This is the second installation of the mini blog series dedicated to the camp memories of Katy Branston. Check out the first here. Today’s guest blogger is Katie Strickland Swift (pictured above on the right), a fellow summer staff member and college friend of Katy’s.
It was 11 years ago that Katy and I met at Lakeshore. We were both on staff, and she had just finished her freshman year at the university where I was starting that fall. Fast forward through two summers together at camp and 3 years together at college… Eventually, we both ended up out west – Katy in Montana and me in Washington. I was fortunate to see Katy multiple times a year as our paths crossed around our area of the country.
When Katy died in November, so many of us were struck with a profound sense of loss. For those of us who knew Katy at Lakeshore, she was an integral part of our camp experience and a huge part of our best memories there. For those of us who knew her outside of Lakeshore, she was a constant inspiration to dream bigger, laugh harder, and serve better.
I’d be lying if I said I’ve been coping well with her death, and I know I’m not alone. Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about our memories together, the things she said, and the things she did in her too-short-of-time with us. On my commute home the other night, it hit me that there’s something about Katy that stands out in all of those memories: Katy was a builder.
A builder of confidence.
If you knew Katy at all, you probably felt a little more pep in your step when you were around her. She was quick to laugh, to tell a joke (sometimes at your expense!), to throw her arm around your shoulder, and say something ridiculous in a silly voice. She instantly helped you feel confident. Like someone had your back. Like you weren’t in it alone. From homesick campers, to lonely college freshmen, or volunteer builders, Katy built the confidence of those around her.
A builder of relationships.
Katy brought people together in so many ways. She was an includer and a connector. She was intentional when it came to listening and asking hard questions. When I started college, Katy was the only person I knew there, and she went way out of her way to make me feel welcome. Not only that, but she built relationships in the communities where she lived over the years. She led volunteer efforts at our college, worked in schools and organizations in Montana, did all that she could to make her communities stronger.
A builder of adventures.
You may not know this about her (who am I kidding, you probably do), but Katy was constantly going on epic adventures. This woman literally rode a bicycle across the country, building houses along the way and raising money for affordable housing with Bike and Build. After that, she led Bike and Build trips for others – one of which happily took her through my city in recent years. She went on weekend biking and hiking adventures with friends, came across many a bear in Glacier National Park, and once took on a mountain lion (seriously – her dad wrote about it here).
A builder of shelters.
Katy worked for Habitat for Humanity and Bike and Build, she managed teams of volunteers, she made people feel at home in their brand-new space. Katy worked hard to help people have the dignity of a shelter that they could call their own.
I don’t think it a coincidence that Jesus was a carpenter and Katy was a builder. Katy showed Jesus to me in ways that are unlike anyone else I’ve ever met. If you knew Katy, you know exactly what I mean. She oozed love for those around her. She went way out of her way to make everyone feel like they belonged. She worked hard to serve others, to bring dignity, and often just to give them a laugh. She wasn’t just like that at camp – that was Katy through and through.
I think it’s only fitting that to honor her memory at Lakeshore, we build something. We will be building a hammock village in memory of Katy and all she did in her life to build up those around her, take on audacious adventures, and provide shelter to the most vulnerable. My prayer is that this village will be full of laughter, of love, of silly voices, of arms thrown around shoulders, and the start of friendships that go far beyond camp property, even to the other side of the country.
If Katy impacted your life at camp or outside of camp, please consider giving a donation in memory of Katy to help us build this shelter that will surely be the start of many adventures for countless campers for years to come.