge at the Brighton Home. She remembers the big bell on a large rock that would be rung to announce events. On January 19, 1963, the lodge burned down but the spirit of Brighton remained strong. Six Swiss chalets were built in 1964.
Mimi "Apple" Stewart of the Monument Park 12th Ward, Salt Lake Monument Park North Stake, served as director of Brighton Camp in the 1980s. The vision for camp was like that of today.
"I wanted them (young women) to be able to come away with a feeling of who they are," Sister Stewart said. "It is important to look around and see themselves as an individual but knowing that they're unique, that they are important, that they can be a source of good to others and that they can lift and enlighten."
Those are important lessons to take from Brighton Camp, lessons of belonging and love that will guide young women through their life. That is the ultimate goal of Brighton Camp to help the young women know of a loving Heavenly Father and that they "can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
"That is what we want to help our young women recognize, that they can do hard things and when they do those things which are a little beyond their reach and their comfort, that is when they rely upon their Heavenly Father," Sister Dibb said. "They feel of His love and they feel of His strength and they grow in power and ability."