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A Stormy Summer Camp at Brandon Spring

A Stormy Summer Camp at Brandon Spring

Storms at Christmas time usually involve snowflakes, hot cocoa and snowmen. There may even be the added bonus of work and school closings for the day. Christmas in July storms, however, are a very different experience.

Christmas in July

Camp MARC, an adult special needs camp, chose “Christmas in July” as their theme for this year’s camp. Each year they stay at Brandon Spring Group Center to experience the fun of summer camp.  While there, campers participate in music, nature, sports, arts, crafts, swimming and boating.  They often put on plays and compete in Olympic Games during their stay with us.

Dedication stone for Camp MARC garden
Camp MARC Garden at Brandon Spring Group Center

This year, Mother Nature had different plans for them.

Rain Camp

This was the group at Brandon Spring as multiple rain storms and power outages caused major damage to Land Between the Lakes and our surrounding communities.

Lynne Hardesty, the organizer of Camp MARC, recounted their experiences of the past week for me and agreed to let me write about it.

Rain Camp began when her staff woke up in the wee hours of the morning on Monday, July 4th, to water entering a couple of their dorms.

Photo showing high water at Brandon Spring shoreline
Bards Lake rose during the rainstorms in July 2016

Ok, that’s saying it mildly. Drains that normally directed water to the lake were backed up causing water to pool around entrances to the dorms. Water was flowing in large amounts into the dorms. According to Ms. Lynne and her staff what were once stairs were now waterfalls.

Camp MARC staff took on the challenge to keep the water back. Ms. Lynn had a proud demeanor as she recounted her story. With quick, critical thinking they were digging trenches and placing boards and tables on the ground to redirect the water away from the dorms. They used brooms and mops to sweep the water away. The staff did all of this as the rain poured down until the water was no longer an issue.

Then, they did it all again Wednesday as another wave of heavy rains came through. This time, the power went out.

Photo shows Brandon Spring picnic tables in the middle of the swollen waters at Bards Lake
High water at Bards Lake after series of storms hit Brandon Spring Group Center in July 2016

Their meals and activities were affected. The pending thunderstorms made it unsafe to swim or to wander far on the trails. The dorms had become hot houses from the power outage. Water was rationed since drinkable water was unavailable. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were popular items on the menu.

This did not stop the Christmas spirit of the campers.


“It was encouraging to watch the core staff keep the camping experience fun. I know they were tired,” recounted Patrick Holcomb, Assistant Manager at Brandon Spring. “They did it all for their campers.”

Many of the campers didn’t even know about the extent of the rain – they were having fun. Camp MARC counselors held impromptu dance parties and other activities and still had time to prank the Brandon staff by placing Christmas trees in their office.

Tree and other Christmas decoration in the offices of Brandon Spring
Christmas came early to the staff at Brandon Spring thanks to the staff of Camp MARC

As I watched the councilor’s wave off their campers, I noted the positivity of this group. This was group that showed exceptional leadership and communication during a time of adversity. Every staff member I talked to were clearly proud to be part of Camp MARC.


Camp MARC is a non-profit organization serving the mentally and physically handicapped for over 50 years. On average, Camp MARC serves about one hundred campers each year. More information can be found on their website at

Kimberly Lilly

Group Reservations

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